Saturday, 10 December 2011

Christian Council demands Government enact Communal Violence Prevention bill

Pune Chapter
Punya Dham Society, A/ 2/ 20 Wadgaonsheri, Pune 411014

[The following is the text of the Press Statement issued by Dr John Dayal, Secretary General, All India Christian Council, at a Press conference at Patrakar Bhawan, Navi Peth, Pune, Maharashtra, on 9th December 2011. Other Christian leaders who addressed the press conference included Prof Indira Athawale, Dr Sanjay Kore, Pastor Peter Paul Geore and Mr Diego Almeida.]

The All India Christian Council [aicc], an apex Human Rights and Freedom of Faith forum, has urged the Government of India to urgently bring before Parliament and pass the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparation) Bill 2011. The Bill, commonly called the CV Prevention Bill, was drafted earlier this year by the National Advisory Council and is now with the Union government.

The Bill has been strongly supported by religious minorities as well as by most members of civil society as an effective means to curb communal violence which has plagued this country after Independence in 1947, and bring justice to the victims. In the last ten years there have been more than 6,000 incidents of communal violence, according to information provided by the government to Parliament.

Among the most heinous mass crimes against religious communities in India have been the anti Sikh violence of 1984 in New Delhi and other cities, the anti Muslim pogrom in Gujarat of 2002 and the anti Christian massacre and mass arson in Kandhamal in Orissa in which 56,000 persons were forced to flee to forests when over 5,600 houses in 400 villages were burnt down by Hindutva mobs. Over 100 persons were killed, Nuns and other women were raped and over 290 churches destroyed. In all cases, the police and officials stood by without acting. Many police and civil officers were guilty of involvement in all these acts of mass violence, and others were guilty of inaction and impunity. Kashmiri Pundits have also been subject of targeted violence.

Rehabilitation and resettlement in all cases has been tardy. The worst is the issue of justice. Most victims, including of murder, have been denied justice. In Kandhamal, for instance, not a single person has been convicted for murder. The proposed Bill seeks to secure justice for victims and end the climate of impunity by bringing the guilty officials to book. The proposed law maintains that minorities are denied justice because of the communal behaviour of a section of religious and political extremists and the apathy or involvement of the administration.

The Bill will also curb hate speech and similar actions. In recent months, VHP leader Dr Praveen Togadia has called for the beheading of missionaries in issues of conversion. Janata party leader Subramaniam Swamy has launched a slander campaign against the Christian and Muslim communities in general, and against the aicc in particular. The All India Christian Council also denounces conspiracies to scuttle the Bill. The government should take immediate steps and discuss the Bill with political parties to end the attempt of Hindutva groups to raise false alarms against the proposed law.

Dr John Dayal said Christian leaders in Mumbai had earlier filed a formal complaint demanding legal action against Dr Subramaniam Swamy for spreading hate and violating the Constitution when he wrote an article in a Mumbai newspaper advocating that Muslims should not be given voting rights. Complaints were also filed in New Delhi. Holding that communalism is as evil as corruption, the All India Christian Council has repeatedly called for strong laws to curb hate campaigns and similar activity which leads to the targetting of minorities and marginalised communities, including Muslims, Christians, Dalits and Tribals.

Referring to issues of development of Minorities in Maharashtra state and Pune City, the Council called for adequate and commensurate representation of the Christian community in all walks of life, government and public sector undertakings and in the political establishment. Political parties too must give the community substantial representation and opportunities. Many youth were underemployed. Christian students could not get scholarships because of bureaucratic red tape and lack of information because the Union and state governments had not taken adequate steps. This situation must be rectified.

The AICC called for an end to physical and hidden forms of communalism in the region which has seen burning of churches, harassment if priests and nuns and the attempted blackmailing and violence against schools at admission time. The state government must act in time to prevent such incidents.

All India Christian Council who can be contacted at aiccdelhi(at)gmail(dot)com

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