Lok Raj Sangathan talked to its former President, retired Justice H Suresh about the Communal Violence Bill due to be introduced in this session of the Parliament. Below is an excerpt of the interview.

LRS: The Manmohan Singh government is preparing to introduce an amended bill in this Session of the Parliament supposedly to preventing communal violence and punishing those responsible for unleashing communal violence. Given that the earlier Manmohan Singh government had also attempted to introduce such a bill in 2004 and, then again, in 2005 when our organization and many others had pointed out serious lacunae in the Bill. Do you think if this time the Bill is better equipped to meet the expectations of the concerned people and organisations like ours?

JS: Unfortunately, there is little change. Government is planning to introduce the same old Bill that was there with the Standing Committee. It continues to rely on the State Governments to prevent communal violence. Often, the political parties in power have narrow electoral interests and fail to protect the minority communities.

LRS: What in your view are the key features that are needed to prevent large-scale violence on people and to punish the guilty of organizing such violence?

JS: What is needed is an authority independent of the State government that can take charge when the situation becomes unsafe for the people. It must take over the State Administration and take the necessary action to prevent violence. The National Human Rights Commission should be empowered to activate such an agency at a short notice.

LRS: The experience of the various communal massacres shows that in all so called communal riots, the agencies of the state actually abet the gangs that carry out the violence of innocent people if not directly organizing them. Officials at the highest levels are involved. Consequently the guilty are never punished as they have links with the established political parties of the ruling elite. The basic problem is that people have no power. They have been demanding that the guilty be punished but justice eludes them. Even the guilty of 1984 massacres are not yet punished.

JS: I agree that the guilty must be punished irrespective of who they are or what position they hold. We must have command responsibility for all such crimes. These are not ordinary crimes when the state is involved – what happened in Delhi in 1984 and Gujarat in 2002 are genocides. We are members of the Genocide conventions and we should have special courts to prosecute the guilty of genocide.

LRS: Thank you so much for sharing your views for the LRS website. Would like to add anything else on the issue?

JS: I feel the whole Bill is faulty. I don’t have much hope from the Law Minister also. On the issue of judicial accountability, Mr. Moily said many things but finally did not do anything. I feel the Bill should deal with sectarian violence in general to include violence such as connected with the Kaveri water also where innocent people were massacred.

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