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Protection for vulnerable sections

In the wake of Gujarat carnage, there is again widespread promotion of communal condemnation and expression of horror and sympathy for the victims. All kinds of token symbolic gestures for tolerance and harmony are being made. Loud secular rhetoric can be heard from every forum. Solidarity with minorities is being expressed. Media are full of news, analyses and articles exposing the savagery of the mob and complicity of the police and political executive.

All this has a sense of deja vu. From Ahmedabad 1969 riots which took a toll of three thousand lives under a Congress Government with similar political and police complicity, to 1984 massacre of Sikhs and Meerut-Malliana 1987, Bhagalpur 1989-1990 & 1992-93 – all the earlier occasions were of grave concern and pious resolutions and noble sentiments were expressed. People’s Ayodhya Tribunal, Independent Initiative’s Bombay Inquiry Commission, after painstaking efforts – of eminent jurists scholars and social workers like Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, Justice Tewatia, Justice PB Sawant, Justice Daud, Justice H. Suresh & Kamal Mitra Chenoy & others brought to light the facts about the tragic events. Then we have official Inquiry Commission Reports from Justice Madon Commission’s Report on Bhiwandi Riots (1970) to Justice Shri Krishna Commission Report on Mumbai Riots (1992-93).

Now it is proposed to undertake the same exercises – Official & Voluntary Facts Finding Commissions & other Investigative reports. They will reveal the same causes and pattern of failure. All these efforts are very welcome and necessary. But what will they amount to – unless identification of systemic & behavioural causes of periodic blood baths lead to setting attainable goals for reform of the system ensuring impartial law-enforcement during inter-group conflicts, so that the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of life & liberty of minorities and other weaker sections becomes a reality.

Even a resolution by the Parliament condemning the RSS threat to Muslims to behave or else be prepared to face the consequences i.e. periodic pogroms will not help the vulnerable communities feel any more secure. 

The peace and democratic rights movement has to focus attention on the implementation of the measures of reform suggested by the National Commission For Minorities (NCM) Committee on ‘Communal Riots Prevention & Cure’ headed by Justice V.M. Tarkunde and myself as convener. 

The Report prepared by me was adopted by the NCM in March 1999 and sent to the Union & State Governments for necessary action. The reform measures are based on the recommendations made by the NPC, NHRC and other official Commissions and NGO including Delhi based Citizens For Democracy (CFD) and the Mumbai based Centre For the Study of Society & Secularism (CSSS) which organised a seminar on ‘The Role of the Law Enforcement Machinery During Communal Riots’ in January 1994, attended by Nikhil Chakravarty, Kuldip Nayar, Justice Rajindar Sachar, Justice Hosbet Suresh, Justice Daud, Dr. Rafiq Zakaria, Javed Anand, Javed Akhtar, N.D Pancholi & others. In a subsequent seminar in Delhi the Reports recommendations were endorsed by Justice RS Narula, Prof. Amrik Singh, Mr. Surendar Mohan, Mr. Padam Rosha, Mr. VU Rai, Fr. T.K. John Surendar Mohan & others.

Apart from institutional measures for impartial law-enforcement, equally important is the promotion of dialogue, for which there should be a statutory Community Relations Commission, as recommended by the NCM Report, and civil society initiative for mechanism of conciliation (not confined to extremists of the concerned communities). There is a role for law & law-enforcement and a role for dialogue between authentic representatives to satisfactorily resolve emotive ethno-religious issues, that have been festering for a long time.

¯ Iqbal A Ansari

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