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'Does Govt. really want consensus on Communal Violence Bill?'
Sunday, June 27, 2010 12:33:37 PM, ummid.com Staff Reporter
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Malegaon: On one hand National Advisory Council (NAC) led by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi is holding consultations with a cross section of Civil Rights Groups to evolve a consensus on the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, there are reports suggesting the government has already finalised it, observe activists Ms. Shabnam Hashmi and John Dayal.
"While one wing of the government engaged the activists in negotiations on Communal Violence Bill, the other leaked out to the media that all the concerns have been incorporated in the Communal Violence Bill", they said. Shabnam Hashmi, who is the Chairperson of Delhi based ANHAD and John Dayal of the All India Christian Council were addressing the press in Delhi June 26.
"We assumed that discussions were still on to decide the final shape of the bill. But we were shocked to read news reports supposedly emanating from the Ministry of Home Affairs indicating that the government had finalised the bill", they added.
The publication of these reports, Ms. Hashmi and John Dayal said, virtually coincided with the meeting they had with two members of the National Advisory Council (NAC), Harsh Mander and Farah Naqvi, who had invited them – along with representatives of several other civil society groups -- for a “consensus-building discussion” on the Bill, prior to the July 15 meeting of the full NAC on the subjet.
"But with the publication of the news reports, it appears as if the government has already made up its mind,” said John Dayal.
Stating that the Home Ministry is unaware of the extend of communal virus that has seemed at the ground level and it is no longer confined to Gujarat, they said the recommendations made by them are non-negotiable and unless they are added in the proposed bill, it will be counterproductive.
"The UPA Government’s Common Minimum Programme in 2004 had promised to give the citizens of this country a ‘comprehensive legislation’ to fill this legal vacuum. We were promised a legislation that would strengthen the hands of the citizens in the struggle against communalism. However, The Communal Violence (Prevention, Control & Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill 2005, introduced in the Rajya Sabha in December 5, 2005, was a complete betrayal. The 2005 Bill was roundly criticized and rejected by civil society at all levels", they said.
Anhad had organized National Consultation to discuss the Communal Violence Bill 2009 in February, 2010. Over 200 activists, jurists participated in the consultation from across India. A core group was later formed to engage with the government on behalf of various organizations. Afterwards, the participants of this national consultation organized public meetings across India to discuss the Bill. The Delhi core group that emerged after the national consultation met various ministers and political leaders. Several meetings took place with the Law Minister and his colleagues in the Ministry.
The core group submitted the Proposed Amendments to the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2005 on May 29th, 2010 to the Law Minister and to the Sub group on CV Bill, National Advisory Council Today, on June 24, 2010.
The recommendations include opposition to the preamble, which reads: “To empower the State governments and the Central government to take measures to provide for the prevention and control of communal violence…”
They are of the view that the government does not need to be “empowered,”, it needs to be made “accountable.”
The Civil Rights groups are also opposed to declaring a particular area as “communally disturbed". They feel that when an area is declared “communally disturbed,” the government acquires draconian powers, which entitles them to conduct combing operations, “search and seizure” exercises, etc.
Moreover, the activists want crimes of sexual assault not only to be added as offences, but the definition of sexual crimes to be broadened.
“Traditionally, sexual crimes mean only rape,” Ms. Hashmi said, adding, “But what about cases of stripping of women in public, pushing iron rods into their bodies etc.”
They also recommended formation of an autonomous new authority, free of the influence of the Home Ministry and the National Human Rights Commission, at the Centre, the state and the district-level to monitor the implementation of the Bill.
Finally, they want both public servants and non-State actors criminally responsible for both “their acts of omission and commission.”
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