Shahabuddin’s remarks at the National Integration Council

Following are Syed Shahabuddin’s remarks at the National Integration Council meeting on 10 September, 2011:

I would like to basically emphasize that the Communal Violence Bill, which is not yet before the Parliament, has become a victim of feticide. It is being attacked from all sides by many people and facing a number of objectives particularly from those political elements who look upon any Government measures which may particularly benefit the Muslims and Christian as “appeasement”.

The Indian society is not only multi-dimensional, but its demography varies from one level to another. It is the duty of the State to protect any social group irrespective of religion, caste or language, which forms a weaker section or a minority at any local level and which is targeted by a dominant group. However, violence is not the monopoly of any particular group. I have seen, Mr. Chairman, in my own experience, in the same town, in one part of the town, one group is acting as the targeter and the other is targeted and in another part of the same town, the role is reversed. Therefore, when the word majority or minority in the sense of targeter is being used, it is not being used in any religious sense or in any total or universal sense. It is my view that the administration cannot control the outbreak of violence, but it can certainly normalize the situation within 24 hours, within 48 hours if it so likes. If it does not or cannot, there is certainly an element of institutional weakness or bias. There is also a feeling, particularly, if violence not only persists, but extends to other areas, other districts, other places, in a sense, in that situation, the Government is not being carried out in that State, in that area, in accordance with the Constitution to use the language of Article 355. I am afraid, the Central government is then duty-bound to assist the state government, first through advisories and directions and offer of support, if necessary, and then if after seven days, there is no respite, then by effective intervention. I fully appreciate the feelings and sentiments of those who uphold the federal principle. Still I feel that this intervention becomes a duty when the Government in the affected area is not being carried out in accordance with the Constitution. The Central Government must do its bit. However, this is subject to conditions, first it must immediately, urgently, consult the National Commission of Human Rights, National Commission for Minorities and the National Commission for Schedule Castes, and National Commission for Schedule Tribes after gauging the persistence of violence in terms of causalities and areas and establishing the facts objectively, and then after consultations, do nothing more, not take over the districts, not take over the entire state, but simply post a senior officer of the rank of Commissioner to supervise the district administration. This will not amount to intervention, it will not amount to takeover, but it will give confidence to the people who are being targeted. It will give a new spirit to the administration and I think it will work.

The Bill also provides, in my opinion unfortunately, for an over-powering national authority backed by state authorities.  It is too heavy a burden. It will become a parallel structure and I do not think that is necessary, but I feel that since the resources for relief and rehabilitation are normalized, the Central Government may maintain a presence there in the affected districts in order to see that the work of relief, rehabilitation and reparation is carried out well.

I know in Gujarat, the Central Government sent 200 crore rupees, but most of it was returned, it was not used and, therefore, if there is Central supervision there, the officer will see to it  that it is done.

I come to one more topic - that is discrimination. I have read Article 15 (1). It says that the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on the basis of religion, caste etc, but it does not say that it is the State’s duty to protect anyone who is subjected to discrimination. I think Article 15 needs to be amended in order to add to it a provision that the State shall protect anyone who is being discriminated.

I personally feel that in all uplift programmes, aggregated stats are being given. This leaves everybody dissatisfied. The people, for whom something is being done, do not know what has been done, and, therefore, I feel that for avoiding discrimination and to establish that the authorities are not guilty of discrimination, collation and release of dis-aggregated data must become the norm and the implementation must be monitored at the operational level in every district by representative local committee.

 I would like to have felicitated the Chief Minister of Kashmir for having stopped the regular exchange of the stones and bullets. I remember, in 1955 when I as a student leader and Patna faced police firing, the press headline was ‘brick bats were replied by bullets’. Here stones were replied by bullets, thankfully that has stopped and the police has been trained properly. But, all governments have to deal with all civil disturbances in a humane manner. They should never forget that the demonstrators are our own people, they are our own children and they cannot be shot at recklessly and the government must provide immediate, uniform and adequate reparation to the victims.

The governments must also compensate people who are put in prison for the time being as suspects in acts of terrorism suspicions, who are arrested or detained and prosecuted, but, who are finally acquitted by he courts. Their life has been ruined, their valuable time has been lost. Why should not the state compensate them?

Finally, on the question of radicalization in a country where 80 percent of the people are living on an expenditure of 20 rupees per day, where 40 percent of the people are sleeping every night on empty stomach, where people are begging for jobs, where jobs are shrinking both in the public and the private sectors, how do you expect the youth not to take to extremist radicalism? We should guide them. They are to be guided politically. But we have to do something more, we have to economically and socially help them. Today our youths are in the electronic age, they are receiving continuous exposures from all over the world and they know what is happening. We have to give them quality education universally, everywhere, not the mockery of education, give them technical training to acquire skills. Establish avenues of mutual cooperation and compassion. Various sections of the society need politicization so that they develop a sense of trust in the state and the administration. I am sure that otherwise the youth shall be radicalized and they should be. Unless youth is radicalized society will become stagnant, dormant. But it should be radicalized in the right direction, in the right manner to achieve better goals and higher objectives.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 December 2011 on page no. 12

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