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Debate! Should Communal Violence Bill be altered?

Last updated on: June 30, 2011 08:47 IST

Debate! Should Communal Violence Bill be altered?

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Vicky Nanjappa
The National Advisory Council's Communal Violence Bill has already run into rough weather after it faced protests from various sections of the society. The bill is dangerous in nature and the provisions of this bill give the impression that every act of communal violence is presumably committed by a member of the majority community, say those opposing the bill.

The NAC knows that the road ahead is tough and has gone ahead to delete an important clause in the bill regarding the invocation of Article 355 in case of violence against minorities. Dr Ram Puniyani, professor in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology and member of the EKTA, a committee for communal amity and Justice M F Saldanha, a former high court judge have different views on the matter.

While Dr Puniyani argues that time has come for such a bill to be introduced, Justice Saldanha who had prepared a report on the atrocities against the Christian community in Karnataka says that this bill is contra indicated and needs radical alteration.

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Image: Riot police watch as smoke rises from shops in Ahmedabad during the 2002 riots
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters
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'Kashmiri Pandits to benefit most from Bill'

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Dr Ram Puniyani:

Those opposing this bill should take into consideration that the Hindus are in a minority in seven different states in India. The Kashmiri Pandits, who have been a victim of atrocity, will be covered under this bill as they fall under the minority community category. I am not sure if this would have a retrospective effect where fixing the onus on the aggressor is concerned. However, in retrospect this bill will help those victims claiming compensation and also seeking rehabilitation.

The Kashmiri Pandits in particular will benefit the most from this bill.I personally feel that this is one of the best efforts to prevent violence against the targetted communities. The main focus of this bill is the accountability factor. Because to the lack of answerability of our political leadership many get away with committing acts of communal violence.

Image: A Kashmiri Pandit woman lights earthen lamps during a festival at a shrine in Khirbhawani, 30 km east of Srinagar
Photographs: Danish Ismail/Reuters
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'90 pc riot victims are Muslims'

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Certain aspects of the bill have been introduced taking into account incidents over the past 60 years. Statistics have shown that 90 per cent of the riot victims are Muslims and to an extent Christian minorities. Such a law is required and one should take into account that there are many laws that protect the majority community.

You always have a law for atrocities against women and never against the atrocities against the men. This is because it is perceived that the men can defend themselves and hence the same yardstick has been applied here.

This bill also aims at protecting minorities against the police. According to me, it is one of the best efforts undertaken to protect the minority community and it will ensure justice and peace. If at all there are incidents where violence is started by a member of the minority community then there are always laws to take care of that.


Image: Riot victims read the Holy Koran during a prayer ceremony in Ahmedabad,
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters
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'BJP affiliated to those behind communal riots'

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Over the past 60 years, a majority of the incidents have shown that violence is planned for the benefit of political parties and this research would also show that the minority community has always ended up being cornered.

The Bharatiya Janata Party is bound to oppose this bill since history shows that it has always been affiliated to those responsible for communal violence. It is very clear that such a bill will not help the the BJP. By and large people are sick of communal violence and this includes a majority of the majority community.

Will this bill go through or not? This will depend on the ruling party and they must realise that this bill will help to ensure that peace and harmony is maintained in the long run.


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'India needs a political will to deal with communal violence'

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Justice M F Saldanha:

India does not need such a bill; instead it needs a political will to deal with communal violence. What this country needs is legislation to cut down on communal violence. This bill in my view per se is contra indicated and will have disastrous repercussions. Look at what is happening with the Domestic Violence Act.

The argument is that the weaker section is bullied and tortured. But all a person from the minority community needs to do is file one complaint.

This is not the day and age to take such extreme measures. I have dealt with many cases of violence in various states and there are a number of incidents where members from the minority community have been responsible for starting a communal riot.


Image: Dr Manmohan Singh meets BJP leader LK Advani as Congress President Sonia Gandhi looks on
Photographs: Reuters
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'One cannot assume majority community is the aggressor'

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One cannot come out with a bill on the assumption that the majority community is always the aggressor. I find the bill to be extremely one sided and the courts are bound to strike it down once challenged.

There are many other options available. Deal with those responsible for acts of communal violence in a ruthless manner. We already have enough and more laws and minorities can be well protected even without this bill.

Most importantly, the political mindset has to change. Politicians should stop interfering in such cases involving communal violence and only then will the minorities feel secure.

Police officers have told me that often they are under pressure from politicians to turn a blind eye to cases of communal violence. Take for example the church attacks in Mangalore. The police officers, who refuse to act during such a situation, should be held responsible. Often courts do not give a fair judgment. If only the judiciary wakes up to this problem then half the issue is sorted out.

Image: An anti-India protest in Kashmir

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