Congress rejects criticism of Communal Violence Bill

The BJP is trying to communalise the issue of mercy petitions pending before the President, and further its communal agenda by criticising the proposed Communal Violence Bill, the Congress said here on Friday.

Responding to the BJP's accusations that the United Progressive Alliance government was deliberately postponing decision on Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru's mercy petition, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said:

“This is a constitutional process. As that process goes on in sequence, it will be dealt with. Some will be accepted and some will be rejected.”

Urging the BJP to “maintain the decency and sobriety of constitutional democracy,” he pointed out that between 1998 and 2004, when the BJP-led NDA was in power, no action was taken on the 22 persons on death row, which included the assassin of the former Prime Minister.

The BJP's reviving the issue of Afzal Guru comes in the wake of President Pratibha Patil rejecting the mercy petitions of Devender Singh Bhullar, a Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) terrorist, who was sentenced to death in 2001, and M.N. Das, a murder convict.

To the BJP's trashing the Congress' sequence argument, Mr. Singhvi said, “The BJP's approach is to communalise the issue. What has happened in the past can't be undone. While the procedure [to take a final call] is very complex, it is time a protocol — in death sentence cases — is established.”

‘Reaction premature'

The Congress also rejected the BJP's arguments against the proposed Communal Violence Bill. Terming the BJP's reaction “premature” as nothing had been finalised yet, Mr. Singhvi accused the BJP of “trying to further its communal agenda,” through “a pre-emptive strike,” reflective of “the BJP's deep and pervasive fear and guilt complex.”

The BJP, Mr. Singhvi said, knows that the country knows which political party in this country had a communal agenda: “Those who continue to be proudly bound by the umbilical chord of the RSS, … have divisive communal agendas, ... subscribe to the writings of Golwalkar, … carry the shame of Gujarat, Karnataka and Babri episode with ease, and sometimes with pride, ... are naturally worried by a Communal Violence Bill.”

On the BJP's criticism that the Bill attempted to intrude on the powers of the States, he pointed out that of the roughly 60 clauses in the draft Bill, barring one, the rest gave powers to the State government to declare a disturbed area to take action.

Only clause 55, he said, gave power to the Central government, but that was circumscribed by three cumulative conditions — one, the Centre should bring to the State government's attention the communally sensitive situation prevailing in that State, two, it would have to wait for the State to act on that information and third, if despite persistent advisories, the State government failed to act, only then could the Centre intervene.

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