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Published in the 16-30 June 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition


Communal violence bill

The Milli Gazette Online 

Any serious Act, meant to prevent/deter/reduce incidences of large-scale communal violence, must encompass a three-phased approach. It must have provisions to ensure (i) adequate monitoring and scuttling of build up of tensions through hate propaganda and spreading of rumours etc.; (ii) prompt, unbiased and effective intervention to contain/quell violence and protection for the actual and likely victims; and finally (iii) relief and rehabilitation of the victims, speedy identification and strict punishment to the perpetrators of communal violence and the negligent/colluding state officials. 

As our experience show, the biased approach of the state machinery is one of the major problems. But their services can hardly be dispensed with. So the Act must create a special (largely autonomous) body at the state level, which will have statutory powers to direct and supervise the operations of the State machineries pertaining to communal violence. In order to ensure its unbiased character it must include authentic representatives of the likely victims/ intended beneficiaries the religious, linguistic, ethnic minorities. The state human rights/ minority commissions, reorganised for this purpose, or some specific wings of theirs may be the appropriate agency. These bodies must directly report to President of India but they should be accountable to the legislatures.

Special central security forces, having adequate representation of various 'minorities' including women, must be raised. They may be deployed at the request of the special body constituted at the state level. Once deployed, they should directly report to such bodies.

There must be special courts to try the cases of atrocities. Public prosecutors be appointed only with the consent of the victims. The judges must be vetted by the autonomous commission. Provisions similar to those in (Dalit) Atrocities Act must be incorporated. Any negligence in lodging of FIRs must be treated as a serious offence.

Vesting of additional powers in the existing structures, who are by all means the parts of the problem, would lead only to further victimisation of the victims. This must be avoided like plague.

Sukla Sen

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