Thursday, September 19, 2013

Muzafarnagar Riots demand Communal Violence Prevention Bill

Muzafarnagar Riots demand Communal Violence Prevention Bill
Syed Ali Mujtaba

There are two things that warrant attention for the immediate passing of Communal Violence Prevention Bill, in the post Muzafarnagar riots analysis. Can India which is slipping closer to the ‘Hindu rate of growth’ that’s 3.5 per cent, 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 in the country be would be allowed to gallop, inviting the tag of ‘India a moving anarchy and shoo away the investor?’

If India likes to drive on the growth curb, can it afford such developments? If not, then there is an urgent need to pass the Communal Violence Prevention Bill for maintaining peace and prosperity in 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, and gave a huge relief to 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 Prevention Bill.

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 but  was at a total loss of memory about the Communal Violence Prevention Bill.

It’s an irony that from past nine years, consensus on the Communal Violence Prevention Bill is eluding. The result innocent lives are being lost and communal riots a crime against humanity is at large.

As of now, the Union government cannot interfere in the affairs of the states as law and order is state subject and can only appeal to it to control the situation.

The Communal Violence Prevention Bill is supposed to give residual powers to the Central government to intervene in wake of a breakdown of the law and order situation in any state. However, there are two contentious issues that are begging to be ironed out, before it’s 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 the resistance from the state governments is keeping the Bill in abeyance.

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 state government cannot be allowed to have a free run when communal orgy is taking place. The Centre has to intervene with all its firmness to stop the loss of life and property.

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 how long the Central government can remain a spectator? Is it a bankruptcy of ideas or a deliberate design to keep the communal pot boiling?    

Muzafarnagar riots, that has so far claimed nearly 50 lives has once again reiterated the necessity for the passing of the Communal Violence Prevention Bill.

Muzafarnagar is closer to Delhi and if Communal Violence Prevention Bill would have been in place and if the Central government had acted swiftly to control the situation the loss of life and property could have been prevented.

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 to maintain law and order allowed the situation to deteriorate leading 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, 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 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 creating hate and generating insecurity is a tried and tested formula. 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.

Since communalism is one of the many tools on which politics centers in the country, no political party wants to get it eliminated. Some parties may talk against it; but in hearts view it as a holy cow to 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 Prevention Bill has to be brought out at once.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai, India. He can be contacted at

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