Muzafarnagar Riot Warrant Communal Violence Bill
By Syed Ali Mujtaba
11 September, 2013
There are two things that warrant attention for the immediate passing of Communal Violence Bill, in the post Muzafarnagar riots analysis. Can India which is slipping closer to the ‘Hindu rate of growth’ afford the burden of communal riots and internal turmoil in the country and further slow down its economic progress?
Second, can the identity politics that’s so vigorously perused be would be allowed to gallop on, inviting the tag of India being a ‘moving anarchy?’
The instance of Muzafarnagar and Tamil Nadu suggest that, differences between individuals are no longer between people concerned and the identity of Jati, caste, religion gets activated in no time leading to communal riots.
Can India afford such development, if it likes to drive on the growth curb? If not, then there is an urgent need to pass the Communal Violence Bill for maintaining peace and prosperity of the country.
The Communal Violence Bill announced by the UPA government in May 2004, soon after coming to power, was a revolutionary call. The bill aimed to stop the repeat of 2002 post Godhara riots in Gujarat, gave a huge relief among the minority community, living under the constant shadow of insecurity.
However, somewhere done the line, the plot seems to be lost. The incumbent government has more reasons to pilot other bills than make efforts to see through the Communal Violence Bill become an Act. As a result this Bill is gathering dust from past nine years now.
In the wake of Muzafarnagar riot, Home Minister Shushil Kumar Shinde came out with a statement that the communal situation in the country is going to deteriorate ahead of the general elections due in 2014. He however maintained a stoic silence o how to contain it. He was at a total loss of memory about the Communal Violence Bill and was clueless about the time frame of its tabling it in the Parliament.
It’s an irony that from past nine years, consensus on the Communal Violence Bill is eluding. The result is the union government is shying away to use its residual power to prevail over the state government in wake of communal riot and put a lid over this crime against humanity.
As of now, the Center cannot interfere in the affairs of the provinces and can only appeal to the state government to control the situation, in the wake of the eruption of a communal riot.
The Communal Violence Bill is supposed to give powers to the central government to intervene into the states in wake of a breakdown of the law and order situation.
However, there are two contentious issues that need to be ironed out, before the Bill tabled in the Parliament. First, can a communal situation in a state be dealt with by the Central government without encroaching upon the state’s rights of maintaining law and order?
Second, can the deployment of central forces be done independently and such forces can act independently or it has to do at the request of the state government and act under its command?
Opinion seems to be divided on both the issue and is cited as the reason for keeping the Communal Violence Bill in abeyance. This logjam is well over nine years now.
Notwithstanding the rights of the states, the fact remains that in the name of state autonomy and its exclusive right over 'law and order', the Central government cannot remain a silent specter to the instances of communal orgy taking place in several states, time and again.
The 2002 post Godhara riots in Gujarat, that warranted the Bill, has lived up to its reputation. Communal riots are happening in the country with immunity. The state governments have repeatedly failed to control the situation.
In such case what stops the central government from promulgating this law. Is it a bankruptcy of ideas or a deliberate design to keep the communal pot boiling?
The riots in Muzafarnagar that has claimed over 34 lives, once again reiterate the necessity for the passing of the Communal Violence Bill. Muzafarnagar is closer to Delhi and the loss of lives could have been prevented, if the Central government had acted swiftly to control the situation. In Muzafarnagar, the communal tension was brewing for some time. It exploded after the Maha-Panchayat, where inflammatory speeches were made, that triggered communal mayhem.
The riot in Muzafarnagar is a clear cut of the slackness of the state administration unable to keep the communal forces in check. The building communal tension was farther aggravated by the state government’s permission to hold the Maha-Panchayat.
What was the necessity of its permission in the wake of rising communal temperature one fails to understand? Was Samajwdi party shuffling two cards, one of minority fear and other majority, and keep both insecure?
It’s a clear cut case, where if the Communal Violence bill was in place, and the Central government would have intervened and many lives could have been saved.
As it happens after every riot, motives are attributed to the events and the blame game circulates stories of aggrieved and revenge. The fact remains, in all such situation, its innocent people who lose their lives.
It’s ominous that the fatalities could have been avoided if the state administration had acted with a little intelligence and responsibility. However, its total sloppy approach allowed the situation to deteriorate.
This helped a well thought out plan to carry out a communal program against the minorities, similar to the post Godhra riots.
A cursory look at the history of all the communal riots in the country suggests that Muzafarnagar riot was not isolated event. In the larger picture of the communal program carried out intermittently in the country, it tells the similar story, as others.
The communal violence invariably flares up around skirmishes among religious communities and the state administration allows it to escalate. The extremists then go on the rampage unleashing an orgy of death and mayhem. When enough damage is done and media pressure becomes unmanageable, the authorities then put their act together and swing into action to control the situation.
In case of Muzafarnagar riot, this is exactly what had happened. Here the naked vote bank politics for consolidating the majority and minority vote banks was at its lethal display.
Since last sixty years, this is the pet theme of communal politics in India. The negative politics of hate is a tried and tested formula in Indian politics. First, create a sharp polarization in the society, and then ride on the insecurity wave of the communities. It happens each time at the expense of the minority community.
In this game, the Congress and the BJP are outwitting each other at several places, in Uttar Pradesh it’s the Samajwadi Party and the BJP that are battling it out currently.
Since communalism is one of the many tools on which politics centers in India, no political party wants to get it eliminated. Some parties may talk about banishing it from the society; but in their hearts view it as a holy cow that can be milked any time for electoral gains.
The Muzafarnagar riot has given enough indication of what future has in store, ahead of the general elections of 2014. If future communal riots have to be controlled, then Communal Violence Bill has to be brought out at once.
One wonders why UPA government that’s now coming close to two terms in office, is still shying away to bring the Communal Violence Bill. This is giving rise to suspicion among the minority community that it’s not seriousness of their welfare. Their disenchantment brewing among them may have serious repercussions for the future of the Congress led government at the centre.
It’s high time the UPA government should bring out a statutory order that Centre can have the exclusive right to intervene in event of breakdown of communal situation in the state.
Any further waste of time would be an invitation for another saga of communal riot somewhere else in the country.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai, India. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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