A SURYA PRAKASH
The proposed Communal Violence Bill, which paints Hindus as criminals and minorities as their victims, is downright dangerous.
Determined to promote its minority-appeasement agenda, the United Progressive Alliance regime is readying itself to introduce an obnoxious Bill that could disturb communal harmony, wreck the federal features of the Constitution and give the Union Government a fresh set of excuses to interfere in the governance of States.
The aim of this Bill — called the Prevention of Communal and Targetted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill — is ostensibly to curb communal violence and hatred, but it rests on the flawed premise that in all situations the religious majority perpetrates violence and members of the religious minority are the victims. Therefore, ab initio it treats the Hindus, who constitute the majority in 28 of the 35 States and Union Territories, as the offenders and Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities as the victims of communal hatred and violence. The draft of this abominable law has come from the National Advisory Council, which has among its members some pseudo-secularists, Hindu-bashers and Nehru-Gandhi camp followers, all of whom have been hand-picked by its chairperson, Ms Sonia Gandhi.
The Bill describes “Communal and Targetted Violence” in Section 3 ( c ) as “any act or series of acts … knowingly directed against any person by virtue of his or her membership of any group”. The biggest mischief is in the definition of the word “group” that occurs in Section 3(e). It says a “group” means “a religious or linguistic minority, in any State in the Union of India, or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes…”. This means that Hindus, who today constitute the majority in most States and Union Territories, will not constitute a “group” under this law and, therefore, will not be able to invoke its provisions, even if they are victims of Muslim or Christian communalism, hatred or violence.
In other words, if this law had been in force in 2002, the relatives of the 59 Hindus who were burnt to death by a Muslim mob at Godhra Station in Gujarat would not have had the right to lodge an FIR under this law because Hindus constitute a majority in that State, but the Muslims would have used its provisions to prosecute the perpetrators of the post-Godhra violence. If enacted, this Bill will amount to treating Hindu victims of communal violence as second class citizens and would approximate to the kind of anti-Hindu laws that prevail in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
The Bill describes a “victim” as a member of a religious minority who has suffered “physical, mental, psychological or monetary harm or harm to his or her property as a result of the commission of any offence under this Act, and includes his or her relatives, legal guardian and legal heirs, wherever appropriate”. Going by this description, a Muslim or Christian in most parts of India who is aggrieved with a Hindu neighbour over some issue can turn around and accuse him or her of causing “psychological harm”. Further, if the “victim” is not inclined to deploy this mischievous provision, the Bill allows his or her relatives to do so.
Hindu-bashing appears to be the primary aim of this exercise. The Bill says once enacted the law will extend to the whole of India. However, when it comes to the only Muslim-majority State in the Indian Union — Jammu & Kashmir — it says that “the Central Government may, with the consent of the State of Jammu & Kashmir, extend the Act to that State”. One must see what other caveats will be put in place in respect of the only Muslim-majority Union Territory — Lakshadweep — where Hindus constitute just 3.7 per cent of the population.
However, though Hindus will bear the brunt of this Bill’s obnoxious provisions, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs could also find themselves in trouble because the State is the unit to determine the issue of majority-minority. As per the religion data in the 2001 Census, Sikhs constitute 59.9 per cent of the population in Punjab, whereas the Hindu population in that State is 36.9 per cent. If this law comes into force, the Sikhs (constituting the majority) will face the music if Hindus begin accusing them of promoting communal hatred and anti-secular policies. Similarly, Christians, who have an overwhelming majority in three States — Nagaland ( 90 per cent ), Mizoram ( 87 per cent) and Meghalaya (70.3 per cent ) — will find themselves in deep trouble if the Hindu minority in these States begins to leverage this law and lodge complaints against the religious majority.
Therefore, citizens who are Muslims, Christians or Sikhs should not be taken in by the claims of the Congress that this Bill will strengthen secularism. Because this law does not treat all perpetrators of communal violence and hatred equally, these citizens will face the heat in all States where they are in a majority. Also, the demographic reality in some States will place the Hindus at a disadvantage. For example, there are States like Manipur (46 per cent Hindu) and Arunachal Pradesh (34.6 per cent Hindu) where no religious group has a clear majority. So, who is the “culprit” and who is the “victim” in these States?
Further, if you exclude the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from the Hindu population, what will be the percentage of Hindus in these States? Kerala, with 56.2 per cent Hindus, is also a case in point. If you exclude Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (22 per cent approximately), what is the percentage of the Hindu “majority” in that State? Can this so-called “majority” be seen as the oppressor of the Muslim “minority” (24.7 per cent) or the Christian “minority” (19 per cent)? The Bill also tends to intimidate the bureaucracy and the police in the States. These provisions, which are repugnant to the federal features of our Constitution, will have to be discussed separately.
Finally, far from being a “Prevention of Communal and Targetted Violence Bill”, this is a “communal” and “targetted” Bill because it empowers only religious minorities and targets not all communalists but only the religious majority. Should Ms Gandhi and her cohorts have their way, the country’s unity and integrity will be in peril. Instead of promoting communal harmony, this law will promote communal strife. Such a Bill could only have come out of the Devil’s workshop! It could not have been drafted by persons who care for India’s unity and integrity. Where has the original draft come from? We must investigate.