Taking a combative position in support of the communal violence bill that has been criticized by the opposition, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday dismissed the BJP’s criticism that the law was a vote-bank gimmick, saying “it is a bill whose time has come”.
“What happened in Muzaffarnagar and some other parts of our country is a reminder that although as a country we can take pride in our ability to protect all the people of our country yet there are times when aberrations take place,” Singh said, referring to the riots that killed over 50 people and displaced another 50,000 in Uttar Pradesh.
“This bill - if it is passed by Parliament – will help control such aberrations,” Singh – who had minutes earlier in his inaugural address at the HT Leadership Summit – called creating communal tension the “ultimate objective of terrorism”.
In a brief question-answer session that followed, Singh pointedly brushed aside accusations levelled by the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi that politics – and not the desire to check communal violence – had prompted the initiative.
“It is not a vote-bank gimmick. In the last five or six years, we have been grappling with the problem of communal riot in some part or the other of the country,” he told the gathering of business leaders, diplomats and political leaders.
The Manmohan Singh government had recently toned down several controversial provisions of the proposed law first conceived in 2005 to make it acceptable to the BJP.
In its new version, the bill brings violence targeting people due to their religious and linguistic identity under its ambit and not only empowers police officers to prevent communal riots but also holds them accountable.
The PM explained that the effort was “to create an environment where officials would have the responsibility to look after the law and order situation as effectively as is humanly possible. Plus, also if riots cannot be prevented, there should be adequate compensation for the victims. These are two basic principles which underline what is the purpose of the communal violence bill”.