Short Term and Long Term Measures to Tackle Communalism
Communalism violates the human rights and it makes poor people even poorer. The poor are the worst hit as they lose their property, dear ones and livelihood. The violence accompanying communalism results in ghettoization and refugee problem of both inter country and intra country nature.
Communalism threatens constitutional values which actively promotes secularism and religious tolerance. Communalism by dividing the society on communal lines is a threat to the unity and integrity of the country. Communal feelings force the state authorities like the police, army and intelligence agencies to view minorities with suspicion. This leads to the harassment of members belonging to the minority communities. In such cases, there is no compensation for such victims with respect to their income forgone and the emotional trauma they and their families underwent. Communalism dents the image of the country to the outside world. It becomes a real barrier to the all-round development of the country.
Measures to Tackle Communalism
For academic purpose, the steps to be taken to tackle communalism can be divided into two categories viz. short term / immediate and long term measures.
Short Term and Immediate Measures
Establishment of Peace Committees
The government should immediately constitute a peace committee in the riot-hit areas comprising of the respected people belonging to different communities. These leaders can help in persuading the leaders of the fighting communities and help in restoring peace.
Supervision by Media
The media must be made to act with responsibility while publishing reports about communal riots. Those media houses which spread rumours and instigate violence must be strictly prosecuted. Similarly, the government should also keep a vigil over the social media platforms like WhatsApp which tends to spread rumours and agitate people.
In communally sensitive areas, secular minded law enforcement officials must be appointed. Similarly, Special Courts that deals with cases related to the communal riots must be set up in communally sensitive states for speedy disposal of cases. Also, immediate legal action should be taken against those who instigate communal violence.
Abolition of Communal Political parties
The government and Election Commission should use its authority to ban communal political organizations directly or indirectly indulging in communal riots.
Long-Term Remedial Measures
Promoting Healthy Public Opinion
The government should take steps to educate the people so that they become free from communal frenzies and passions. Secular values should be imbibed in textbooks of children so that they become responsible citizens in the future. Additional care should be taken while teaching history to the students. Distorted historical facts must be removed from the history textbooks.
Also, the intellectuals, writers, journalists, voluntary organizations, should be encouraged by the government to take a lead in building up a healthy public opinion against communalism.
Rethinking and Use of New Strategies
It is necessary for the government to rethink its strategies to counter communalism. It is generally perceived that economic development brings down instances of communalism. But this is not true. It has been found that economic development alone cannot suppress communalism. In fact, communal riots have been registered in more numbers from developed states like Maharashtra and Gujarat, and developed cities like Mumbai, Ahmadabad, Jamshedpur and Kanpur. So, there is a need for the use of new strategies and well-planned efforts to suppress communalism.
Preventing Communalization of State
The government should take efforts to prosecute all those leaders, bureaucrats who lend their helping hand to communalists and support communal riots. It is very important for the political elites in power to have secular credentials. In this regard, all those leaders who have committed communal crimes can be debarred from contesting elections.
Legislation against Forcible Conversions
Since forcible conversion of people from one religion to another is one among the primary reasons for communal riots in India. It is necessary for the government to ban forcible conversion activities and come up with a legislation banning the same. In this regard, all states should follow Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Tamil Nadu Governments who have already legislated legislations banning forcible conversion activities.
Mahatma Gandhiji was against the forcible religious conversions. In 1928, he registered his views in Young India that no one’s religion should be forcefully converted as all faiths are equally good. He was also against the proselytizing activities of the Christian missionaries.
Discussion: Communalism and Rule of Law
In India, other than the provisions under IPC and CrPC, there is no other concrete legislation to punish the perpetrators of violence. Also, there is no clear policy which provides for the relief and rehabilitation of victims. In this context, ‘Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011’ bill was tabled in the Parliament. The main feature of that bill was that it provided for the establishment of seven-member National authority for communal harmony, justice and reparations. It had also provisions for ensuring accountability of the district administration as suggested by the Sachar and Raganath Mishra Commissions. But the bill got lapsed in the Parliament.
In India, the role of Police during communal riots is also highly controversial. In some cases, the Police have been accused of harassing innocent people and supporting the offenders. Resolving this issue needs political will from the government. The state governments should come forward in giving a free hand to the police force to suppress the riots. Apart from it, police reforms have to be implemented. Instead of Police, the CRPF’s Rapid Action force can be used to deal with riots and crowd control operations in communally sensitive areas.