Bill to check communal violence soon

New Delhi: A bill aimed at checking communal violence more effectively and to ensure stricter punishment for perpetrators is likely to be introduced soon, Government said on Friday.

Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said the government has received many significant inputs in this regard and the introduction of the proposed Communal Violence Bill is now "in its last few steps".

"As far as Communal Violence Bill is concerned, it has gone many miles ahead (from what was earlier proposed). It is in its last few steps. Great deal of inputs have been provided. A very attractive communal violence bill is to soon come before Parliament after Cabinet`s approval," Khurshid said delivering his key note address at the annual conference of state minority commissions.

On demands for inclusion of Jains in the notified list of national minorities, Khurshid said the government was trying to find a solution to it and the Attorney General will be looking at the ways available before the government as the Centre`s role is restricted in the matter in view of a Supreme Court ruling.

On demand for minority status to Aligarh Muslim University, the minister said that he personally believed that the AMU was minority in character since its birth but the matter was pending before the Supreme Court.

Citing the recent decision of the National Commission for Minority Education (NCME) which favoured minority status to Jamia Millia University, Khurshid said it was important that such things are done institutionally.

It is wrong to expect the government to take decisions in a "dramatic manner", he said.

Sharing the dais with him, NCM Chairman Wajahat Habibullah said the Supreme Court`s past decision regarding inclusion of other minority groups in the list of five notified national minorities "in no way debars the government from taking further action".

Habibullah, who hails from Kashmir, also said that he along with the government, will work towards ensuring that people of Jammu and Kashmir also benefit from initiatives of the National Commission of Minorities and the state also has its own minority commission.

He rued that the Commission during its visits to Rewadi in Haryana (where Sikhs were affected in communal clash), Kandhamal in Orissa (where Christians were targeted) and Gujarat riots (where Muslims bore the brunt of communal riots post the Godhara incident) found out that the victims were yet to be rehabilitated in any of these three cases.

Noted film star Mahesh Bhatt said the NCM should play a pro-active role while discharging its responsibilities and wondered why it has not been able take tough steps despite recurrence of one after other incident of communal violence.

"Is the NCM only a pain killer and not a cure. Is it only a hope peddler?" he asked, adding that the minority body needs to "shed its temerity" and "lock horns with forces" it has been created to fight with.

Bhatt also touched upon Malegaon and Mecca Masjid blasts and the communal riots in Kandhamal wondering "is the dream of secular India just a mirage that we are destined to walk towards and never to reach."

He said the situation has not changed in the last many years. "We are a failing nation," he said.

In his address Khurshid, however, cautioned against "cynicism".

"Cynicism never makes a great nation. If something has gone wrong, that certainly has to be set right..but every society needs heroes. We need to allow our heroes to survive," he said.

On the issue of reservation for Muslims, Khurshid said the government was considering all available options before it but a decision is yet to be taken.

The conference, which was attended by minority commission chiefs and minority department officials of most of the states, deliberated at length on how to reach benefits of the intended schemes to minorities and provide them a sense of security in extreme situations.

Expressing concern over "false cases" against minorities, the NCM urged the government to rehabilitate them in a suitable manner besides taking stringent action against the guilty. It also demanded that the government expeditiously finalise and pass the Communal Violence Bill.

The Commission said it was considering suggestions for setting up of a minority cell in the National Commission of Women to focus attention to safeguarding rights of women members belonging to minority community.

The conference reviewed the implementation status of the recommendations of Sachar Committee that went into the socio and economic backwardness of minorities and Prime Minister`s 15-point programme and other issues related to welfare of minorities.