09/12/2011, 00.00
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India’s parliament blocks communal violence bill

The Trinamool Congress, which is part of the ruling coalition, comes out against the draft proposal. For the bill’s critics, the Communal Violence bill has too many loopholes. If adopted, it could give the central government the power to intervene in every state of the Union.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The Trinamool Congress, a member of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), has joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Janata Dal-United and the Shiromani Akali Dal in opposition to the Communal Violence Bill, drafted by the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC). Under the terms of the proposed legislation, the central government would have the power to intervene in cases of communal violence, bypassing state authorities.

The idea of a law to deal with communal violence was first raised in 2003, in the wake of the Gujarat massacres in which more than 2,000 Muslims were killed. The 2008 anti-Christian pogroms in Orissa and the failure of local authorities in various states to guarantee justice brought the matter back to the fore of the political debate.

“It is important that the central government have certain powers to control violence in the country,” said Fr Cedric Prakash, director of ‘Prashant’, a Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace. However, “The bill is full of loopholes and some human rights activists are opposed to it.”

In fact, “under the new legislation, minority status would apply only to religious minorities, tribal groups and castes”, excluding majority Hindus. “What would happen in Jammu and Kashmir, a state where Hindus are not the majority, but a minority, unlike the rest of India?”

“The new bill would also give the central government almost unlimited legislative and executive power,” he explained. “Who can guarantee that it would not be used to interfere in states run by opposition parties?”

Lastly, some believe that the proposal, by condemning “majorities”, could fuel minority fundamentalism. (NC)
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