ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Hanging Fire

More than three years on, the UPA government’s showpiece legislation is back on the drawing board.

The Communal Violence (Prevention) Bill, 2005 has been sent back to the home ministery for changes yet again. The bill, which was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in December 2005, has been sent back to the ministry on prime minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention. It has already been discussed twice in the cabinet earlier but the government now wants to hold more consultations rather than “rush it with shortcomings”. This “showpiece” bill of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) – fighting communalism in all its manifestations is first among the six important commitments to the nation under the common minimum programme – was to be a response to the post-Godhra anti-Muslim genocide in Gujarat in 2002. With the recent sting operation by Tehelka which purportedly recorded rioters boasting of official support in attacking Muslims in Gujarat, the focus is back on state complicity in communal massacres and the lack of genuine rehabilitation measures for the victims.

The bill in its present form seeks to “empower the state government and the central government to take measures to provide for the prevention and control of communal violence...and rehabilitation of victims of such violence and for matters connected therewith…”. While only the state government has the right to notify the commencement of the act, and its approval is required to deploy the army, the bill allows the state and the central governments to declare areas as communally disturbed with all the attendant measures. As Gujarat’s case showed, a difficult situation would arise if the state government is deeply communalised and the ruling dispensation at the centre too belongs to the same persuasion.

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