The government's draft Communal Violence Bill came in for sharp criticism from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and
UP Chief Minister Mayawati at a meeting of the National Integration Council in New Delhi last week. BJP leaders called the
bill "dangerous" and Mayawati, who heads the Bahujan Samaj Party, accused the government of not giving state governments
a draft of the proposed legislation.
Even Trinamool Congress
- an important ally of Congress - has joined the BJP-led NDA in opposing the bill.
The bill -- which seeks to
protect "groups" from communal violence and harm -- in clause 3 (a) of chapter 1 defines the victim groups as "religious
and linguistic minority, in any state in the Union of India, or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes."
the proposed Communal Violence Bill as "dangerous," the BJP said it presumes that the majority community is always
responsible for such riots.
"We feel that the Communal
Violence Bill is a dangerous Bill as it harms the federal structure of the Constitution. It allows the Center to hold all
the powers. Moreover, it does not consider anybody a citizen and treats a person only as one belonging to either a majority
or a minority," Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj told reporters.
"You will write off a person as a criminal, just because he or she is born in a majority community and you will
presume that a person would be a victim only because you are born in a minority community. This bill is very dangerous,"
She also mentioned, "the draft bill presumes
that the majority community is unjust, and the minority community is the victim. But in our country, various sections of community
are in a minority in one state and a majority in another state. The provisions of the Bill will go against the majority community
in various states." She said the proposed legislation would encourage communalism rather than curbing it by furthering
the divide between majority and minority communities.
Pradesh Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, a senior BJP leader, alleged at the meeting the bill may encourage intolerance
and harm federalism.
"The bill expresses feeling of mistrust
in the state government machinery and lack clarity in defining crimes for organized communal violence," Chauhan said.
"I urge the union government to have faith in the state governments and strengthen
them, which in turn will strengthen the nation. If state governments are weakened to serve some vested interests, the nation
will become weak and it will give impetus to parochial forces," said Chauhan.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, another BJP leader, alleged the draft bill will harm the federal structure
of the country.
"The proposed bill has many structural loopholes. The biggest problem is that this bill is
against India's federal structure. The national authority set up with the help of this bill will have the power to issue directions
to any state authority for any investigation," he said.
9 of this bill has been made on the presumption that the state government institutions are deliberately provoking religious
fanaticism and violence. There should be no scope for such mistrust in a democratic system. This may also deter public servants
to perform their assigned duties," he said.
The BJP believes
the draft bill as having been prepared with the "Gujarat experience" as the subtext. It has rejected the draft bill
for it believes it's based on the "presumption that communal trouble is created only by members of the majority community
and never by a member of the minority community."
accused the center of seeking state governments' views on the bill without giving them a draft. "It is important to tell
that the Center has not sent the proposed communal violence bill to the state government. Hence it is not the opportune moment
to comment on the Bill," Mayawati said in a written speech read out on her behalf at the meeting.
"It will be appropriate if the center forwards the draft bill to the state
governments and then seek their views on it," she said.
Bill ran into further trouble as UPA's constituent Trinamool Congress also opposed the "dangerous" legislation and
argued that it would hurt the federal structure of the country.
the NIC where the issue was on the agenda, NDA and Chief Ministers of the states ruled by it -- Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh,
Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Punjab -- expressed opposition to the draft legislation in its current
form, senior Trinamool Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi said his party also opposes the bill in the present form.
Opposing the Bill, Chief Minister of BJD-ruled Orissa Naveen Patnaik, said it has
some "objectionable" provisions which "directly affect the autonomy of states."