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Published : May 28, 2017 | Author : ashank40
Category : Torts Law | Total Views : 1113 | Rating :

4th Year Law student, GD Goenka University

Torts Against Secular Communal Group: A study of Communal violence in India

Secular Communal Groups and Communal violence - Communal violence is a form of violence that is perpetrated across ethnic or communal lines, the violent parties feel solidarity for their respective groups, and victims are chosen based upon group membership. The term includes conflicts, riots and other forms of violence between communities of different religious faith or ethnic origins. The Indian law defines communal violence as, "any act or series of acts, whether spontaneous or planned, resulting in injury or harm to the person and or property, knowingly directed against any person by virtue of his or her membership of any religious or linguistic minority, in any State in the Union of India, or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes within the meaning of clauses (24) and (25) of Article 366 of the Constitution of India".

Historical Perspective of Communal violence - In post-British India, the country’s political leadership in pursuit of votes and vote banks is carrying forward the violent medieval legacy only for their political interests and dividends that come from such riots. The pre-medieval invaders of India generally settled in Indian soil and merged in the cultural cauldron of this land. But the Islamic conquests were different. The conquerors indulged in mass killings, forced conversions with the superimposition of an alien Arab-Turk-Perso culture all in the name of religion. This created a permanent conflict between the two major religious groups. The creation of Pakistan in the name of religion and the failure of post-independence Indian rulers to bridge the gap between the two communities have only exacerbated the distrust between the two communities. Praising their faith as God’s final and perfect religion, these conquerors declared that it was their divine right to conquer the non-Muslim world and to superimpose their culture on the people of the conquered territories. This mindset of the invaders clashed with the spiritual beliefs of the conquered people and thus created a permanent chasm. One cannot but agree that this was not just a conflict of religion but a conflict of civilization between the ruling class and the ruled. The invaders had earlier succeeded in their mission in Persia and other gulf countries and rejected Judaism and Christianity as defective variants of Islam but the response of the natives in India was different and the ruled continued their resistance all through. Since then, the socio-cultural division between the two communities had remained a permanent feature of Indian society. Nobel Prize winner V. S. Naipaul in his book Half a Life observed that “Islam has had a calamitous effect on converted peoples. To be converted you have to destroy your past, destroy your history. You have to stamp on it, you have to say “my ancestral culture does not exist, it does not matter”.

After the end of the imperialistic Islamic rule in 1857 and shift of power from the Muslim rulers to the British, there was a marked change in the attitude of the Hindus also towards the former as well as the new ruler. While “the Hindus looked upon the British rule as deliverance from Muslim yoke, and considered English education as a blessing, the Muslims in their eagerness to preserve their religion and religious views rejected English education”. The British ruler did not like to resolve the conflict between the two communities. They looked at the whole issue as a law and order one and emphasis was on communal harmony to prevent a break down in law and order and nothing more. The post-Mogul historians repeatedly wrote about the Indo-Arab composite culture of this land but ignored the wounded psyche of the natives. Though the Hindus and Muslims were living together for more than a millennium both the groups always remained in social isolation from each other. At the instance of Mahatma Gandhi, the Hindus joined the Khilafat Movement launched by the Muslims against the British for restoration of Ottoman Empire but this unity was also a temporary one.

Present scenario of Communal violence - Constitutionally India is a secular state, but large-scale violence has periodically occurred in India since independence. In recent decades, communal tensions and religion-based politics have become more prominent. One most known example of communal violence was-

Anti-Sikh Riots

For several decades after Partitions, Sikhs in Punjab had complained about domination by the Hindu majority. In a 1975 court case, Indira Gandhi was found guilty of electoral malpractice which barred her from government offices for six years and opposition parties staged protests to demand her resignation. In response, she declared a State of Emergency during which she jailed thousands of opposition members, censored the press, postponed elections, and changed the constitutional law she was convicted of violating. During the Indian Emergency, thousands of Sikhs campaigning for autonomous government and against the "fascist tendency" of the Central Government were imprisoned. As a result of their "Campaign to Save Democracy", out of 140,000 people arrested without trial during the Indian Emergency, 40,000 were Sikhs. In later elections she supported the politics Jarnail Bhindranwale, a religious conservative, in an effort to undermine the Akali Dal, the largest Sikh political party. However, Bhindranwale began to oppose the central government and moved his political base to the environs of the Darbar Sahib in Amritsar, Punjab.

