Civil society pushes demand to pass the Communal Violence Bill in December session of Parliament

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RNI, New Delhi:

The 1983 Nellie massacre, the anti-Sikh carnage of 1984, the Hashimpura communal and custodial killings by the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) in 1987, the 2002 pogrom in Gujarat, the attacks on Christians in Orissa in 2007, the murderous assault in 2008 on the dalit family of Bhotmange in Khairlanji (Maharasthra) and the communal flare up in 2012 in Assam… every time such a violence occurred, the positive thinking people believed that this was the last, that the modern youth was more concerned with their career development and growth and no longer paid heed to the games politicians played. The UPA Common Minimum Program agenda which promised of a bill against Communal Violence too was meant to put an end to such violence and killings of innocent people. But the UPA’s own dilly-dallying on the subject of Communal Violence Bill, lack of political will among the senior Congress leaders, the subsequent eruption of Muzaffarnagar violence and the present upsurge of hate posts and messages against different communities on the social media, used more predominantly by the youth, is a pointer that we are still far away from giving our citizens a society free from the looming fear of communal violence and group clashes.

Fact remains that if UPA had shown the same urgency regarding formation and passing of a Communal Violence Prevention Bill that had some teeth of the kind that it showed towards passing of 16 legislations in the last Parliament, the Muzaffarnagar violence could have been averted. Government was looking least keen to pass this bill and if there is a perceived change in its stance, it is because of the Muzaffarnagar communal clashes and the alleged role of certain politicians, if not political parties, in flaring it up. The sordid nature of affairs can be gauged by the fact that the real perpetuators of violence are still roaming at large and there is no apparent attempt to bring them to books.Maulana Mahmood Madani, Niyaz Faruqi and other (1024x768)

This is exactly the point, says expert! The rule books still have all the laws to ensure that no communal violence occurs. Speaking to RNI in the wake of Muzaffarnagar riots, Vibhuti Narayan Rao, retired IPS who has served as the former IG Meerut says that if any type of violence continues for more than 24 hours, it means that either there is an inept administration at the senior level or the political bosses in the State are somehow not interested in curbing the violence. Former IAS AR Khan too agrees upon this and cites two instances of his own tenure as District Magistrate in Rajasthan, where cases that had potential to develop into big riots were managed right at flaring stage.

Avers lawyer and activist Vrinda Grover: “There is no lacking in the law. They could have stopped the Mahapanchayat easily. But they didn’t! The Communal Violence Bill should be such that it holds all those accountable who do not follow the law so that deterrence is created for the future. Instead the Government is bent on giving sweeping powers to the administration. The debate has to start here.”

Prominent social worker Kamal Faruqui too is of the opinion that giving sweeping powers to the administration is not needed. “We have seen how the administration has misused the extra powers given to it in the name of TADA and POTA. Responsibility has to be fixed if we are serious about making a law that will ensure that laws are not flouted and no riots occur in future. The officer who obeys the orders from the top, in fear of demotion or transfer, should know that he could well land up in jail for doing so. Not just the senior officers, the political bosses too should be held accountable.”

KamalFaruqi (1024x768)Vrinda Grover is of opinion that the proposed bill should include not just communal violence between religious communities, but ethnic, caste-based and all other type of violence. Points Grover: “The fact is that trials in the 1984 anti-Sikh violence, the 1987 Hashimpura massacre and the 2002 Gujarat carnage, for instance, all still continue, with the victims and survivors unprotected by the state and with justice still a long and uncertain distance away. They reveal a pattern of planned or targeted violence; abdication by the state machinery of the responsibility to protect; occurrence of gender based crimes with specific targeting of women’s bodies followed by absolute impunity for the horrific crimes committed in these violent assaults; and the survivors, debilitated and shattered by the violence, left to live on the margins of fear and destitution.”

Maulana Mahmood Madani, General Secretary Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Hind feels that the Bill proposed by the Government, despite all amendments carried so far, is useless and not acceptable. “We are better off without a bill, if the bill has to have what the Government is presently proposing. Certain members had resigned from the NAC when the bill was proposed. We are ready to help Government on fine-tuning the salient features but they should know that there are certain points that are not negotiable.”

