September 13, 2013

THE COMMUNAL VIOLENCE BILL: AMEND. ENACT. [NOW!]

There can be no bigger an embarrassment to a secular democracy than a live and much-publicised public rip-off of its citizens’ democratic rights on the pretexts of religion, caste, sect and region. The very recent, disturbing incident in Muzaffarnagar is one such crying instance. In one word – mortifying! The communal riot in Muzaffarnagar – in the backdrop of a weak economy – not only adds to the woes of the economy but also forces both internal and external minds to perceive our nation as a ‘failed State’. As is easily understood, the impact of the fl are-up is not confined to the western UP district that is home to over 41 lakh individuals from many religions and castes (and has a literary rate of under 60% as per the 2011 Census). The violence in Muzaffarnagar has impacted thoughts and processes in other locations like Baghpat, Unnao, Bulandshahr, Bahraich, Bijnor, and other towns in the vicinity of the district. [Mind you – Delhi is just a neat 80 miles away!] You can almost sense that some of these poisoned minds are working tirelessly to steadily disturb social stability in the entire nation. What is worse is that such a fomented communal unrest as this, only ends up lending the upper hand to anti-social elements. That eventually creates a rift between various social groups in many belts across the nation. And what we [could, would] witness is many-a-magnified repeats of the ‘blood and fire drama’ that unfolded in Muzaffarnagar this September. What’s the panacea to eradicate this social plague? A re-drafted and powerful Communal Violence Bill.

Without any iota of doubt, we immediately need to re-work and clear the Communal Violence Bill. But what should rightfully precede – in terms of importance or value – the passage of the new Bill is a need to incorporate a few fundamental changes in our political system.

Violence pitting one community against another – from Hatia & Ranchi to Karimgang to Godhra to Bhiwandi to Meerut to Muzaffarnagar – has been an indisputably striking [if not central] feature of Indian politics since we really severed all ties with Pakistan 66 long years back. It’s been religion. And it’s been caste. Look at communal riots that have put this nation to shame in the past six-plus decades. Almost all of them bear this one peculiar characteristic. That fanning such disturbing fires have oft en benefitted political parties – those that claim to play the messiah to certain religious or caste groups that become their vote banks during elections. So there you are – a clearly written chapter of history that can be read by one and all. Either these riots were, are (and will be) politically ignited or were, are (and will be) later used at political forums. [Or both.]

We are one of those few nations where religion and politics work hand in glove. Many other nations have adopted policies that separate their organized religious groups from their political systems and at no point do these two groups cross paths. Speaking in context of the modern political system, it was in 1802 that Thomas Jefferson iterated the importance of separation of the Church from the State. He wrote thus (for the US constitution): “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” In fact, much earlier in The First Amendment to the United States Constitution (adopted on December 15, 1791), was it clarified that, “congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...”
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