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Updated: September 11, 2011 02:07 IST

Communal Violence Bill treads on States' rights, says NDA

Smita Gupta
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the National Integration Council meeting in New Delhi. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt
The Hindu
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the National Integration Council meeting in New Delhi. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

The Communal Violence Bill — drafted by the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council — was vigorously opposed at the National Integration Council here on Saturday, largely by the NDA-ruled States, with even West Bengal, now ruled by the Congress' ally, the Trinamool Congress, joining the naysayers. If the key objection was that the proposed law encroached on the rights of the States in handling law and order, the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled States — as well as senior national leaders from the principal opposition — also read it as an anti-majority community document.

Responding to these arguments, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured the Council, in his concluding remarks, that nothing would be done to undermine the Constitution, according to Home Secretary R.K. Singh. “Let me assure you that we are committed to the federal structure which has served the country well,” the Prime Minister said.

The Chief Ministers who abstained included Narendra Modi (Gujarat), Nitish Kumar (Bihar), Jayalalithaa (Tamil Nadu), Mayawati (Uttar Pradesh) and Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal).

Though the official agenda had four points articulated by Home Minister P. Chidambaram at the outset — communalism, discrimination against minorities and tribals, civil disturbances and radicalisation of youth — it was the Communal Violence Bill that remained in the spotlight through the day-long deliberations, with only Congress Chief Ministers Prithviraj Chavan and Ashok Gehlot attempting to address all the issues.

The tone and tenor of the speeches made by the BJP Chief Ministers and national leaders, an NIC member told The Hindu, made it quite clear that they would make this controversial Bill a political issue.

Interestingly, Dr. Singh, in his opening remarks, highlighted the fact that members of the minority communities often felt they were being unfairly targeted by law enforcement agencies after violent incidents. While the law had to be enforced, he stressed, the investigating agencies needed to be “free from biases and prejudices of any kind” and the media should play a “constructive role in promoting peace and harmony in our society.”

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah suggested a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in his State to “restore confidence” of the people in democratic institutions.

In the aftermath of a string of civil society protests, the Prime Minister significantly pointed out that the “excessive use of force often proves counter-productive” in civil disturbances. “We need to distinguish between criminal activities and misguided discontent that finds unlawful expression,” he said.

Later, Mr. Chavan said that while it was important “to understand the genesis of such agitations in the larger socio-economic perspective,” awareness had to be created that blocking roads, railways etc. impinged on the fundamental right of citizens to free movement, and sought an all-party consensus on this.

Earlier, admitting that lack of productive employment opportunities for youth was a factor aiding in their radicalisation, Dr. Singh appealed to the Council to unequivocally send out a message that violence could not be justified under any circumstance. He underscored the need for greater coordination between the Centre and the States in this context.

Simultaneously, he acknowledged the need to upgrade and strengthen the investigating agencies and the intelligence-gathering apparatus to counter the newer methods and technologies used by terrorists and Naxals. Of the 29 cases handed over to the National Investigation Agency, he said, charge sheets had been filed in 20.

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Tisush Ji,

I am 66 years old. In my life I have experienced at least 4 communal riots including the one of 1984 after assassination on our former prime minister.

I know how people adversely affected by riots feel, I have felt this helplessness myself. My observations are the result of my own experience. In school, we had friends on either side of the divide. One such friend was the son of a very prominent political person at state level and other was a person of other community who lived in the area worst affected by communal riots. I could talk to them and establish the truth.
I have feed back from jawans of Indian Army and officers of para-military forces who were deployed in the affected areas they told me what they saw and how they felt about the happenings there . It was so pathetic that the jawan who spoke to me over dinner, left his meals half way and started sobbing, this person was from dominant community, such people good people are there on either side of the divide.

from:  Amarpal Singh
Posted on: Sep 11, 2011 at 19:55 IST

All the above points that they have discussed must be a resultant of recent experiences either from the Telangana agitations or the anti-corruption agitations by the civil society. Though they have tried their best to convince that its in the best interest of people, I have no doubt that these bills proposed are only to curb the freedom of people and to control them as always, because that is the sole interest of people in "POWER". To uphold their dominance and to suppress the growing dissent against the political regime. It is not the communal violence bill that worries me, but rather the other points that are not highlighted and discussed like civil disturbances and radicalization of youth that worries me. What are the means of protest left when people are not heard to, you don't even allow peaceful protests? People should understand that by allowing such bills we are giving them even greater power to crush us.

from:  Tisush
Posted on: Sep 11, 2011 at 13:41 IST

A good and sensible bill, which will help control discrimination among communities. It is not a wonder that certain parties with radical ideologies appose that as it interferes with their basic ideology of polarisation and hatred. for the betterment of our country such bill has to be passed to maintain equality peace and security for all citizens irrespective of who they are.

from:  Thimiri
Posted on: Sep 11, 2011 at 12:58 IST

The bill is an attempt to remove the base - a feeling of not being cared and thus a second class citizens. The perpetrator of communal violence have not been punished adequately, riots have become a way to kill people, settle scores, create an environment of fear for targeted group, become an extra constitutional entity and yet remain beyond the reach of law.A law is needed which can be enforced so that people start trusting the law of the land for their own protection. The targeted violence that we see today is a result of of our slackness in the past. Earlier one side was indulging in it through riots and humiliation of women, now the others side too have found their way of hitting back. The result is the nasty environment that is in our country.
The new legislation should be citizen oriented and not any group oriented, it should protect the federal structure. The law should not consider Governments to be above it, they to should be punished when they are not enforcing the law.

from:  Amarpal Singh
Posted on: Sep 11, 2011 at 10:56 IST

Better concentrate on other important business rather than trying to divide the country and create resentment among people by giving undue favour to one community and disadvantage to other.

from:  S S Prasad Yadav
Posted on: Sep 11, 2011 at 09:30 IST

Need of the hour is not Words,words,words, but firm decision and deeds.

from:  Kaliappan Balasbramanian
Posted on: Sep 11, 2011 at 06:40 IST
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