Monday, 26 September, 2011


12 Indian States oppose religion-based "Communal Violence Bill" that breaches state autonomy
date Tue, Sep 13, 2011 at 1:41 PM
subject 12 Indian States oppose religion-based "Communal Violence Bill" that breaches state autonomy


Some chief ministers fear the proposed law may breach their autonomy
Bill opposed by West Bengal, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Punjab, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh

The Communal Violence Bill was opposed by all the states ruled by the BJP and allies, including Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal

The Centre trying to put the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) on the mat with its proposed Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill found at least a dozen states revolting at the National Integration Council (NIC) meeting here on Saturday against attempted breach the states' autonomy and those protesting included West Bengal, ruled by the Congress ally Trinamool Congress.

The consensus on the Bill that the government intends to introduce in the winter session of Parliament proved elusive and the day-long NIC meeting instead threw up a big political divide on the issue. The only unequivocal support to the Bill came from the Left Parties who did not buy the autonomy cry and insisted that a strict law was needed to tackle violence against the minorities, more so in the states ruled by the communal parties where the minorities live under perpetual fear. Of course, all Congress chief ministers were one in endorsing the Bill, knowing well it is crafted with the aid of Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC).

Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj led the attack questioning communalism put on top of the agenda when no communal incidents occurred in the past three years since the NIC met last time in October 2008.

The Prime Minister's reference to the Delhi High Court bomb blast and stress on beefing up intelligence gathering mechanism to tackle terror in the opening remarks gave her handle to demand that issues like terrorism and Naxal menace were relevant for discussion and not communalism.

Dr Manmohan Singh, however, stressed in the same breath the "need to combat divisive forces and the radicalisation of youth" in a veiled attack on the Sangh Parivar's mobilisation of the younger generation for actions with frenzy. The government had put the communal violence bill for testing response of the states in the agenda which included communal harmony, elimination of discrimination against minorities and scheduled castes and handling of civil disturbances.

The Bill was opposed by all the states ruled by the BJP and allies— Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Punjab—as also by the BJD-led Orissa, AIADMK's Jayalalithaa's Tamil Nadu, Mayawati-led Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

Each one of them endorsed Sushma Swaraj's view that the Centre is attempting a "dangerous" piece of legislation that would hurt the federal structure of the country as the Centre may misuse it to impose the President's rule at the slightest provocation of communal tension in any state.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar shared concern of the BJP and others over the Bill giving an impression that the minority is always victim and the majority community is "always responsible" for any communal incident. His speech was read out by senior state minister Vijay Kumar Chaudhary. Others said the Bill has ingredients to encourage communalism by the minorities.

Jayalalitha, Mayawati and Mamata were among seven chief ministers not turning up at the NIC meeting and the absentees also included Kerala's Oommen Chandy of Congress, Narendra Modi, Parkash Singh Badal, Nitish Kumar. Their views were put on record by their representative ministers or chief secretaries.

Railway minister Dinesh Trivedi, who attended on behalf of Mamata's Trinamool Congress, a key constituent of the UPA, said the Bill in the present form is unacceptable to his party. Mayawati chose not to take a stand on the Bill as she said in the speech read out in absentia that "it is not the opportune moment to comment on the Bill."

Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal feared the hidden agenda in the Bill was to dismiss the elected governments of opposition parties in the state by invoking Article 355 while Sadanand Gowda (Karnataka) and Ramesh Pokhriyal (now-ex CM Uttarakhand) towed their BJP line that the Bill was against the majority community. "Strange, our endorsement is sought for the Bill that would be a big blow to the national integration for which we are gathered today," Pokhriyal said.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh warned the Centre not to usurp the state's powers of maintaining law and order and asserted that the Bill is against India's federal structure. He said the states will lose autonomy if the Centre-appointed national authority starts directing the states on investigation of the communal incidents.

His Madhya Pradesh counterpart Shivraj Singh Chauhan saw an attempt to meet the "vested interests" always out to blacken the majority Hindus. "If state governments are weakened to serve some vested interests, the nation will become weak and it will give impetus to parochial forces," he warned.

No religion-based separate criminal law: BJP

Bhartiya Janata Party President Nitin Gadkari on Saturday dismissed the proposed communal violence bill as a religion-based separate criminal law and dubbed it as dangerously unconstitutional.

"India can not countenance a situation where members of various religious denominations have a separate criminal law," he said in a note circulated at the National Integration Council meeting here. He said the Bill not only usurps the power of the States, but also encroaches on personal liberty and discriminates on the basics of caste and religion.

Advocating to handle civil disturbances "with care" without compromising the authority of the State, Gadkari said, "Negotiations, Political dialogues, engagement, must precede any police action that much be a later resort and must be proportionate."

His note surprisingly came as an endorsement of the Prime Minister's concern over increasing radicalisation of the youths as he said: "Radical actions of youth in the name of religion or caste must not be permitted. This radicalization has led to the increased emergence of Terrorism."

He also endorsed the Prime Minister that the intelligence agencies must improve their professional skills to be able to give advance and adequate information about the terror outfits to check their growth and expansion.


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