The National Advisory Council headed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi is working on the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill. The main intention behind this bill is to prevent the minority communities from violence and mass murder. The NAC is working on this bill, which will become a law in near future. It is too early to say how much this bill will be effective in throwing its results.
The NAC wants public opinion on this draft bill to make it more effective and practical. Before the discussion to be made on the features of this bill, it is very essential to discuss the reasons which fail the existing laws in delivering their results and make them fruitless in preventing civilians’ lives during violence, pogrom and genocide.
Mass murder, violence, pogrom and attacking a particular community are not new in India. It always happens under the nose of the government and security agencies. The genocide, which had taken place in Gujarat in 2002 against Muslims, established a bad example for the country, because it was very different from all previous violence that had taken place across the country.
In this genocide, entire state machineries from top to bottom, directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, deliberately or unwittingly were involved. Even limited time table with all details of Muslims had been given to the Hindutva forces to vent their anger out. After the genocide ended, state machineries came into motion and attempted to prevent victims from registering FIR, or efforts were made in which perpetrators got bail very easily.
In the Babri Masjid demolition, both state and central governments deliberately supported each other in razing the Babri Masjid down. After finishing this subject, all perpetrators who were involved in the demolition were left free, and now, they are doing all their works before our eyes. No one knows if they would be punished. So, law and order is not the sole issue in the country. Occurrence of violence is inevitable in a multi-cultural society. It could be prevented within hours, if the state and central governments want to.
In India, where different communities have been living for centuries, violence never took place due to interaction of two different communities. Most violence occurred or was carried out under full co-operation of state government and security agencies. Sometimes, security agencies’ negative and biased role increases the casualties among civilians, as well as, planners of violence get full co-operation from police in eliminating a particular community. Political atmosphere, negative and hatred campaign against minority communities, etc are significant reasons behind the violence in India.
In most incidents of violence, Muslim community, and after that, Christians fall as the victim. The Muslim community is the most affected community in the country, where Hindtuva forces’ abhorrence and election atmosphere paved a way for targeting the Muslim community in order to harness votes from the hardliner groups in the society. Indeed, law never failed in protecting civilians and granting punishment to perpetrators in the country. The law has been failed by law enforcement agencies and political parties which believe in violent politics.
If this bill becomes law, question arises as to who will enforce this law in violence-affected areas – state government, or security establishments, or central government? Who will invoke the law? If state government itself is involved in violence, as it is seen in Gujarat, then who will work according to this law?
According to this bill, an independent national authority will work in enforcing law without disturbing India's federal structure. Is there any hope that this authority could work fairly and without facing political pressure and interference in its work?
Tomorrow, when BJP or other hardliners will lead government at the center, is there any guaranty that the central government would do its jobs according to this law to ensure safety of citizens in affected areas? In the past, various doctrine laws had been adopted by the central government and they have been executed in all states to prevent violence and terror activities across the country. And what happened? Only Muslims were arrested under these doctrine laws; some state governments used it frequently against Muslims. When the voices arose to arrest the real perpetrators and book leaders and activists who were involved in violence, commissions got set up to find out the real fact.
The recommendations of some commissions are still waiting to be put into effect, as is seen in the case of the Sri Krishna commission report in Mumbai. Some commissions are still searching the clues about perpetrators; while in the same incidents of violence Muslims have been arrested, tortured and the court has pronounced its judgment against them. The Gujarat genocide is the best example of this injustice and discrimination.
So, law is not a problem. The problem is the system which fails every law and leaves the minority communities in trouble. Before adopting any law, it is very essential to find out the root cause of violence. How is it possible that the same law, which finds people from minority communities guilty, fails even the arrest of perpetrators from the majority
Question is not about law and its effectiveness. The real issue lies in the enforcement of laws and establishing of justice system fairly. No law could achieve its target unless it is enforced within the frame work of the justice system. I do not think that this bill after becoming a law will play any role in preventing violence in the country.
In the presence of growing anti-Muslim movement, allowing Hindutva forces to carry out their hatred campaign against Muslims and establishing relations with the parties and organizations who are providing them political and logical cover since Independence, there is no hope that this bill or any other new bill will be fruitful for the government and for the minority communities.
After turning this bill into law, what is the guaranty that this law too will not be misused against the minority communities, especially, against the Muslim community, as it has been experienced in past, in the case of the TADA and other dogmatic laws?
The government will rely on the same system to execute law and order within the boundaries of this new law, so, how is it possible that the same system and the same police administration will not use it for harassing the Muslim community?
In the presence of the anti-Muslim movement, which is continuing since independence in the country, any law cannot throw its result unless the system, roots and reasons are addressed very clearly and fairly.
I again repeat that law is not a problem. Law never failed in handling the issue. The system, the negative role of the police, political interference, anti-Muslim movement and Hindutva forces’ abhorrence attitude and a state of inaction from the state and central governments is the real cause of concern. I do not think this bill could cover these problems. If the NAC approves this bill and sends it to parliament for approval, the question arises who will invoke it?
The government which had remained a mute spectator when the Babri Masjid was razing down? The state governments which use state machineries against the minority communities openly, as is seen in Gujarat, Mumbai and in other states? The security establishment which instilled the Indian prisons with innocent Muslims in terror charges inside the jails? These Muslim youths are facing discriminations, outside jail, their family members and entire Muslim community is being treated as a suspected terrorist from among the Muslim community in India.