Call For Early Passage of Communal Violence Prevention Bill

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Shehzad Poonawala addresses the rally at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Monday. A number of lawmakers and activists were among those who spoke on the occasion.
Shehzad Poonawala addresses the rally at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Monday. A number of lawmakers and activists were among those who spoke on the occasion.

MAMMOTH RALLY AT JANTAR MANTAR DEMANDS JUSTICE FOR MUZAFFARNAGR RIOT VICTIMS

Caravan Report
NEW DELHI, Dec 16 — A mammoth rally was organised at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Monday to demand justice for the victims of Muzaffarnagar riots and the early passage of the Prevention of Communal Violence Bill.
Convened by the Aligarh Muslim University Lawyers’ Forum, the rally was attended by several Members of Parliament from various parties, including independent MP Mohd Adeeb. The rally demanded an early passage of the Prevention of Communal Violence Bill.
Civil society activists and lawyers including Vrinda Grover and Shakeel Ahmad explained the provisions of the proposed bill and dispelled the notion that the bill would target any particular community. They asked all parties to unite and pass the legislation at the earliest.
Speaking on the occasion, Shehzad Poonawalla, founder of AIMA2014, a 26-year old former official of Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and now a lawyer- turned-activist, shared insights about the legal nuances of the Prevention of Communal Violence Bill and its prospects of passage in parliament.
Having visited the Muzaffarnagar relief camps twice, Shehzad spoke about the double victimization of riot victims languishing in relief camps. He said that children are dying in these camps due to lack of blankets as has been reported widely in the Press.
He said pressure was being brought on the Muzaffarnagar riot victims to withdraw their FIRs registered against rioters. He condemned the UP police for its sloppy investigations.
Poonawalla has initiated a campaign called Blanket of Hope that aims at collecting and distributing blankets and warm clothes to those living in camps in appalling conditions. The campaign has already seen a massive response from across India and from as far as USA, Australia and Middle East.
The rally resolved to present a memorandum to the President, Speaker and Prime Minister demanding early passage of the Prevention of Communal Violence Bill and adequate relief to the victims of Muzaffarnagar.
It also demanded adequate compensation for those who lost their children, kin and kith due to the cold in the camps. It also makes a demand for re-settlement of the inhabitants using the Indira Awas Yojana scheme, compensation to victims of rape and setting up of fast track courts for delivery of justice to victims at the earliest.
Residents of various Muzaffarnagar camps, lawyers and activists and representatives of student unions of Aligarh Muslim University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jamia Millia Islamia have endorsed the memorandum.
Resolution
Following is the text of the resolution passed on the occasion:

Resolution

Passed at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi on December 16, 2013

Table the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice & Reparations) Bill in the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) of the Indian Parliament.

This Bill when it becomes Law will be an institutional mechanism to protect the lives and properties of disadvantaged citizens who are victims of targeted and mass violence. It will fix responsibility on the officers of the state who show overt and covert complicity in violence against vulnerable sections of the society. It will give life into Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution (Right to Life and Right to Equality Before the Law)

The Bill – first drafted in 2005 – was redrafted in 2011 by the National Advisory Council along with members of the civil society. The Bill aims at removing certain anomalies in the existing structure, so that people can be held accountable.

In the last few decades we have seen gross injustice meted out to religious and linguistic minorities as well as dalits and adivasis in different states of this country through organized communal and targeted violence. By religious minorities we mean Kashmiri Pandits in J&K, Hindus in some of the north eastern states as much as Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Parsis across the country. Tamilians in Karnataka and Biharis in Maharashtra are among the examples of linguistic minorities.

Along with the vicious and repeated targeting of religious and linguistic minorities, dalits and adivasis too continue to face repression in many parts of the country. In the last two years recurring communal riots in Uttar Pradesh is a matter of shame for all Indians.

The prevailing culture of impunity has led to growing alienation and erosion of faith in the system among the targeted communities. By its failure to protect the life and liberty of a section of citizens, the state sows the seeds of extremism.

Until now, governments have at best remained content with somehow restoring peace after protracted violence and transferring officers guilty of dereliction of duty. It is evident that we urgently need a new law to punish the perpetrators and masterminds of violence and to hold politicians, the bureaucracy and policemen responsible for law and order accountable for any dereliction of duty.

If the police and administration were to be held directly responsible for failure to enforce Rule of Law, perpetrators of recurring violence would be halted in their tracks. If the law could facilitate time-bound prosecution of those guilty, the political gains from engineered violence would diminish. If fair reparation commensurate to the loss were to be compulsorily paid within a short time-frame, the future would not benefit rioters.

In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the UPA coalition had included in its manifesto the promise to enact a new law to curb communal violence. But the nearly decade-old promise is yet to be fulfilled.

We therefore urge the UPA government to enable the tabling of the ‘Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011’ in the Rajya Sabha without any further delay in the current winter session of Parliament.

Unfortunately, it has been reported in the media that the government under electoral pressure is trying to bring in a “weak” law. The Bill – which is actually meant for the minorities – has been amended to include all. While we uphold that justice be done to all but such an amendment will make the law meaningless. A special law is meant for the protection of targeted and vulnerable population. Making it neutral will be like taking the heart out of flesh and bones.

It has also been reported that the police officials and bureaucrats have been let free from any responsibility in the amended Bill. The entire exercise will become futile with this amendment. We, therefore, oppose this change tooth and nail.

Resolution on Muzaffarnagar

The guilty officers from the police and administration, responsible for dereliction of duty must be punished;

Anti-women campaigns like ‘Love Jehad’ or ‘ BahuBetiBachao’ movements should be viewed as crimes against women and dealt with in those terms;

Cases of molestation and sexual harassment should be prosecuted in a time bound manner;

The rights over land (land rights ) of the Victims and Survivors of the violence who have been displaced from their habitats should be preserved and protected as there is a real danger of over 1,000 acres of land being seized by politically powerful vested interests;

Immediate compensation to all the displaced;

Provide adequate food, shelter and warm clothes to those living in relief camps.

Courts should be approached for the cancellation of bail of those leaders responsible for hate speech and inciting violence who have been granted speedy bail.

Aligarh Muslim University Lawyers’ Forum

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