Saturday, 4 July 2020

Recipe for Communal Disharmony!

Updated: January 4, 2014 1:55 pm

Termed one of the key laws proposed by the UPA government, the controversial Prevention of Communal Violence Bill has been cleared by the Union Cabinet. However, according to constitutional experts, both the texts of Prevention of Communal Violence Bills 2011 and 2013 are essentially and fundamentally anti-Hindu and are designed to further divide people of India on lines of religion and language. It will further broaden the chasm between the majority and minorities. Here it is noteworthy that before the Union Cabinet gave its approval to the Bill, several State Home Secretaries had objected to the anti-federal provisions of the Bill. The Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Odisha also wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying the proposed legislation was exclusively in the domain of the states and opposed the move to bring the Bill in the Parliament. According to sources, Jayalalithaa sent a copy of her objections to the Bill to her West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee, who reciprocated it, sending her objections to her Tamil Nadu counterpart. Mamata also marked a copy to Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, just to make sure that they are all on the same boat against the Bill. What’s more, Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh some days back, saying that the Communal Violence Bill is ill-conceived, poorly drafted and a recipe for disaster. And given the timing to bring the Bill, it appears to be suspicious, owing to political considerations and vote-bank politics, rather than genuine concerns. Even if the intentions of the government in bringing the Bill are noble, it seems that the government has a hidden agenda, which is mostly politically opportunistic, and which cannot be missed by any discerning soul when the general elections are fast approaching. However, it cannot be gainsaid that this Bill is clearly much needed for the day, but it seems that it is being brought in a hurry, without taking states into considerations and discussions. I suggest the government not to give this Bill vote-bank colour. It should be passed with good intentions and after rigorous discussions. We already have much history data available from our past experience of the communal violence and we just have to exercise those facts to draft this Bill only. In fact, in a country like India, which is heterogeneous, it would be improper to enact a Communal Violence Bill, to be classified based on religion. There is discrimination based on too many factors.

                Against this backdrop, if we look at texts of two Bills, i.e. that of 2011 and 2013, one does not find any conspicuous change. In the 2011 Bill, religious minorities, linguistic minorities, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were clubbed together in definition of ‘Group’ in Section 3(e), and, sexual assaults, hate propaganda, organised communal and targeted violence and the 73 IPC offences listed in Section 11 were considered offences under the Bill, only if committed against persons belonging to the ‘Group’, inviting harsher and faster punishments to accused Hindus. Thus, for the first time in the history of India, different criminal laws for Indians of different religions and languages were proposed by the government. This principle has been retained in the 2013 Bill. Though the word ‘Group’ has been deleted in the 2013 text, the new phrase ‘persons having a particular religion or language’ has replaced ‘Group’ in the 2013 text everywhere ‘Group’ appeared in the 2011 text. So, it seems that sectarian politics and cheap politics for getting votes from religious and caste divides are norms of the day. Where darkness is engulfing the light, lawmakers being influenced by masterminds of communal politics and subsequent violence will not be able to bring up a fair legislation. The mindset should change and perception towards communal violence is the key. We and our thoughts are to be blamed more than any anything. What India needs is a bill to prevent hate crimes, not just communal violence. India needs a specific and detailed Bill against communal violence, as the current Bill is seemingly the result of Congress’ fear of BJP and rising popularity of NaMo. It appears that the Congress has hastened the Bill with vague wordings at its discretion against BJP and NaMo, as it cannot possibly seem to stop the rising popularity of NaMo. While Indian politics is deeply rooted in sectarian politics (euphemistically lauded as ‘secular’ or derided as ‘communal’ by the ruling parties and their cohorts—although both dogma have the identical objective to exploit vote-bank by fomenting religious hatred/fear and caste envy), it is unlikely that any political party will seriously do anything to bring in, or implement, an effective or efficient Prevention of Communal Violence Bill.

Deepak Kumar Rath

Deepak Kumar Rath

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