Communal Violence Bill

The Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparation) Bill 2011 prepared by the NAC has been sharply attacked by the BJP, on the grounds that it is biased against the majority community. Nitish Kumar of the NDA and Mamata Banerjee have also attacked it on the pretext that it violates the federal rights of states. Are these accusations justified? 
Unlike previous versions, this Bill clearly defines the duties of public servants to prevent communal violence, protect the vulnerable community, and take action against perpetrators. It spells out punishments for public servants who fail in these duties. The Bill also spells out the rehabilitation and reparation provisions to which the victims of communal violence are entitled. It provides for the setting of National and State-level Authorities to monitor the official response in instances of communal violence.
Is the Bill divisive? Does it paint the majority community alone as perpetrators of violence? The BJP is alleging this on the basis that the Bill defines the “group” requiring protection as “a religious or linguistic minority, in any State in the Union of India, or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.” Does this amount to discrimination against the majority?
Regarding rehabilitation, reparation, compensation, etc, the Bill makes no distinction between majority and minority – a victim of any community is entitled to the same provisions. However, the strict provisions of the Bill governing the conduct of public servants during communal violence apply only in case the victims belong to the “group” – i.e the linguistic/religious minority or SC/ST group. Why is this necessary? Clearly, because the Bill makes the assumption (based on the experience of communal violence in India) that in cases where the perpetrators belong to the minority, or victims are of the majority community, the public servants, police etc have no bias and will perform their duty.
The strength of this Bill is that it recognizes the reality that in independent India, it is the minority that is targeted in most organized acts of communal violence. This does not mean that Muslims/Christians have never been or can never be guilty of violence against Hindus. But the evidence shows that although the Muslims and Christians represent a minority in society, they constitute a majority of the victims in cases of communal violence, and they bear the brunt of biases within political leadership, police and bureaucracy. To recognize this truth is not be biased or divisive. The SC/ST Act and the Domestic Violence Act are instances of laws that recognize that certain communities are vulnerable of targeted violence and require protection. Effective protection is possible only if the truth is recognized.   
The Bill has already been amended on the few points where it could be said to be out of sync with federal principles. As of now, the Bill has no provisions allowing the Central Government to interfere in the administrative or policing functions of state governments. Even the National Authority has only recommendatory powers. State governments can reject these recommendations – but have to put such rejection on record.  
At the recent National Integration Council (NIC) meeting, BJP’s aggressive attack on the Bill was predictable. NDA leaders like Nitish Kumar and even the UPA’s Mamata Banerjee have also opposed the Bill on the pretext of ‘federalism.’ But what is interesting is that the ruling Congress and other avowedly ‘secular’ ruling class parties did not defend the Bill! 
The vacillation of the Congress is quite characteristic - how can the party which allowed Babri demolition and failed to take any punitive action against Modi summon the political will and legislative courage to push through such a bill which recognises targeted communal violence as a socio-political reality of India?
The motivated propaganda of communal forces against the Bill and vacillation of the Congress must be exposed and the secular and democratic forces need to strive to get the Bill passed without dilution.

However, mere enactment of the Bill is not enough. The instance of the SC/ST Atrocities Act 1989 should be remembered. The worst attacks on dalits and adivasis have taken place in the last two decades after the Act came into being. Mayawati-ruled UP has seen a deliberate dilution or suspension of the act and a palpable increase in the incidence of atrocities on dalits. This experience is a reminder that legislative measures are meaningful only to the extent there is mobilisation and assertion on the ground. Still, the enactment of a strong Bill to prevent Communal Violence may generate some deterrent effect, and will also no doubt strengthen the hands of those resisting communal violence on the ground.