Anti-riot bill a dire necessity

Anti-riot bill a dire necessity

True to their mind set, a ferocious reaction from our ‘responsible’ opposition political outfit, BJP, on the proposed Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparation) Bill, 2011 is not unnatural. What is intriguing is the propaganda that the bill has been drafted by an extra-constitutional National Advisory Council presided over by Sonia Gandhi with its members drawn from the civil society organisations!

What else could be the biggest irony  than the fact that the same BJP conglomerate demonstrated over-enthusiasm in their overt support to the anti-corruption draft bill which was not simply prepared by an ‘unconstitutional’ civil society group but also forced upon a democratically elected government for enactment adopting extra-constitutional means!

The proposed anti-riot bill is, indeed, a need of the hour and an important milestone to ensure a fear-free life to our minorities. The worsening plight of the minorities is not a result of their timidity or inertia, not even incapacities but largely the fear syndrome and siege psychology under which they are struggling to survive.

It is a sordid saga that haunted by the trauma of partition and its after-effects, Indian minorities, particularly Muslims, saw in independent India a commitment to the ideals of secularism, tolerance and accommodation. Unfortunately, due to the socio-political events that ensued during the last five decades, after the exit of Jawaharlal Nehru from the political scene, their expectations from those very ideals were completely shattered.

There is ample evidence to prove, how in the guise of secularism, Indian Muslims were reduced to third rate citizens and how our political parties played the minority card to emerge victorious at the hustings and garnered international support as champions of minority interests.

Nehru kept on emphasising that the freedom for which India had laboured through generations of sufferings was for all the people of India, and not for one group or class or followers of one religion. “Hindus must always remember that the interest and wellbeing of the minorities are their sacred trust. If they fail in their trust then they injure not only the country but themselves.”

Siege situation
Those who succeeded Nehru had neither his vision nor qualities or perspective to insulate India’s edifice of secularism and tolerance from fanatic and communal forces mushroomed in the form of sanghs, shakas, parishads, leagues and dals. A false phobia was generated about the growing influence of Islam, Christianity and Buddhism and the rising economic prosperity of Muslims through petro-dollars remittances was projected as a challenge to the Hindu commercial ventures and consequently Hindu status in a Hindu dominated state!

The Turkaman gate incidents in Delhi, the 1984 onslaught on the Sikhs followed by the march of bigotry demolishing the Babri mosque in 1992, heralded an epoch of hatred and fear. Atrocities on Christian missionaries, burning down of churches, holocaust in Gujarat, carnage in Kandhamal and unending violence and murder of Dalits, all added to the precipitation of a siege situation for the minority groups.

In the backdrop of such a dismal climate of de-secularising state machineries, prospering communal culture and partisan police force, Indian minority groups definitely deserve some special constitutional instrument for the protection of their lives and properties on the similar lines of the Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The communal violence bill will go a long way in providing a deterrent against the habitual perpetuators of communal violence.

Misuse, backlash?
It is, indeed, difficult to buy the argument that the  union government will misuse its provisions and infringe on the federal autonomy of state governments. Is there any law on this planet that is not violated or misused by one or the other government? Needless to mention that strict observance of established rules and procedures without prejudices, itself is a big bulwark against infringements.

The apprehension that the so called pro-minorities bias in the provisions of the bill would encourage a backlash from the aggrieved minorities is nothing more than a chimera. It is common sense knowledge that no individual or group constantly subjected to the fear of losing life, will ever dare to risk the protection gained after persistent struggles.

(The writer is Professor at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.)

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