Media reports that the Centre is keen to introduce the controversial communal violence bill, gathering dust in North Block for close to two years now, after Parliament re-assembles on April 22, are disturbing. The bill empowers the Centre to declare an area in a state as communally disturbed on its own and send Central forces without the state’s request. Such a legislation if enacted would play havoc with the federal structure of the Constitution and lead to avoidable tension between the Centre and the states. Political parties including the BJP, the Akali Dal, the Shiv Sena and the BSP that are opposing the bill see it as usurping the rights of the state. The bill also provides for transfer of cases outside the state concerned for trial with the avowed aim of protecting witnesses.
It aims to check targeted violence against the minorities and also proposes a body — the National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation — be constituted by the Centre. Significantly, the Bill, prepared by the National Advisory Council led by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, has been cleared by the Home Ministry with virtually no changes. That the government is pushing the Bill without having sufficient numbers to pass it in both Houses only shows that the government’s intention is not to strike at the root of communal violence but to appease the minority community on the eve of the impending general elections.
The Congress must realise that it is playing with fire as such tactics would not only be counter-productive but could also threaten communal harmony. The Manmohan Singh government has been reduced to a minority after first Trinamool Congress and recently the DMK withdrew support to it. There is indeed no way it can get the Bill through unless it makes major changes to accommodate the opposition. Instead of playing the politics of divisiveness, the Congress must use the remaining months of its tenure to bring in worthy reforms that have a positive impact on the economic well-being of people at large and catalyse growth which is bogged down.