Prevention of Communal and Targetted Violence Bill, 2011: Do We Need It?

Posted on August 3, 2011

By Alam Bains:

National Advisory Council’s (NAC) draft bill to tackle communal violence has been mired in controversy ever since its inception. There are many questions being raised about the bill like – “Are n’t the laws of the land enough for this purpose? Do we really need a separate bill? Will this bill lead to communal polarization? Is it anti-majority?” Lets analyse the bill further to understand what the it really says, what are the points of contention and what are the views of the opposing parties.

The bill aims at the access to justice and reparation of minorities which include religious minorities, linguistic minorities, regional minorities, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes who are vulnerable to attack by the dominant and more powerful members of the society. It recognises identity based or targetted crimes and organised mass violence as special offences, aims to make public servants more accountable with various penalties for deriliction of duty and provides for the creation of a National Authority and state authorities as an accountability mechanism.

The bill is drawing flak from the opposition who feel that it is anti-majority and it is based on a presumption that communal trouble is only created by the members of the majority community. The NAC has said that it is not intended to blame the majority groups but to ensure that the administration works impartially as communal or targetted violence spreads when the public officials incharge of protection and prevention act in a biased manner.

Another point of contention is the creation of an independent National Authority to ensure compliance with the law in times of communal tension. Those opposing the bill say that this is a way by which the government is trying to usurp the powers of the states and devastate the federal structure of the country. The NAC has clarified by saying that the authority will act as an accountability mechanism, acting to strengthen the laws and help in implementing them better. It will have a limited mandate and will not violate any federal laws.

The government has also been accused of trying to consolidate their vote bank by trying to please the minorities and has been questioned that when there are existing laws in the country, then why not implement them better than come up with new laws? The government has said that India is a pluralistic, secular country and a country is known not by how it treats its majority but by how it treats its minorities.They believe that the laws of the land are not adequate in protecting the minorities so a new law is necessary.

The supporters of the bill say that not only will this bill handle communal violence, but also try to prevent it and rehabilitate those who are the victims. The draft of the bill has been put up on NAC’s website and suggestions have been invited.

The bill is critical because it has divided the country into two opposing sections: those who support it and those who don’t; those who believe it leads to communal polarization and those who believe it is essential to protect the minorities; those who believe it will protect the victims rights and those who believe it promotes permanent hostility between communities. Hence, it is necessary to address these concerns in order to reach a ground where this bill can be used as a tool to promote the unity of the country rather than hamper it. Do leave your comments on whether or not you think this bill is required and what are the amendments that could be made to the draft to make it more acceptable to the citizens of the country.

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