Law and order is undeniably a State subject. But, as Kapil Sibal rightly — albeit indelicately — put it, when communal or caste-based violence results in the gratuitous killing and displacement of innocents in their thousands, the issue ceases to be a State problem and turns into a national catastrophe. It then requires the Central government to intervene with the greater resources at its command. When States are unable to contain or control an explosion of violence in areas under their watch, the matter ought to be taken out of their hands. They don’t deserve to complain about an invasion of their powers when these are clearly inadequate to prevent — if not actively abetting — communal violence. The Communal Violence Bill, moreover, has been hanging fire for the last eight years. Are we to understand Mr. Jaitley’s outburst against the Bill as a guarantee that his party will not, if it comes to power at the Centre, similarly reach for control of law and order in the States?
There is no question of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has an openly communal ideology, ever having supported the Communal Violence Bill. Fuelling of riots and communal polarisation has been its main political plank through the years. Practising pseudo- nationalism, it has carefully cultivated its majoritarian vote bank since Independence.