Despite a lapse of six months since the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government assumed charge at the Centre, it has not initiated action on its promise of putting in place a law to prevent communal violence. One hopes it materialises in the forthcoming winter session of the Parliament. The genocidal character of the post-Godhra Gujarat violence calls upon the Union Government to act in right earnest, lest the fascist and communal forces currently ruling several states take a cue from the notorious counterparts in Gujarat in order to perpetuate themselves in power by triggering communal holocausts. Experience shows that given the official will, communal violence does not conflagrate. Former Director General of the Border Security Force, Vibhuti Narain Rao has made it amply clear through his observation in his book titled, Curfew in Town that if a Government has the will, the trouble could be nipped in the bud. He even has gone on record that the Narasimha Rao Government had no intention to save Babri Masjid from being demolished on December 6, 1992. Moreover, the conduct of the Governments in West Bengal, Bihar and most South Indian states also reinforces the view that if administration is determined to curb the violence, no power on earth can do otherwise. While a mountain is made about the mal-administration in Post-1989 Bihar, there is no gainsaying that Laloo-Rabri dispensation has provided no leeway for troublemakers of the communal kind.
Quite ironically, Gujarat touted as ‘the most investor-friendly’ and ‘progressive’ State presented the most shameful spectacle of barbarity on the earth during the current century. The two past Governments in Karnataka even scored an advance on it. They showed remarkable grit in dealing with potentially communal incidents and reconciling fractious stances pregnant with trouble. The role of the J. H. Patel Government in resolving Hubli Eidgah and Jayanagar Eidgah issues in an amicable way and later Krishna Government’s control of law and order situation when row over Cauvery waters threatened to spill onto the streets, sets a new precedent in resolving communal and sectarian conflicts. Some inspiration must be drawn from these experiences.
Perhaps the dividing line between Narendra Modi and Laloo-Rabri is defined by the collusion with fascists and total determination to rein in the communal elements.
Such a law needs to specify the role of the State Governments, which are principally responsible for the maintenance of the law and order. No government must be allowed to widen the social or sectarian violence under the cover of ‘revenge’, ‘response’ ‘reaction’ or ‘retaliation’ to certain incidents of violence and must see to it that the fall-out of initial spark are contained locally with a heavy hand, regardless of from whichever quarter it emanates. The law must also be guided by the Supreme Court verdict wherein the honourable court had lashed out against the governments that expressed inability to maintain law and order. The Court had set out very clear guidelines that ‘a Government owes its existence to its profession to govern by law’ or else should be kicked out of power. ‘Quit, if you cannot govern’ the apex court had ruled. So no Government should be allowed to duck under the excuse of popular reaction, revenge, or retaliation. No Government worth its salt could afford to see its subjects being killed, burned, raped and looted. The law must provide for governments sticking to this primary commitment of governance. By extension, it should mean their ouster from power in case of failure.
The legislation should also look into ensuring non-partisan role by the police, the media and the executive. While it may be easier to frame laws for the police, media being private monopoly would need more elaborate legislation. Perhaps the recommendation by National Police Commission headed by Dharam Veera, now around two decades old, would help in bringing about a fair degree of impartiality in the police functioning. Police training could include lessons in human rights, case studies of communal incidents and diversities of Indian society in order to inject a broader view of the society’s constitution and a better appreciation of its cultural and religious sensitivities.