Communal Bill comes under attack in NIC meeting

The National Integration Council (NIC) saw the states run by NDA governments and UPA constituent Trinamool Congress coming together to oppose the proposed Bill on Communal Violence as anti-federal in nature and that it should not be brought to Parliament.

At the day-long meeting of the Chief Ministers, leaders of political parties and eminent people from various walks of life, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke of the dangers of terrorism and left wing extremism.

Against the backdrop of Wednesday's blast in Delhi High Court, the Prime Minister said it was a reminder that there can be no let up in vigil.

Chief Ministers of several states, including Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Bihar, Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan and Kerala did not attend the meeting held after a gap of three years. The meeting decided that the NIC will meet every year.

States, including Orissa run by Biju Janata Dal, utilised the occasion of the day-long meeting of the NIC calling the Communal Violence Bill 'dangerous' but the Prime Minister gave an assurance that nothing will be done to disturb the country's federal structure.

Leaders of Opposition in both houses of Parliament and senior BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley came out in full support of the Chief Ministers of states ruled by the party Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and headed by its allay in Bihar and Punjab to denounce the Bill.

Swaraj said the proposed legislation is dangerous as it would encourage communalism rather than curb it. The BJP chief ministers felt that the law based on the draft made by Sonia Gandhi led National Advisory Council presumed that the majority community was always at fault.

The BJP Chief Ministers felt that the Bill expresses a feeling of mistrust in the state government machinery and would directly interfere with the legitimate authority of the states.

Chief Ministers of Bihar and Punjab, who are BJP allies, also had strong reservations over the Bill. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said the Bill may create 'impression' among the people at large that majority community is "always responsible for communal incidents."

However, what was surprising was leader of Trinamool Congress and Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi said his party also opposes the Bill in its present form.

Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the Bill has some objectionable provisions that would affect the autonomy of states while the UP Chief Minister Mayawati faulted the Centre for seeking comments even without circulating the Bill.

Briefing reporters at the end of the meeting, Union Home Secretary R K Singh said government has taken note of the reservations from Chief Ministers who felt that it encroaches their jurisdiction.

"The Prime Minister said that we have taken note of the views expressed in the meeting. We will examine them and whatever bill we will bring, it will be in accordance with the constitution," the Home Secretary said.

In his speech, the Prime Minister himself avoided the topic of Communal Violence Bill while Home Minister P Chidambaram said the communal violence is a visible example of the primeval attitudes of the groups that seek to dominate or subjugate other groups.

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