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Agonizing Wait for Communal Violence Bill

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By Syed Ali Mujtaba

There seems to be a conspiracy of silence when it comes to tackling Hindu-Muslim communal riots in India. Since the past 60 years or so a systematic annihilation of human population is going on but no one seems to be bothered as to how to address the issue.

The recent communal clash in Gopalgarh at Bharatpur district of Rajasthan on September 14, 2011, is one such incident that graphically narrates the horrifying aspect of this problem

The riot actually broke out between Hindu Gujjars and Muslim Meos over a dispute for six bighas land near a Muslim graveyard. The land belonged to the Muslims that the Gujjars forcibly tried to capture and the turn of event took a communal color.

According to reports, Muslims were praying in Gopalgarh town’s main mosque when a Gujjar mob entered the place of worship. The mob was accompanied by local police. It started indiscriminately on the praying worshipers.

According to eyewitnesses, rioters even poured the kerosene oil on the worshipers and set ablaze at least four of them. In this communal mayhem, nine Muslims lost their lives.

A fact finding groups from ANHAD and Jamiat Ulam-e Hind visited the place of violence the very next day. It reported that there were strong evidences to suggest, that police and the local administration in Gopalgarh acted in a partisan manner while dealing with the clash between Muslim Meos and Hindu Gujjars.

The fact finding team stated that the fighting had broken out due to a dispute over a small plot of land. This could have been controlled, if the police had taken firm action against the aggressor.

However instead of acting as upholder of law and order, the police reportedly joined the Gujjar community in gunning down the Muslim Meos. The police watched the burning of many Muslims alive inside the mosque.

The fact finding team reported that there are enough instances to prove that police and Gujjars tried to destroy evidences of the crimes committed against the Muslims.

This is not the first time that a communal riot of such a nature has taken place and one is also sure that this would the last time for the crime of such a nature.

However, one is appalled by the dead conscious of the people that even a crime of such a nature do not jolt them to wake and stand up and press upon the point that for god sake stop this madness once and for all.

Like any other riot, the plot at the Gopalgarh was the same, the script was the same, the aggressors were the same, and the victims were the same. The complicity of the security forces and the belligerent action of the dominant community has resulted in the butchering of helpless people.

Even such a cold blooded murder failed to attract hue and cry from the civil society and preferred to look the other way round, as if nothing has happened and every thing is fine.

The height of idiocentricity was when Congress leader Sachin Pilot refused to accept this event as a Hindu Muslim communal riot. Inspite the fact that the killing had taken place inside the mosque, the Congress Minister refused to accept it as a religious riot. He termed the event a ethnic clash between two communities of Rajasthan the Gujjars and the Meos.

The state government after the riot took some half-hearted actions action to sooth the anger of the victims but it was a case of too little and too late.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi too visited the site of the violence and talked to the victims, but nothing has moved beyond such tokenism.

The main problem that is witnessed during every communal flare up is that it occur due inefficiency of the security forces in some cases due to their connivances with the rioters. In Gopalgarh riots, the land dispute was not new one.

Tension was building around it for long time. It was because of the preventive action of the security forces that it was kept under control.

However, this time this was not the case. The police force did not take any precautionary measures inspite knowing the fact that tension over the issue was brewing for long. On the contrary, the police played an active role in killing the Muslims, firing upon them indiscriminately even inside the mosque.

The incident is a pointer to the fact that repeatedly the problem starts with the fight over the graveyard land, the Eidgah land, processions near the mosques and some other set situations. All along a conspiracy is hatched to punish the Muslims.

The aggressor come in large number accompanied by the police and launch a onslaught over the Muslim and any resistance results in their cold blooded murder.

It’s really disturbing to see that even though communal peace is regularly being breached in this country but no action plan is yet in sight to deal with such events.

How long will this go on in this country? What a shame on a nation that boasts of unity in diversity, tolerance, pluralism and co existence and other such words.

One of the promises that the UPA Government had made in the first term in office was to bring an enactment of a legislation to prevent communal violence in the country.

The government did some half hearted attempt to bring such legislation. Contrary to meeting the expectations of the victims of the communal riot, the bill seemed to empower the police and the state machinery with draconian powers as a remedy to “control” riots.

There was no provision in the bill to bring to task of misuse of power by the police and punishing the guilty. There was no provision for the rehabilitation of the victims of targeted violence.

With all these glaring loopholes, the bill was hurriedly withdrawn with the promise to bringing it back in a much more comprehensive format. Its almost eight years to the promise and noting has materialized on the ground.

Now after some efforts and engagements with the authorities by various human rights organizations, the National Advisory Council (NAC) has proposed a bill entitled “Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice And Reparations) Bill, 2011.”

The bill supposedly has taken into account the experience of the victims of the communal riots. It has also taken acognizance of the fact that the power invested in the police was either not used or are misused against the weaker sections of the society. The NAC has forwarded the Bill to the Government but so far no action is taken by the government.

The Muslims, Christians and the Dalits who have been suffering for a long time from the atrocities of the majority community are yearning for a legislation to put full stop to such cold blooded murder.

Their agonizing wait is reaching a saturating point. It’s high time that the government bring the much touted “Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011.”

The Act will instill confidence among weaker section of the society and build a new rapport with the UPA government. It will be a step in the right direction if this bill is brought in this winter session of Parliament.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]
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