Why this Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill now? – Hilda Raja

Sign the petition against the anti-Hindu Communal Violence Bill

arindam-c“If this Bill becomes law, only Hindus will be tried, convicted and sentenced for communal violence and incitement of communal hatred because the Constitution will refuse to accept that Muslims and Christians are capable of violence and hatred. If this Bill becomes law, any anonymous complainant can file a police case against a Hindu for inciting communal hatred—and the police will have to register it as a non-bailable offence. The accused—who would be arrested—would not even have the right to know who the complainant is. And the accused Hindu will virtually be presumed to be guilty unless he or she can prove his her innocence. A Hindu activist who complains against fanatic Christian missionaries—Believe me, there are many of them out there— converting tribals through inducements and bribes will be sent behind bars; the Christian missionary who openly calls Hindus ‘heathens’ or ‘kafirs’ and tramples upon idols of Hindu Gods and Goddesses will be forever found innocent by the Indian Constitution.” – Arindam Chaudhry in The Sunday Indian

Hindu Human RightsThe proposed Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill has been drafted outside Parliament by the National Advisory Council. The bill was drafted by a subgroup, the convenor being Farha Naqvi and includes Teesta Seetalvad, Harsh Mander and others. It is an indication of how unbiased and objective the Bill will be!

The question which comes to my mind is why was this Bill drafted? What is the urgency? There is no preamble to justify the need of this Bill. When the country is reeling under inflation and corruption and the next is the cross border terrorism. There is no doubt that terrorism must be tackled; for this there are several Centre and State agencies. These have to be made more effective by giving them autonomy and by the government restraining from interference. Why was POTA repealed?

There are 9 articles and 139 sections and subsections in the Bill. The most important being Art 3(E). All others revolve round this. This is the single most mischievous and pernicious concept in the Bill. It straight away divides society into two blatantly: “the Group” and “the Others.” The Group consists of the religious and linguistic minorities and the Others are the majority Hindus.

What is baffling is that even when the Hindus in a district become the minority in strength according to the Bill’s concept, the Group does not apply to it. Hence right from the very start the Bill is a communal Bill meant to garner votes and not meant to prevent communal violence. This is obvious and apparent when the Bill further clarifies that the Group is considered to be victims and the Others perpetrators. How is victim hood bestowed on the Group straight away? Can the Others not be victims—and what if they are? Can there be a more communalized perception. Yet according to Manish Tiwari this is a progressive bill! This Bill precludes the Hindus under the assumption.

What is still more prejudicial is the statement that all acts of violence between same religious groups are considered outside the purview of the proposed Bill. Hence if there is a riot/clash between the Sunnis and the Shias, if Christian church groups are involved in a riot these do not come under the purview of the Bill.

Swami Lakshmanananda SaraswatiAnother inexplicable mistake is the inclusion of the Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes. These have a full-fledged Commission to look into offences committed against them. So if a person commits an offence against this group then he/she is doubly punishable. Can a perpetrator attract double punishment for the same offence? The drafters of the Bill have ignored Justice Ranganath Misra Commission report on religious and linguistic minorities. Because the situation differs from place to place. A minority in a taluka can become a majority in another state and taluka. Every other language spoken by people apart from the state becomes a linguistic minority. Hence a Tamilian will be a linguistic minority in every other states except Tamil Nadu. The same goes for other languages.

It is intriguing how the drafters have been unable to hide their fangs when it comes to Art 3(f), the creation of a coercive environment. This concept is not easy to prove because boycotting the profession of means of living of a member of the Group, insulting the members of the Group by refusing to use their vehicles, educational institutions, transportation, depriving or threatening to deprive members of the Group their fundamental rights, depriving the members of the Group of their place to live and means of their livelihood without their permission, etc. All this or any one goes to mean “coercive environment” and is punishable. This would mean that refusing to sell Shabana Azmi, the actor, a house she wants to buy is creating a coercive environment and can be punished. The drafters have forgotten that others too have their fundamental right to sell or not to sell their land or houses, to use or not to use the vehicles owned by the minorities. Hence this proposed Bill negates the fundamental rights of the Indians and is biased and discriminatory.

