The right to life and liberty is not merely a minority right

via Anand Srinivas published on June 14, 2011

To the National Advisory Council

Sub: REPRESENTATIONS AGAINST THE   PREVENTION OF COMMUNAL AND TARGETED VIOLENCE (ACCESS TO JUSTICE AND REPARATIONS) BILL, 2011

Sir,

The intention of the Bill is laudable-i.e. to prevent communal and targeted violence and alleviate human suffering and to enforce the rule of law. However, there are some fatal flaws in the Bill.

1.The right to life and liberty enshrined in Article 20 of the Constitution is the fundamental right of every citizen and not merely that of a citizen belonging to religious or linguistic minority, in any State in the Union of India, or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The right to life and liberty is not merely a minority right and cannot be equated with article 30 which deals with rights of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions. Every citizen, whether belonging to a majority group or minority group is entitled to protection from communal and targeted violence and to receive reparations in case of loss of life in communal violence. Therefore, defining the “group” to only cover “religious or linguistic minority, in any State in the Union of India, or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes” is blatant discrimination against  those who do not belong to  “religious or linguistic minority, in any State in the Union of India, or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes”. It becomes a license in the hands of a religious minority or linguistic minority to resort to violence against the majority community.

2.Clause 2(j) of the Bill defines victim as “ any person belonging to a group as defined under this Act, who has suffered physical, mental, psychological or monetary harm or harm to his or her property as a result of the commission of any offence under this Act, and includes his or her relatives, legal guardian and legal heirs, wherever appropriate”. Human suffering is the same whether the sufferer/victim be a hindu / muslim/ Christian /Sikh/atheist/anyome . This absurd definition of victim assume that only minorities suffer victimhood when majority community attacks them and that the majority community never suffers when minorities get violent with them. To discriminate between victims based on which community they belong is inhuman and goes against all tenets of humanity and constitution.
 
3. The definition of  “hostile environment against a group” in clause 2(f) of the Bill inter alia includes “ (i) boycott of the trade or businesses of such person or making it otherwise difficult for him or her to earn a living”. This is ridiculous for a  number of reasons as under:

(a)It is only too well-known that Christians and muslims are opposed to idol worship and Hindus believe in idol worship. Hindus, by their very nature, do not compel others to follow idol worship. But some fanatical Christians and fanatical muslims go to the extent of defacing or damaging idols worshipped by hindus. In fact Quran narrates the story of Prophet Abraham opposing idol worship by smashing idols worshipped by his people. So, if Hindus are aggrieved by any such acts of defilement of their idols, boycott of trade or business of offending minority community is moral and legitimate reaction while  the so-called “retaliatory violence” against the minority community is immoral and illegitimate. This measure of economic boycott is consistent with the principles of ahimsa and is moral and will actually prevent communal violence against minority.

(b)Ultimately, a member of majority community has a right to decide whom he will hire or from whom he will buy as it involves his pocket. Nobody can force him to buy from any particular person on the grounds of secularism or secular fabric. If a majority community member decides not to buy from a minority community shop, he is merely exercising his choice and in no way this is any indignity on the minority member.

(c)This  provision can be easily abused against any community. A muslim/Christian  may put up a beef shop in an area where only hindus, Buddhists and jains reside. They may not buy beef from him for obvious reason. Or they may approach local police station and file a case for hurting religious sentiments and police may close the beef shop. The “aggrieved” muslim/Christian would simply invoke this “boycott of the trade or businesses of such person or making it otherwise difficult for him or her to earn a living”. Clause. Again a muslim can set up a halal meat shop in a Christian-majority or hindu-majority state. Hindus/ Christians may consider the halal method of slaughter as cruel to the animals and avoid buying halal meet. The “aggrieved” muslim can invoke these provisions against the Hindus/Christians.

4. Clause 8 of the Bill deals with hate propaganda. “ whoever publishes, communicates or disseminates by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise acts inciting hatred causing clear and present danger of violence against a group or persons belonging to that group, in general or specifically, or disseminates or broadcasts any information, or publishes or displays any advertisement or notice, that could reasonably be construed to demonstrate an intention to promote or incite hatred or expose or is likely to expose the group or persons belonging to that group to such hatred, is said to be guilty of hate propaganda”. If this definition is applied to Quran, it clearly amounts to hate propaganda against Jews, Christians, Idol worshippers (hindus/ Buddhists /jains) as its verses precisely do what is mentioned in clause 8 of the Bill. In fact, I am supported in this stand by the views of Christian authors like Robert Spencer of www.jihadwtch.org and www.answering-islam.org . Also I am supported in my views by ex-muslims like ,M.A.Khan who runs www.islam-watch.org .

Not only that, Sultan Shahin of www.newageislam.com , a progressive muslim admits that these violent and hate-preaching verses of Quran are a  problem and wants the ulema(muslim scholars) to declare a fatwa that these verses are no longer valid for modern times. Sultan Shahin’s article “Indian Ulema have no time to lose, must call warlike Quranic surahs obsolete”can be accessed here at the following link

http://newageislam.com/NewAgeIslamArticleDetail.aspx?ArticleID=787

In the above link, Sultan Shahin gives a complete list of controversial verses from Quran which preach hate and violence against non-muslims. This Bill would prevent ex-muslims, progressive muslims from speaking out and may suppress their voice and hamper the efforts of ex-muslims, progressive muslims and non-muslims in fihting jihadist terror.

Conclusion

Communal violence is indeed a blot on secular society and must be prevented. But that is a multi-dimensional problem. A half-baked law like the Communal Violence Bill may actually end up giving minorities an incentive to indulge in communal violence against minorities. The existing provisions of Indian Penal Code,1860 must be enforced strictly and police force should be professionalized and come under an independent Police Commission  which should be as independent as Election Commission. We all know what a wonderful job the independent Election Commission has done. The Police recruitment, transfers etc should be under an independent Police Commission whose status shall be guaranteed under the Constitution. These will solve the problem better than half-baked Communal Violence Bill.

I would also like to depose personally before the NAC. You may communicate to me at my e-mail address.

Thanking You

Yours faithfully
Srinivasan Anand.G.

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