The proposed Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011 is a singularly beneficial piece of legislation which shows that the Congress-led UPA takes the pernicious evil of communal violence seriously. It is a part of the proclaimed agenda, manifesto of the Congress-led UPA, right from UPA-I.
More than mere politics, it is part of our belief system, our conviction, our ideology because we believe that this is a highly necessary piece of social welfare legislation. We are, therefore, shocked at the BJP’s reaction.
Firstly, the reaction is premature. Nothing has been finalized yet. We are receiving inputs and suggestions from diverse quarters and the NAC is certainly one set of significant inputs. But just see carefully, what is the BJP is trying to do? The BJP is trying to further its communal agenda—even to communalise the Communal Violence proposed draft bill. It is trying to do so by a pre-emptive strike. A pre-emptive strike by vituperatively criticizing and debunking a draft stage bill under discussion and nowhere finalization, and they are, therefore, speaking to debunk it and to abort it before its birth. Sadly, this is a clear reflection of the BJP’s deep and pervasive fear and guilt complex.
The BJP knows that the country knows which political party in this country has a communal agenda — a communal agenda from its conception, from its birth and from its evolution. Those who continue to be proudly bound by the umbilical chord of RSS, those who have divisive communal agendas, those who subscribe to the writings of Golwalkar, those who carry the shame of Gujarat, Karnataka and Babri episode likely and with ease and sometimes with pride. These people are naturally to be worried by a Communal Violence proposed draft bill. That is why a premature pre-emptive move.
This proposed bill has roughly 60 clauses. First pernicious rumour mongering by the BJP – out of the 60 clauses, barring one clause, all clauses give power to the state government to notify to declare a disturbed area to take action, so it is purely a power given to the state government. One out of these 60 clauses, clause 55, gives power to the central government but hatched in by three cumulative conditions:
- First, the Central government will bring to the attention of the State government the communally sensitive situation prevailing in that state.
- Second, it will wait for the state government to act on that intimation information.
- Third, if despite persistent advisory, the state government fails to act, then the central government gets powers to act.
Now, naturally if the cumulative tests of a Bill are satisfied and a hypothetical state government resolutely refuses to act in the face of a deep divisive communal threat which can destroy the secular fabric of that entire area, then, I am asking what is wrong in the central government having a default power, a residuary power, and last resort power to act because secularism is a basic structured of the constitution of this country. It is part of the atma of this country. Therefore, it is a pernicious propaganda to suggest that this bill gives power to the central government. All the powers are actually to the state government – 55 sections say so.
Second, if it is an encroachment on state’s powers, those who think so are free to challenge it after the Act is passed. We stand by its validity; let it be tested in court. That can hardly be a reason for debunking it at this stage on petty frivolous grounds. If they were serious about it, the BJP should have offered that list II of the Seventh Schedule will be amended to give concurrent power in communally sensitive cases to both central and state government. First, they do not offer that. Second, they oppose a draft bill and third, they add insult to the injury by giving advance ruling and judgment that it is an unconstitutional or invalid initiative. Third point is very important.
A pernicious propaganda is also being carried out that it gives a subjective weight test of secular fabric which anybody can distort. That is not so at all. Please read clause 3 — in fact clause 3 gives three triple cumulative tests making it very difficult to declare a communally sensitive or communally disturbed area. First, there should a declaration of violence, and then there has to be a further declaration and cumulatively in addition a third declaration of secular fabric being in danger. Our friends in BJP yesterday and day before have misled the nation by saying that there is a test of threat to secular fabric and that is a subjective test. That is not the test at all.
Last, but not the least, the pernicious propaganda that this is only slanted by permitting action only against the majority community. Those who are saying this have not understood the very intent of the bill. This is a bill to combat communal violence. It is a special enactment for a special situation. Please remember two or three basic points.
- Firstly, communal violence scourge which involves collectivities is to protect the minorities.
- Secondly, minorities in this country can be defined only as linguistic or religious minorities. There is no third kind of minority which we are having in this country.
- Thirdly, this applies to all minorities in each state.
- Fourthly, the most important, if the minority community does violence against anybody individually person or group, the IPC applies very strongly. There is no question of exempting them from violence or punishment for violence.
This is a focused enactment for a totally different purpose. It is to inspire confidence amongst those who have already been historically the victims of communal violence. Therefore, this is at the threshold stage a pernicious propaganda to try to kill an initiative. This shows the true intent of a communal party like the BJP.
Further, in the event of a dispute between the central and the state government with regard as far as its implementation part is concerned, Clause 55 deals with such type of disputes. Any central government which takes the risk of irresponsible behaviour is liable to judicial correction. It is a suggestion, a draft for discussion by the NAC. It is true that the earlier draft and this draft have several differences. I am repeating that those differences are not fundamental. There is no fundamental difference in the concept. The concept is the same. The BJP’s reaction is as if this has become an Act of parliament. In this new draft proposed bill, there are special police stations, there are special courts and there are special public prosecutors.
Based on the press briefing by Congress spokesperson
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