Section 8 violates the freedom of speech of the majority only. Because it says that any advertisement  written statement, gestures or oral statement made against a member of the Group if it leads to violence or spreading tension against members of the Group, it constitutes “hate disinformation.” What about Rahul Gandhi with his sob story saying that his grandmother was murdered, his father was murdered and he too will be killed by “them.” Who is the “them?” It can be the Sikhs, it can be the LTTE. Does this qualify for “hate disinformation?” But Rahul-G wants to target the BJP, so the “them” can be anyone who opposes him.

Burned-out Hindu pilgrim train at Godhra StationNo riots are logical and can be accepted. But riots are not new to India. It is made to look that there was only one riot and that is the Gujarat riots after the Godhra carnage. George Augustine in his article “Kill the Mocking Bill” cites  Zenab Banu in her Politics of Communalism: A politico-historical analysis of communal riots in post-independence India with special reference to Gujarat and Rajasthan riots (1989) there have been 74 communal riots between 1953 and 1977 of which 75% were instigated by Muslims.

US Sikhs protesting Sonia-G's visit to the USSection 9(2) makes the public servant, such as district magistrate or police officer, criminally liable by presumption and not evidence. Vague language is used on “dereliction of duty.” It is not only vague but gives a powerful handle to religious minorities to terrorize and or intimidate members of the majority community majority. Section 12,13 and 14 thereby tries to impose responsibility on public servants: whether they could honestly or not contain riots and violence. Two instances I would like to cite: on this basis is not Rajiv Gandhi responsible for the Sikh pogrom? He went even a step further and justified it. Will a straight forward cop like Julio Ribeiro be penalized for not preventing the riots in Maharastra?

Section 20 is a blow to federalism and is anti-constitutional. It creates confusion about the power of the Centre and the State because communal and targeted violence would be considered “internal disturbance.” And any riot in any one area is fit to be termed as “internal disturbance” and hence fit to impose the President’s Rule. The rest of the Bill deals with National Authority and State Authority, rehabilitation and compensation, etc. When it comes to the National Authority and State authority of the 7 members it is stipulated that at least 4 must belong to the minority community. Again the bias is obvious. Why should the Governor be the authority to appoint the State Authority is another disputable area.

Hindu organisations with the support of Muslims protest the illegal construction of this Islamic college on temple land at Tirupati.What baffles one is why this Bill? If the Centre was keen on fighting terrorism then why did it repeal POTA? The proposed Bill is focused only on “saffron” terror. Communal violence and terrorism has no colour. Terror cannot be fought on such a prejudicial and biased manner. Let us uphold truth and speak out. No religion except Islam has countenanced jihad no religion except the minority religions uphold fatwas and use the pulpits to spreads hate. We are playing with innocent lives. Fight terrorism please but not based on injustice. This is nothing but a communal Bill.

It is discriminatory, biased, anti-constitutional and unjust. It is our duty to fight the communalism of the Congress which has revealed its true color in the form of the Bill. It is the sacred duty of each and every one of us to fight this Bill and the communalism of the Congress. We are one—irrespective of religion, community and caste and region. We are a nation. We are all Indians. The Congress is divisive and wants for cheap politics to communalize and polarize the nation. A study revealed that 95 percent of the Muslims have Hindu ancestry. It is in this oneness that our strength lies. Lets defeat the Communal Congress and its base motives, its power-hungry strategies to garner votes. It is prepared to sacrifice this nation of Indians on the altar of communalism and violence. Let this proposed Bill be “torn apart and throw it off—it is complete nonsense,” for it is no prevention of communal and targeted violence but a vote garnering strategy at the cost of the nation.

» Dr. Mrs. Hilda Raja is a retired professor of social sciences from Stella Maris College, Chennai. She is Roman  Catholic by religion and an outspoken critic of religious conversion as it is practised by Christian missionaries in India. Her blog is accessed here.

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