Enact a Law Against Communal Violence

The UPA Government has again delayed the introduction of the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill in Parliament. Predictably, Narendra Modi and the BJP shrilly opposed the CV Bill. And the UPA Government lacks the political will to pass a strong bill against communal violence.

What should be the salient features of such a law?

The violence and its aftermath in Muzaffarnagar itself illustrates what kind of law is urgently needed. In riot after riot, it is clear that organised violence escalates only when the State machinery looks the other way, and fails to act in accordance to its duty to stop the violence. What is needed is a law that ensures accountability of the State machinery to preventing and curbing communal violence, by fixing punishment for those who fail to do their duty.

The plight of the survivors of communal violence in the relief camps of Muzaffarnagar brings home the other feature that such a law must have. It must ensure justice, rehabilitation and reparation for the survivors of communal violence.

Between 2005-2009, the UPA Government introduced versions of the CV Bill that sought to vest the Executive with extraordinary powers by declaring an area ‘communally disturbed’, and these versions were rightly rejected.

A memorandum to the Prime Minister, endorsed by many civil society organizations and parties including the CPI(ML), noted:

“It has been repeatedly observed that it is not that the Executive does not have the powers needed to prevent and control a situation of communal and targeted violence. It is the lack of accountability of public servants, officials and others exercising political, executive, administrative and law enforcement powers, further aggravated by institutional bias and complicity that leads to the non-use or misuse of such powers by State functionaries. Almost all incidents of communal violence reveal a pattern of planned or targeted violence; abdication by the state machinery of the responsibility to protect; occurrence of gender based crimes with specific targeting of women’s bodies; followed by indifferent or partisan investigations and consequently absolute impunity for the horrific crimes committed in these violent assaults. The survivors, debilitated and shattered by the violence, with no recognized rights to reparative justice are left to live on the margins of fear and destitution. …There was therefore a clear and unequivocal call for rejecting a Bill that would in any way enhance the arsenal of state power….

“ The recent outbreak of communal violence in Muzaffarnagar once again reminds us of the urgent and dire need for a law against communal and targeted violence. We the undersigned, secular and civil liberty activists, women’s rights activists, legal experts, academicians, organizations, urge the Government to draft a new legislation, the primary focus of which should be to secure accountability of public servants and to hold them responsible for communal and targeted violence, as well as make provision for providing reparative justice to all victims and survivors of such violence.”

The memorandum sought a fresh draft of the CV Bill that would protect ALL persons from communal and targeted crime through making persons in positions of public authority accountable; punishing all those responsible for perpetrating, planning, inciting, abetting and conspiring to cause the violence, harm, and loss; and just, fair and equitable reparation to ALL affected persons. The UPA Government must pass such a law without further delay.