NAC Member Niaz Faruqui further clarifies saying that the civil society’s concern is that the basic policy behind the draft proposed by the Government is wrong. We do not need a law to empower the administration, but we need the law to make the administration accountable, so that if it doesn’t uses its powers, it should be ready for punishment. Both administration and executive authority should be held accountable. No excuse should be permitted that officer acted or failed to act on account of orders from superiors. Nobody should pass on the responsibility. Until this doesn’t happen, laws will continue to be flouted.” Faruqui too is of opinion that the political heads too shouldn’t be spared, for it is they who have been found to be responsible in most cases.

Freshly back from a tour of riot affected Muzaffarnagar, noted social activist Shabnam Hashmi brings the subject of adequate compensation to those affected by riots. Narrating the horrifying encounters she had during her visit, Shabnam tells that leave alone the talk of compensation, several of the victims are not finding courage to return to their villages even now. No compensation is enough for those who have lost everything that they had. Shabnam too is of opinion that without proper command responsibility built-in, the proposed bill by the Government would be of no use.

These discussions were part of the second Core Group Meeting for Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victim) Bill, 2005. Called by Kamal Faruqui and Maulana Mahmood Madani, the meeting not only discussed the Draft Proposal for the Bill prepared by Vrinda Grover along with Shabnam Hashmi, but also devised the strategy for future course of action.

Core Group consists of prominent members of the civil society, including Dr. A.C. Michael (Member, Delhi Minority Commission), Maulana Abdul Wahab Khilji, Mr. Abusualeh Sharif (Member, NAC), Swami Agnivesh (Social Activist), Aruna Roy (Member, NAC), Maulana Asghar Mehdi Salfi (Jamaat-e-Ahlehadees), Justice BA Khan, Dr. Fakhruddin, Farah Naqvi (Member NAC), Feroz Ghazi (Advocate), Gagan Sethi (Member, NAC), Harsh Mandar (Member NAC), Dr. John Dayal (Member, NIC), Kamal Faruqui (Member, NAC), Maulana Mahmood Madani (General Secretary, Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Hind), Mahesh Bhatt (Social Activist), Dr. Manzoor Alam (Member NAC), Sister Marie Scaria (Member, NAC), Mohammad Ahmad (Jamaat-e-Islami Hind), Maulana Mohd. Wali Rahmani (Muslim Personal Law Board), Mushtaq Ahmad (Advocate), Niaz Faruqui (Member, NAC), PI Jose (Member, NAC), Dr. QR Ilyas (Muslim Personal Law Board), Shabnam Hashmi (Member, NAC), Shakil Syed (Advocate and Member, NAC), Dr. Tasleem Rahmani (Social Activist), Teesta Seetalwad (Member, NAC), Vrinda Grover (Advocate and social activist), Wajahat Habibullah (Chairman, National Minorities Commission), Dr. Zafarul Islam (Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawrat), Aziz Haider (Journalist and General Secretary, Social Workers Association), Abdul Khaliq (General Secretary, Lok Jan Shakti Party) and AR Khan (Retired IAS).

Upon coming out of the core body meeting, Aziz Haider, journalist and General Secretary, Social Workers Association summed it up this way: “Extremely unfortunate that the Central Government, which showed so much of activism related to passing of several bills in Parliament and more related to tearing away of an ordinance, has done little in this regard so far, even so when hatred is being perpetuated even on Social Media, in the light of the forthcoming elections.”

“I am particularly apprehensive about the hate propaganda being carried out on Social Media. The fact that it is happening there means that youth are getting afflicted. People who are supposed to take care of their studies, careers and future are harnessing hatred and malice for each other. Don’t know where it would end. Hope this is a passing phase and will end after 2014 elections!”

With conditions getting bad to worse, and particularly in the wake of Muzaffarnagar violence, it is imperative that the Bill is passed at the earliest. All efforts need to be made to get it done.

Real News International News Bureau

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