By K.N. Pandita
The National Integration Council NIC chaired by the Prime Minister mounted attention on many important political and other issues hotly debated at various levels among political punditry. The one subject that generated considerable heat was the Communal Violence Bill drafted by Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council. Entire opposition in the Parliament represented by their respective delegations to the Council opposed the Bill calling it “dangerous” for the country and for peaceful coexistence among the people of the country. The chief ministers of BJP ruled states or such states as have coalition governments with BJP opposed the bill threadbare on the plea that instead of reducing the distance between various communities, the bill would only help widen the gap between them. More interestingly, the Trinamool Congress led by the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee also threw in its lot with the opposition calling the bill a dangerous step to destabilize the social fabric of the nation. Those who opposed the bill argued that the draft in its present form could create an impression that it was only the majority community that could be held responsible for fomenting communal violence in the country. Though the Prime Minister avoided direct involvement in this part of debate, yet he said that nothing would be done to undermine the integrity of the State.
India is a multi-religious, multi-linguistic and multi-ethnic country. Religion has always had an important role to play in the life of her people, a majority of whom profess Hinduism. History stands witness to the fact that Indian society accommodated and assimilated the warriors and conquerors from abroad into its milieu with the passage of time, and a composite culture came into being. We all are the inheritors of that cultural ethos today. India is a secular democracy, which means it is not officially aligned to any faith and shows equal respect to all faiths that people profess. This is a unique experiment that our country is going through. The purpose is to cement cultural, national and human relations among the people of India. This process is best served if left to grow and expand by its momentum. Enforcement of communal harmony through institutionalised mechanism may not succeed. It cannot be viable. The example of Kashmir is not too far to seek.
A universally accepted principle of communal harmony is that the majority community must extend goodwill to the minority because the real foolproof security and defence of the minority community is the goodwill of the majority. The majority is bound by the law of the land, law of natural justice and the law of social and moral behaviour to extend its goodwill to the minority community, and the minority community is expected not to do or indulge in any word or deed that would jeopardize social cohesion or national integrity. Thus we find that the role of the majority in preserving and promoting national integration is of paramount importance. Therefore a bill that creates any mistrust against the very majority which is supposed to be the sheet anchor of communal harmony, is a matter of concern. A bill has to deal with the basics of the proposition, its ramifications and its impact in widest interests of the nation. It is not expected to cast aspersions on any section of society as that defeats the purpose.
Moreover no mainstream political party should try to assign to itself the self-styled credit of being called the protectors of the interests of the minorities. They should not profile the minority as orphans to be fathered. This is absolutely unacceptable posture. It is the constitution and the law of the land that are their best protector and the constitution or the laws are not made by any single political party. All elected members from various parties and groups are committed to its constitutional provisions. The self styled claim of being the protectors of this or that minority has created many unhealthy traditions in the political history of contemporary India. Today we are paying through our nose for these superimposed traditions. Take the case of vote bank syndrome; it is a gift of these traditions and sooner it is done away with the better. The Communal Violence Bill in its present form, as challenged by the opposition, is likely to widen the gap of trust among various communities. Nothing of sort should be done and no playing with fire should be encouraged.
National Integration Council NIC reconstituted, by Vinay Kumar, NEW DELHI, April 13, 2010;
National Integration Council NIC on en.wikipedia;
National Advisory Council NAC on en.wikipedia;
Bharatiya Janata Party BJP on en.wikipedia;
All India Trinamool Congress on en.wikipedia.