While there he gained considerable political power and disrupted the local state machinery. In June 1984, under orders from Indira Gandhi, the Indian army attacked the Darbar Sahib with tanks and armoured vehicles. Although the operation was militarily successful, it aroused tremendous controversy, and the government's justification for the timing and style of the attack are highly debated. In response, some Sikhs and some Punjabi Hindus began a separatist campaign to free Punjab from the Indian Government. Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31 October 1984 by two of her bodyguards in retaliation for the storming of the Golden temple.

After the assassination the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms took place in Delhi, where government and police officials aided Indian National Congress party worker gangs in "methodically and systematically" targeting Sikhs and Sikh homes. As a result of the pogroms 10,000–17,000 were burned alive or otherwise killed, Sikh people suffered massive property damage, and "at least 50,000" Sikhs became displaced persons. To date, the Government of India has not prosecuted any of the assailants. The attack on the Harmandir Sahib and the 1984 Anti-Sikh pogroms led to the increasing popularity of the Khalistan movement. From 1987 until 1992, the Indian government dismissed the elected government of the state, banned elections and imposed direct rule. Rajiv Gandhi made a famous controversial speech which incited communal hatred: "When a big tree falls (Indira Gandhi), the earth shakes (the people). In the peak years of the insurgency, religious violence by separatists, government-sponsored groups, and the paramilitary arms of the government was endemic on all sides. Human Rights Watch reports that separatists were responsible for "massacre of civilians, attacks upon Hindu minorities in the state, indiscriminate bomb attacks in crowded places, and the assassination of a number of political leaders". According to Human Rights Watch, the Indian Government's response "led to the arbitrary detention, torture, extrajudicial execution, and enforced disappearance of thousands of Sikhs". The government generally targeted "young Sikh men on suspicion that they were involved in the militancy" but would later deny having them in custody, as a result, many of the victims of enforced disappearances are believed to have been killed. The insurgency resulted in the stagnation of Punjab's economy until normalization in 1993.

After the assassination of Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh Body Guards following Operation Blue Star, many Indian National Congress workers including Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and Kamal Nath were accused of inciting and participating in riots targeting the Sikh population of the capitol. There are allegations that the government destroyed evidence and shielded the guilty. The Asian Age front-page story called the government actions "the Mother of all Cover-ups" There are allegations that the violence was led and often perpetrated by Indian National Congress activists and sympathizers during the riots. The government, then led by the Congress, was widely criticized for doing very little at the time, possibly acting as a conspirator. The theory is supported by the fact that voting lists were used to identify Sikh families.

Recent Developments in Communal violence – There are many recent examples of emerging communal violence incidences and riots cause by different religious communal groups. Religious violence is, specifically, violence that is motivated by or in reaction to religious precepts, texts, or doctrines. This includes violence against religious institutions, persons, objects, or when the violence is motivated to some degree by some religious aspect of the target or precept of the attacker. Religious violence does not refer exclusively to acts committed by religious groups, but also includes acts committed by secular groups against religious groups.

2002 Gujarat violence

Since partition, there have been several acts of mass violence carried out against Muslims in Gujarat. In 2002, in an incident described as an act of "fascistic state terror”, Hindu extremists carried out acts of extreme violence against the Muslim minority population. The starting point for the incident was the attack on a train, which was blamed on Muslims. During the incident, young girls were sexually assaulted, burned or hacked to death. These rapes were condoned by the ruling BJP, whose refusal to intervene lead to the displacement of 200,000. Death toll figures range from the official estimate of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus killed, to 2,000 Muslims killed. Chief Minister Narendra Modi has also been accused of initiating and condoning the violence, as have the police and government officials who took part, as they directed the rioters and gave lists of Muslim-owned properties to the extremists.

Communal Violence Bill

Earlier known as ‘Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011′ is brought to curb the riots taking place between majority and minority communities. After the alleged post-godhra riots in Gujarat, The former UPA government proposed for the need of the bill.

The controversial Communal Violence Bill (later name changed from “Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence bill”) has raised the brows of one and all. While some believe it is UPA's strategy to win minority vote banks, others believe that it is a tool to strengthen the integrity and harmony of the country. At first glance, it does seem to be a peacemaker, but on second thoughts it brings out the darker side of democracy. When the government should be emphasizing on equal rights for all, it is promoting the minority community as the underprivileged and the deprived.

Recent amendments- drawing the wrath of various parties, starting BJP, the two major points of contentions may be amended. The words "majority" and "minority" have been removed from the Bill. With this, communal violence law becomes applicable against any particular community and not against a minority or a majority. To emphasize its point, the UPA further proposed to change the name of the Bill to "Communal Violence Prevention Bill". However, another clause that allows the Centre to send paramilitary force to a state, without its consent, when a communal tension threatening the harmony of the society arises.

