09/19/2009, 00.00
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Law against sectarian violence: Indian bishops, appreciate but with some doubts

by Nirmala Carvalho
The parliament will be discussing a law to avoid the persecutions against the minorities. Episcopal Conference: “ a good start”, but “more power” is needed in the prevention. The bishops have encouraged meetings with other Christian communities and Muslim and Sikh exponents. They will present a memorandum to the government at the end of October.

Delhi (AsiaNews) - Appreciation with some doubts. Is the opinion expressed by the Catholic church in India regarding the Communal Harmony Bill (CHB), that will be discussed in the parliament. This is a good starting point, but “more clauses” have to be added to ensure more power “in the prevention of religiously motivated violence”

This week a Parliamentary commission is examining the bill which is an integration of the Communal Violence Bill proposed in 2005; it intends preventing new cases of violence against minorities, like those that  occurred last year  between August and September against the Christians in Orissa. The Commission will present the legislation for approval to the Parliament once they have finished.

The Indian Episcopal Conference (CBCI) has started a number of gatherings with various Christian communities: the bishops have planned a special summit with exponents and activists of other minority communities (Muslim and Sikhs) in order to formulate a common answer to the law.

Father Babu Joseph, spokesperson of the Indian Episcopal Conference, confirms to Asianews the churches attention  towards the law, which it defines as “an important step” in order to control “the cases of violence in the entire country” and as “a deterrent” to the fundamentalists. They ask for “more power” to the law, that amongst various aspects has the advantage of “preventing” the attacks rather than “taking measures”  retrospectively.

Fr. Joseph explains that “the police will answer directly to the courts..not  to the ministers”, the potential outbreaks of violence will be “closely monitored” and if necessary, “special bodies” will be formed to ensure “impartial and just investigations”. Too often-  underlines the priest- we have witnessed in various parts of India a collusion between various ministers, in order to protect the guilty and favor the  repetition of the crime.”

That’s why it is important to separate “the political and judicial establishment” and the that “who fails in his job of ensuring order and justice” assumes his “responsibilities”. This refers to the police and bodies of justice, that like in the case of Orissa, did little or nothing to protect the Christians from the attacks.

One of the suggestions put forward by the Bishops was that the compensation for  the victims of violence be guaranteed by “the State” and not the “authors of the crime”. The prelates also ask “the intervention of the central government” in cases where the state government cannot handle the violence’s and a more protection of “every citizens” rights.

And finally Fr. Joseph is in favor of the establishment of special courts that judge directly in case  of violence’s  with religious purposes; another “deterring “ element to prevent crimes. “In the last week of October- concludes the bishops spokesman- a consultation to discuss the law at a national level has been organized, after which we will write down a memorandum that will be presented to the Minister of Justice”.

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