By Kawalpreet Kaur
The organized violence in Delhi in 1984, Bombay in 1992-1993 and Gujarat in 2002 took the levels of impunity for state and non-state actors to hitherto unknown heights. A historiography of communal violence since Indian independence thus reveals a poor report card on justice delivery and reparation. Today unfortunately, we have extant examples of victim survivors, Muslim, Sikh and Christian, still waiting at the threshold for the first stages of investigation and trial to begin decades after the crimes have taken place.
The newly drafted Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill 2011 (commonly referred to as the Communal and Targeted Violence Bill), is an attempt to address the imbalance and the despair caused by over six decades of discriminatory justice delivery.
Far from being discriminatory against the majority, it entitles any victim – whether from the majority or a minority – to a robust scheme for compensation and reparation. The bill is legislative acceptance of the discriminations in justice delivery faced by sections of our population that have long been subject to communal and targeted violence. When citizens who are numerically weak and socially disadvantaged are attacked on account of their identity, institutions of governance – law enforcement and protection and justice delivery – most frequently act in ways that discriminate against them.
The Communal and Targeted Violence Bill seeks to protect religious and linguistic minorities in any state in India, as well as the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes from targeted violence, including organized and communal violence. Apart from including the offences listed under the penal code, the proposed law modernizes the definition of sexual assault to cover all sexist crimes that heap indignity on the victims (including stripping in public, etc), not just rape, and broadens the definition of hate speech and writing already penalized under Section 153A of the IPC. Most significantly, it deepens the definition of dereliction of duty – which is already a crime under the IPC – and for the first time in India includes offences by public servants and/or other superiors for breach of command.
The National Authority cannot compel a state government to take action – in deference to the federal nature of law enforcement – but it can approach the courts for appropriate directions. There will also be state-level authorities, staffed, like the National Authority, by a process that the ruling party of the day cannot unduly influence. The monitoring of relief and rehabilitation of victims will be a major part of their responsibilities.
A widespread currency of majoritarian communalism which accompanied the BJP’s rise to power together with the moral failure of the “secular” Congress or the left to tackle the ideological onslaught. This encroachment by the majority, brutish and arrogant, has crept into our systems of governance, the administration and the police. While the proposed Communal and Targeted Violence Bill in no way pretends or purports to tackle the scourge of irrationality and prejudice, it certainly aims to hold to account those who fail to abide by Articles 14 and 21.
Kawalpreet is passionate about politics. She sees herself as a politician of principles in future. A feminist, awarded debater, ardent reader and an art lover. She has written extensively in the past about social issues, women and politics for various organizations.. Interested in politics, ancient history, literature, women’s and social issues. She believes in leading by example and is working with various nongovernmental organisations. You can connect with her by leaving a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.