Some other recent developments are –

2013 Muzaffarnagar riots-

The clashes between the Hindu and Muslim communities in Muzaffarnagar district, Uttar Pradesh, India in August–September 2013, resulted in at least 62 deaths including 42 Muslims and 20 Hindus and injured 93 and left more than 50,000 displaced. By 17 September, the curfew was lifted from all riot affected areas and the army was also withdrawn.

The riot has been described as "the worst violence in Uttar Pradesh in recent history", with the army, as a result, being deployed in the state for the first time in last 20 years. Supreme Court of India while hearing petitions in relation to the riots held the Akhilesh Yadav led Samajwadi Party, prima facie guilty of negligence in preventing the violence and ordered it to immediately arrest all those accused irrespective of their political affiliation. Court also blamed the Central government for its failure to provide intelligence inputs to the Samajwadi Party-ruled state government in time to help sound alerts.

2013 Canning riots

The 2013 Canning riots were riots between Bengali Hindus and Bengali Muslims in the Indian state of West Bengal on 21 February 2013. The riots occurred in the Canning subdivision, after a Muslim cleric was killed by unidentified assailants. Following this incident, Muslim mobs burned down over 200 Hindu homes in the villages of Naliakhali, Herobhanga, Gopalpur and Goladogra villages in the Canning police station area. Two dozen Hindu-owned shops were looted in Jaynagar police station area under Baruipur subdivision. Incidents of violence were reported from Canning, Jaynagar, Kultali and Basanti police station areas. Angry mobs blocked traffic at several places in the district including the Kolkata Basanti highway. The rail services were disrupted as blockade was put up at Ghutiari Sharif railway station in the Sonarpur-Canning section of the Sealdah South lines.

2013 Naxal attack in Darbha valley

On 25 May 2013, Naxalite insurgents of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) attacked a convoy of Indian National Congress leaders in the Darbha Valley in the Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, India. The attack caused at least 27 deaths, including that of former state minister Mahendra Karma and Chhattisgarh Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel. Vidya Charan Shukla, a senior Congress leader also later succumbed to his injuries on 11 June 2013.

2012 Assam violence

In July 2012, violence in the Indian state of Assam broke out with riots between indigenous Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims. The first incident was reported to have taken place on 20 July 2012. As of 8 August 2012, 77 people had died and over 400,000 people were taking shelter in 270 relief camps, after being displaced from almost 400 villages. Eleven people have been reported missing. The violence and exodus of thousands of people from Northeast India reportedly led to a series of incessant protests in Assam, at multiple locations, during the months of August–September. The protesters' main demand was expeditious detection and deportation of illegal infiltrators from Assam. On 15 September, at a convention of non-political tribal groups, organizations representing Bodo, Dimasa, Tiwa, Deuri, Karbi, Garo, Rabha, Sonowal Kacharis and other tribal communities decided to form a coordination committee for the cause. The tribal leaders said that illegal immigration has threatened the existence, right to land and resources to all indigenous people of the entire state, and it was not limited to Bodoland alone.

Suggestions –
· There is a strong need to improvise and bring strict laws against destruction of property and loss of life done by communal groups during riots. There is a need for strict punishment and awareness of the laws amongst masses.

· The police force and riot police needs to be more alert to understand recent development of violence and violent prone areas to protect the loss of life and property as well as should be well equipped to control such situations faster and smoothly.

· There is a need for election commission to make more strict arrangements to prohibit any inflammatory speech which targets religion or communal groups which could start a fire in minds of people.

· The masses need to be made aware not to follow a league of opinion or rumors and start encouraging and supporting the communal groups involving themselves, rather should understand the neutrality of all religions.

· Any groups or societies which discriminate other backgrounds or religions should closely be kept under vision to understand there psychology and stop them to create crazy mobs and illegal activities.

By understanding what is communal violence and communal groups behind them, we understand that this malicious concept prevails from centuries in our nation. It took heat in the British Raj when the British polices directly encouraged and created a social n religious difference between the Indian people. The old examples are division of India and Pakistan. Even after the independence of the nation, these communal groups continued to hinder growth of nation and left deep scars in the hearts of people. Biggest example was Anti-Sikh Riots and most recently the Naxal attacks, may it be any instance but they all caused heavy loss to innocent people. People need to be educated about the consequences of creating such nuisance and loss. Even about the fundamentals of their religion which teaches equality amongst all religions. To conclude we understand the serious issue of communal violence in our nation which is medieval and is prevalent but is in need for immediate eradication amongst us, by the help of law and force we may achieve the target to educate the masses to stop communal riots and violence completely.


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