Vimarsha - A talk on Proposed Communal Violence Bill with Mr. R.N.P. Singh
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Mr. RNP Singh and VIF Director Mr. Ajit Doval, KC

‘Vimarsha’, VIF’s monthly series of public discourse on contemporary subjects, was held on September 30, 2011 to discuss an issue of utmost national importance - the implications for social harmony of a proposed legislation titled 'Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011. The talk by Mr. R.N.P. Singh, a former senior officer of Intelligence Bureau, Government of India and currently, a Senior Fellow at VIF, dwelt upon the policy of appeasing minority sentiments at the cost of majority. A distinguished speaker and author of ‘Riots and Wrongs’ - a well-documented book that carries out a comprehensive survey of all communal riots which have taken place in independent India, including the much-talked about communal riot that broke out in Gujarat in 2002 following the burning to death of the hapless kar Sewaks (Hindu volunteers) at Godhara, Mr. RNP Singh highlighted the pernicious provisions of the proposed legislation which are unequivocally aimed at further widening the majority-minority divide in India. The speaker however underscored the fact that the draft bill is an affront to the Indian civilization and tradition which since thousands of years believed in peaceful co- existence and respected the pluralistic values of life. The provisions of Communal Violence Bill take a presumptive view of majority Hindus as killers and shifting to them the onus for all possible future communal violence.

The Communal Violence Bill is an affront also to India’s federal character enshrined in the Constitution. While arguing that maintenance of law and order is a state subject, Mr. Singh said the legislation which is under active consideration will provide an excuse to the central authority to usurp the rights of the States. While the bill makes a distinction between ‘Majority’ as killers and ‘Groups’ as victims, it is ominously silent on how it would deal with communal violence if the ‘Groups’ were to clash among themselves. The ambivalent provisions of the bill become too apparent, especially in view of demographic profile of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and a few other districts such as Kishanganj in Bihar which are dominated by ‘Groups’. Clearly, the Communal Violence Bill militates against the secular credentials of the Indian Constitution. Giving a historical perspective of communal riots in India, Mr. RNP Singh said while religious intolerance and politics were two prominent causes that led to communal riots in pre-independence era, foreign hand and terrorism in recent years have added altogether a new dimension to communal riots in India. The communal riots that were witnessed in Gujarat in 2002 are largely a reflection of this recent phenomenon.

Mr. Ajit Doval, KC, Director VIF, who presided over the function, commented that changes do inevitably take place in the course of a nation’s history. However, if people do not remain vigilant, these changes could take a turn for the worse with disastrous consequences for the country. As India finds herself at the turn of a new century in the throes of tumultuous changes, people need to remain even more vigilant about what course the nation is taking, Mr. Doval cautioned. In so far as the draft Communal Violence Bill is concerned, he opined that provisions contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) are competent to take care of all communal violence in the country. As such, there is hardly any necessity for a new legislation on this count. What is however needed is effective implementation of the existing laws.

The Communal Violence Bill is so seriously flawed that it is bound to be challenged in a court of law. The bill however is unlikely to stand scrutiny in a court of law even for a day. Mr. Doval further opined that it is even more unlikely that the bill will see light of the day. Casting serious aspersions on the intent behind Communal Violence Bill, Mr. Doval asserted, government of the day is concerned more with deriving political mileage through the bill, and less with confronting the menace of communal violence with any serious intent. Drawing parallel with Jan Lokpal Bill drafted recently by team Anna, Mr. Doval commented wryly, those who were so vehemently opposed to the idea of drafting of a bill by civil society, are conspicuously silent on a bill drafted by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi led National Advisory Council (NAC) with no legal standing. He blamed both the government and the party that runs it for adopting double standards.

Both Mr. Ajit Doval and Mr. RNP Singh strongly argued that Communal Violence Bill needs to be opposed by all and sundry so as to protect India’s national unity and its cultural cohesiveness. An enthusiastic audience participating in the discussion felt that a mass awareness campaign needs to be initiated highlighting disingenuous forces which are at work to break India’s unity.

Event Date 
September 30, 2011
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