8 March 2010
Dr Manmohan Singh
The Prime Minister of India
Your Excellency Dr Manmohan Singh:
Greetings from the All India Christian Council.
We applaud your government for its desire to protect the idea of India – a secular government with equality for all. We welcome the intention to pass a Bill on communal violence which will add to India’s strong body of laws.
However, the Christian community has deep concerns about the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2009, from the drafts we’ve read. We humbly request a serious re-write of this legislation. Our main concerns:
1. The Bill doesn’t adequately address the question of hate campaigns and the “communalisation process” (i.e. hate speech published in local language media) that precede communal violence. This well-studied phenomenon of activities, some already illegal but not often prosecuted, is a root issue.
2. The Bill doesn’t take into account the demography and pattern of living of various communities. Specifically, anti-Christian violence is normally dismissed by public officials as “sporadic” (although there may be a serious incident daily in some areas). Because other
minorities live in concentrated or contiguous areas, those “communally disturbed areas” are more easily identified. In Orissa, Kandhamal would likely not fit the Bill’s definition but we know what happened there in 2007-2008.
3. The Bill doesn’t give States guidelines on reparations and compensation. We need a uniform national policy as well standards on the assessment of damages after riots in order to prevent ghettoisation.
4. The Bill doesn’t fully address police and administrative impunity properly or adequately. The “good faith” clause, which exempts police and public servants from prosecution unless there is permission from the executive branch, is a major concern.
We share concerns, especially voiced by Muslim groups, that the Bill doesn’t fully acknowledge the individual victim, treats communal violence as spontaneous rioters versus rioters (instead of acknowledging the possibility of premeditated or state-sponsored violence), and gives much power to state governments which, historically, have occasionally acted in a biased manner. We need to see stronger checks and balances.
Also, we acknowledge that some shortcomings are systemic legal issues better addressed by your government in separate legislation or orders.
The most important, in our humble opinion, include:
• Establishing witness protection programs and guidelines
• Strengthening of National Commission for Minorities and state minority commissions
• Action against police who refuse to register FIRs
• Permanently debarring government officials guilty of involvement in communal violence – or any crime – from government jobs and from contesting any office
• The rights of “internally displaced persons” in relief camps should mirror UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement e.g. including immediate education for displaced children
Many provisions of the current version of the Bill are acceptable. But we request you to consider the input above so that a weak Bill is not passed which requires the almost impossible process of securing future amendments.
Our community has learned from recent waves of communal attacks in Orissa and Karnataka as well as ongoing onslaught on house churches, individual pastors/priests and nuns, and the terrible hate campaigns in newspapers which are officially sponsored by several state governments. Our suggestions are rooted in the reality of rural India where the vast majority of our members – thousands of Protestant, Catholic, and independent Christian organisations – live and work to improve our beloved society.
Yours Sincerely and Most Respectfully,
Dr Joseph D’souza John Dayal
President, AICC Secretary General, AICC
Hyderabad New Delhi
Shri M Veerappa Moily, Union Cabinet Minister for Law & Justice
Shri P Chidambaram, Union Minister of Home Affairs
Shri Salman Khurshid, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for
Smt Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, Indian National Congress Party