To mark the decennial of the state-led Gujarat genocide of 2002, Centre for Dalit and Minority Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia organised a discussion on the Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparation) Bill, 2011, as drafted by UPA’s National Advisory Council, on Feb. 27. The discussion was chaired by Justice Rajinder Sachar, former Chief Justice, High Court of Delhi, and an introductory note was delivered by Najeeb Jung, Vice Chancellor of JMI.
Farah Naqvi, an activist and member of National Advisory Council (NAC) headed by Sonia Gandhi, pressed for the need of the Bill. “When people are brutalised because of the identity, then there must be a law,” she said. She termed the statements like ‘this bill will divide the country’ as ludicrous and said “stringent laws are a must to tackle the problem of dereliction of duties.” Ms Naqvi discussed various components of the Bill and said this Bill proposes to recognise single incidents of violence, which earlier were not included in the acts of riots. She also called reparation a right of the victim and not a charity or mere compensation. Citing the reference of the recent police brutality in Gopalgarh, she urged that the Bill should be passed.
John Dayal, another member of NIC, who himself had been part of the team which drafted the Bill, also supported the Bill. However, he said, “There should be some changes in the Bill.” He expressed dissatisfaction over the role of the media and some so-called secular newspapers that joined the chorus with every BJP-inclined newspaper. “Hindutva has changed (the situation) drastically in last few decades and you have a feel of it in police stations, jails, courts, military camps, etc.,” he said. “It is time to call spade a spade,” he asserted.
AS Dulat, ex chief RAW, IB, expressed concerns and said that the Bill should be adopted. He maintained his point that police and security forces are not always impartial. He even accepted that there is no recruitment of Muslims in RAW, however he expressed dissatisfaction over the way Muslim leadership is working and called it ‘far from inspiring.’ “Sikhs fought back after 1984 riots and are now standing equally in the ranks, then why not Muslims,” he added.
Justice Sachar, meanwhile, was deeply concerned about the overall ambience of pessimism among the Muslim community and urged that the community should not feel they are the second class citizens and neither should the state treat them in such a fashion. In his presidential speech, he said, “Muslim should not feel that he is at somebody’s mercy.” He expressed apprehensions as to whether the Bill would be of any help for the minorities because the people who would be maintaining its execution would remain the same. He concluded his talk by saying: ‘If a nation cannot ensure minorities their rights, it ceases to be a civilized nation.’
Mr. Ejaz Ahmed Aslam, Assistant Secretary-General of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind said, “The issue we are discussing is not only of academic nature, but it is a serious question.” Citing the examples of Ishrat Jahan and Kausar Bi, who were killed in cold blood, Mr. Aslam asserted that we need to awaken the conscience of people regarding such atrocities. He supported the Bill wholeheartedly and said, “Media and journalists should play a more robust, responsible and pro-active role in bringing such matters into light.”
Vrinda Grover, a senior lawyer and activist, thrashed the idea of ‘everybody is equal before law,’ as she said that the authorities enjoy statutory immunity. Mentioning the dreadful incident of killing of Ehsan Jafri, she said besides repeated calls the police did not come for the rescue and neglected their duty to protect the citizens of the country. Hence there is a need for a Bill to book them under the case of dereliction of duty. “Compensation is a right of a victim and it should not vary from state to state and it should not be the duty of the victim with no resources at hand to move the court for compensation, instead the state itself should come to deliver their compensation as it is their fault that they could not protect the citizen,” she asserted.
Altaf Massodi, a journalist, said the Bill should propose severe punishment on the law enforcement agencies who fail to secure citizens and often connive in acts of violence. A democracy should ensure its public servants stand responsible for its citizens, he added. Syed Shahabuddin, ex MP, lamented, “No species on earth is as cruel as man is and has been.” He further said that the composite recruitment in police, military and other security forces can help in bringing down the level of violence.
With almost all the people backing the Bill in one way or the other, the only person who vehemently opposed the Bill was Chandan Mitra, Editor, The Pioneer. Mitra, who was found reading excerpts from the book written by a member of RSS, called the Bill divisive, anti-secular, unconstitutional and pernicious. He even said that those who are pressing hard to pass this Bill will ‘never be able to pass it,’ and hoped that the Bill does not see the light of the day. By giving various ludicrous examples of how the Bill might be misused, he pressed for the abolishment of the Bill. All his talk was based on assumptions and he sidelined the facts on the ground. He was even confronted by Farah Naqvi, however he maintained his stand.