Initiative for Justice & Peace
From: Iqbal Ansari [email protected]
Minorities Council & IOS Committee on Human Rights
20 Jaswant Apartments, Okhla, Jamia Nagar, New Delhi-110025
Tel.: 6324452, Email: [email protected]
27 March 2002
Chairman, National Human Rights Commission
Sardar Patel Bhavan, Sansad Marg, New Delhi-110001
The Role of the Law-Enforcement Machinery During Communal Riots.
Ref: (i) Our letter of 1/8/2000 addressed to the Chairman on ‘NHRC’s concern on attacks against Christians & suo motu action on it.’ (ii) Our representation dated April 3, 2001 on the subject registered under No 41209/24/2000-2001 FC & subsequent correspondence and telephonic talk.
Dear Mr. Chairman,
We once again express our appreciation of the NHRC’s taking suo motu action and not only calling for immediate report from the Government of Gujarat on the handling of the communal disturbance in Gujrat since 27/28 February 2001 but also your visiting the riot affected towns for on the spot inquiry. We welcome your appraisal of the devastation as one caused by inaction and inefficiency of the Government i.e. a result of failure of governance.
In our representation of 4 April 2001 on the Role of the Police & Paramilitary Forces During Communal Riots we had raised the issues of the systemic and behavioral causes of such persistently partisan role of the district administration and the police working under political direction during most major riots since the Ahmedabad riots of 1969. Official and NGO inquiries and investigative reporting by eminent journalists have noted such partisan role of the police including those by the Justice Madon Commission, (1970) National Police Commission (1981) Studies by NC Saxena (1983) & V.N. Rai (1996) and finally by Justice Srikrishna Commission on Mumbai riots (1992-93). (See Report Section II)
Such partisan role of the law-enforcement agencies has been generally attributed to the following four factors:
The culture of governance making police function as a subordinate body carrying out orders & directions of the political executive
Deeply entrenched communal prejudices in the minds of a section of officials and police personnel
Social composition of the police and other wings of law-enforcement and criminal justice system, wherein minorities are persistently underrepresented.
Lack of training in humane and effective mob control by the police.
We reiterate that the following measures suggested by us in our representation of 4 April 2001 be considered to make law-enforcement impartial, effective and humane reorganize the police making it function independent of political direction & interference for impartial law-enforcement provision of component of human rights and eradication of prejudices and humane riot control methods in the training programme of the police and other law-enforcement agencies make the social composition of all law-enforcement agencies diverse, wherein at least 25% of minority presence is ensured change the State’s riot control scheme discouraging use of firepower at the initial stage for deterrence and provide training in and equipment for non-lethal methods of mob control establish a statutory Community Relation Commission for prevention and management of communal conflicts, in liaison with the civil society promptly bring to justice all rioters and erring officials and police-personnel to justice end impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of violence against minorities make provision under law for restitution of rights and compensation to sufferers/victims of riots.
The rationale and modalities for taking these measures have been discussed in the NCM Report on Communal Riots: Prevention & Control (1999) that was submitted to you. (Copy Enclosed)
Apart from the long terms systemic reforms, in view of the gravity of the nature of failure of governance in Gujarat in February – March 2002 resulting in loss, injury and damage of life, limb, shelter, property, business, places of worship, honour, dislocation, dispossession and other social losses suffered by hundreds of thousands of people in Ahmedabad and other towns in Gujarat, and in view of the fact that the innocent citizens of Gujarat and some other States have been periodically subjected to such violence, there is an urgent need for the following steps:
A Central legislation regarding Communal riots and other social disorders, establishing institutional mechanism for ensuring impartial and effective preventive and control measures and speedy justice and adequate compensation under law for all losses, injuries and damages suffered by victims.
A separate central law may provide for appointment of an independent Inquiry Commission/Tribunal to fix responsibility of officials, police personnel and political executive whose acts and commissions have resulted in the losses, injuries and damages suffered by innocent persons. Restitution of all rights and reparation to be made and compensation to be paid to victims by those held responsible for failure to impartially act in time. The findings of the Tribunal to be appointed by an independent panel, shall be binding.
The rationale for such legislation is provided by Justice Anil Dev Singh’s judgment of 5 July 1996, on Civil Writ Petiton No 1429, and by section 11 of the UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, 1985. (See Section IV of the Report)
On several occasions responsible persons and organisations have termed the massacres like the present one in Gujarat and in Delhi in 1984, and Hashimpura (Meerut) in May 1987 when PAC personnel killed more than 40 Muslim youth, as genocidal killings. An eminent jurist like K.G. Kannabiran, National President PUCL, has termed the present carnage in Gujarat as genocide (The Hindu, New Delhi, 25 March 2002).
It is a grave lapse on the part of the Govt. of India not to have enacted any law till date in compliance with Article V of the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 1948.
Article II of the Convention defines genocide any of the following acts……….
Killing members of the group;
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
In view of the repeated experience of genocidal killings of sections of religious minorities in India, it is our view that a law on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide be enacted, which may be made applicable retrospectively as according to Nuremberg Principles crimes against humanity and genocidal killings cannot be treated as time barred.
We therefore urge the Commission to take all necessary steps including seeking direction from the Supreme Court and making statutory recommendation to the Government of India to (i) appoint a Tribunal for fixing responsibility for acts and omissions of officials and political executive in the Gujarat riots of Feb. March 2002 and for making persons found derelict to make restitution, reparation and compensation for all sufferers of riots (ii) enact a law on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (iii) enact a comprehensive law on riots and disorders in the light of recommendations of the NPC, the NHRC & the NCM.
Meanwhile the Commission may consider appointing a Commission of Inquiry comprising eminent senior retired judges, jurists and social workers from NGOs like PUCL & PUDR (New Delhi) & CSSS, (Mumbai) and People’s Union For Human Rights. (Mumbai)
Our Committee on Human rights and the Minorities Council will be happy to help the Commission in organising any consultation on the subject.
Iqbal A. Ansari
Iqbal A. Ansari
20 Jaswant Apartments
Okhla. New Delhi - 25