Home arrow Archives arrow Open Forum arrow Open Forum 2012 arrow Communal Violence Bill: WILL GOVT BRING A FRESH ONE?, by Dr S Saraswathi, 16 Nov, 2012
News and Features
INFA Digest
Parliament Spotlight
Journalism Awards
Communal Violence Bill: WILL GOVT BRING A FRESH ONE?, by Dr S Saraswathi, 16 Nov, 2012 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 16 November 2012     

Communal Violence Bill


Dr S Saraswathi

Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi


With communal tension and violence on the rise in the country according to fresh reports emanating from various States, including Assam and Andhra Pradesh, the big question doing the rounds is whatever happened to the Communal Violence Bill, the Government promised to bring. Has it done any further homework and will a redrafted version be placed before this winter session of Parliament?      


Importantly, has the Government taken note that the term “communalism” is derived from the word “commune”, which signifies consciousness or feeling of oneness or community feeling? It is sentimental attachment  that makes the members of a community feel that they constitute a distinct group, which is based on a belief that all members not only have common interests but that these are different from those of other groups.


Sadly, in the Indian context, the terms “communal” and “communalism” have acquired a peculiar derogatory meaning not given in the dictionaries. A positive feeling that underlies the sentiment of nationalism denotes in India antagonism between people belonging to different religious persuasions, races, languages, or castes and has become a negative concept. 


Sadly, a false impression has been created and nurtured that common religious affiliation or race binds a people with common secular interests and separates them from other religions or races. Likewise, language is looked upon as a divisive factor in this multi-lingual country and not something enriching the national cultural ethos.


Political parties misuse the differences of religion, language, caste, region, etc., and provoke mutual hatred between them which is called “communalism” in India. It has become an ideology that uses these differences and inculcates a narrow and sectarian outlook among the different groups.  It is used by self-seeking politicians and political parties to somehow enlarge their sphere of influence. To be blunt, it is a weapon used in elections to win sectional votes en bloc which is commonly known as “vote-bank politics”.


Politicisation of religion and communalization of politics are crucial factors responsible for communal riots. In this development, the players are many and belong to both majority and minority groups. What started during the freedom movement and attributed to the British policy of “divide and rule” and expected to vanish with the attainment of independence is being reintroduced in the guise of protecting minority groups.


The nation has till now only been offered a draft legislation – Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill 2011 – by the National Advisory Council (NAC) to protect vulnerable groups meaning by mention a religious or linguistic minority in any State in India or the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes against what is called “targeted violence”. The draft bill was opposed by one and all and rightly so.


It has about 135 clauses and elaborately deals with offences, the controlling machinery, and compensation for victims in the groups. It is not concerned about violence against the majority group in a State even if it is a minority by number in an area.


“Targeted violence” means and includes any act or series of acts, whether spontaneous or planned, resulting in injury or harm to the person and/or property or knowingly directed against any person by virtue of his or her membership of any group. The assumption seems to be that only the groups mentioned in the bill need to be protected against violence no matter how violent the behaviour of these groups may be, and how aggressive and targeted their attack of other groups.   


Six types of offences are listed in this bill, which include sexual assault, hate propaganda, organized communal and targeted violence, financial or material aid for commission of offence, offences under the Indian Penal Code, and torture. For SCs and STs, this law will be in addition to the existing protection guaranteed under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989.


A National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice, and Reparation to investigate into incidents falling within the purview of this bill, and State Commissions at the State level, the post of Defender for Justice and Reparations are proposed to be created as agencies for the implementation of this law. However, these offices do not take away the existing responsibility and accountability of the State governments for incidents of communal violence in their territory. The National Authority has the power to make enquiries suo moto on information and can make recommendations.


A constitutional problem is likely to result if the bill becomes law and authorizes the Union government to interfere in the matter of maintaining law and order in a State, which is and which will remain a State responsibility. This will affect the federal arrangement which is a basic aspect of the Constitution.


The title of the bill includes “reparation” along with justice and harmony. State governments have to ensure reparations to internally displaced persons, which include resettlement, re-employment, repair of places of worship, restoration of civic amenities, psychological counseling, etc. A time frame is also provided which will probably be followed given the NAC’s extraordinary interest in this law as against years of waiting for relief and rehabilitation in instances of mass dislocation of people from their habitats to make way for industrial projects and construction of dams.


The deep concern for minorities expressed through this bill is in most part unnecessary as there are already provisions under the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, and many criminal laws to deal with offences mentioned in this it. The speciality of this bill is that the concern is not about preventing violence and protecting victims but restricting the government’s protective care to particular groups, no matter whoever is the perpetrator of violence. Therefore, the terms “communal harmony” and “justice” seem inappropriate when the intention is to protect specified groups even if they are the offenders and instigators of violence in an incident.


The Government must take lead in promoting national sentiments despite social-cultural differences.  What is attempted through this bill is to further divide the people as majority and minority and make them forget their nationality.  Party politics is treading into dangerous zones by playing the politics of minority versus majority for political gains. Time the Government gets its act together and check the dangerous trend. ---INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)













< Previous   Next >
  Mambo powered by Best-IT