proposed bill on communal violence


Report on a Consultation

Newsletter Sep 2009 - Apr 2010

The need for a law on Communal Violence emerges from the long history of impunity for crimes committed during communal violence and to fill the legal vacuum on these crimes. The UPA government had circulated the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control & Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill in 2005 which was widely rejected by civil society groups. After four years the Government has brought in the same Bill without incorporating any changes suggested by civil and women’s rights groups, including Saheli. In November 2009 many activists including Uma Chakravarti, Vrinda Grover, Shabnam Hashmi, Harsh Mander, Madhu Mehra, Farah Naqvi, Usha Ramanathan, Gagan Sethi, Saumya Uma, Siddharth Vardarajan among several others came together to give concrete inputs on provisions of the new Communal Violence Bill 2009 that is proposed to be placed before the Parliament in the coming session. They drafted a memorandum that gave suggestions with regard to recognising new offences/crimes, definitions and rules of procedures and evidence to address the specificity of communal violence is a targeted and mass crime. Specific acknowledgement and provisions regarding gender based crimes was asked for. To take this process further a two day National Consultation on the new version of The Communal Violence (Prevention, Control & Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2009, was organized by ANHAD in New Delhi on February 12-13, 2010. The following is the brief of the press release sent after the two day consultation that captures the issues and processes related to the Bill.

Press Release

The demand for a law on communal violence emerged from a brutal record of recurring violence in our country, the increasing occurrence of gender-based crimes in communal conflagrations and total impunity for mass crimes.

The UPA Government in 2004 had promised to give the citizens of this country a ‘comprehensive legislation’ to fill this legal vacuum. However, the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control & Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill 2005, was a complete betrayal of that promise. The Bill was criticized and rejected by civil society at all levels. The Bill was then sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for review and recommendations. This Committee’s report, tabled in Parliament in December 2006, suggested no significant changes. The UPA government has now introduced an impressive-sounding 59 amendments into the Communal Violence Bill 2009. But these amendments do not make any structural changes and do not incorporate a single suggestion made by civil society. This Bill, if passed, will fail to secure justice for communal crimes and will actually strengthen the shield of protection enjoyed by those who plan and sponsor these crimes. Further, it continues to perpetuate the silence around gender-based sexual crimes.

At this National Consultation on the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control & Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill 2009, we the undersigned, once again urge the UPA government to revise the Bill taking on board the following concerns:

1. Statement of Objects & Reasons: The objective of the Bill should be to ensure that the State governments and the Central government take measures to provide for the prevention and control of communal violence, which threatens the physical, social, economic, cultural, political and human security of the citizens.

2. Communal violence must be defined as: Any targeted attack committed on the persons and properties of individuals or a group of persons on the basis of their religious identity, which can be inferred directly or from the nature or circumstances of the attack.

3. Scheduled Offences: Situations of communal violence have shown that the range of offences committed is not restricted to the offences enumerated under the IPC and related penal statutes. The Bill must define crimes/ offences, and new rules of procedure and evidence to adequately and appropriately reflect the realities of the crimes experienced by victims and survivors of communal violence.

4. Declaration of Communally Disturbed Areas - The basic scheme of the Bill which envisages the declaration of certain areas as communally disturbed areas, and gives greater powers to the state in these areas, runs entirely counter to the purpose of the proposed law. Chapter II of the Bill must be removed.

5. Sexual violence in situations of communal violence is often committed with malicious intent of intimidating, humiliating and degrading the dignity of the victim community using the bodies of women. Inclusion of wide ranging crimes of sexual violence, in addition to rape, therefore, assumes great importance in this bill.

6. Reparations: The Bill must include the concept of reparations as an inviolable, legally enforceable right of the victim-survivor, and according to objective norms and scales that are binding on all governments.