The civil society was known to exert a disproportionate influence on policy-making during the UPA regime. The UPA set up the National Advisory Council (NAC) to advise the then Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh and was chaired by Sonia Gandhi for much of the UPA’s tenure. Many believed that the NAC was the unofficial Prime Minister’s Office. In this article, we would investigate the members of the committee who were responsible for drafting one of the most severely contentious laws.
The draft of the Communal Violence Bill, officially referred to as the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011, would have proved to be one of the most disastrous laws if it were to be enacted. It assumed that only religious or linguistic minorities and people from the Scheduled Castes and Tribes could be the victims of communal violence conveniently ignoring all ground realities. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had correctly said then that the bill was anti-majority and presumed that the majority community is always to blame for the communal violence.
In 2010, the NAC entrusted the drafting of the Communal Violence Bill to a 32-member group. Here, we shall look into the background of some of these people who were either part of the Drafting Committee or the 19 member Advisory group.
Shabnam Hashmi is one of the founders of the NGO ANHAD whose FCRA registration was cancelled in 2016 by the NDA government due to “undesirable” activities against the public interest. As per DeshGujarat, ANHAD was majorly a Church funded organization.
Ram Puniyani had opposed the hanging of terrorist Afzal Guru. He is associated with the Center for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) and ANHAD. The CSSS is an NGO that receives funds from abroad, most notably the Heinrich Boll Foundation, a think tank for policy reform that maintains close ties with the German Green Party (Alliance 90/The Greens). Asghar Ali Engineer, the founder of the CSSS, was also in the advisory group for the drafting of the bill.
As per SheThePeople, Usha Ramanathan is a member of Amnesty International’s Advisory Panel on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Gautam Navlakha, the arrested Urban Naxal, and Usha Ramanathan appear to be well acquainted with each other. They were speakers at an event at JNU that was concerned with the repeal of AFSPA across the country. They were also part of a protest at Jantar Mantar which called upon the Prime Minister of India and the Union Minister of Chemicals to resolve the issues related to additional compensation with regards to the Bhopal gas disaster immediately.
Justice S Muralidhar, who was a member of the two-man bench of the Delhi High Court that set aside the August 28 order of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) granting transit remand of Gautam Navlakha to the Maharashtra Police citing non-compliance of various mandatory legal requirements, is the husband of Usha Ramanathan as per a TOI report.
Harsh Mander is the director for the Center for Equity Studies. In his article on the political marginalization of Muslims which was shared by current Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, Mander writes, “Muslims are today’s castaways, political orphans with no home, for virtually every political party. This despite India being home to a tenth of the world’s Muslims, around 180 million people, making it the largest Muslim country after Indonesia and Pakistan. There has never been a harder time to be a Muslim in India, not since the stormy months that followed India’s Partition.”
Mander is also a known Ishrat apologist, the female LeT operative who was killed an encounter along with three others by Crime Branch Officials in Gujarat. As per DeshGujarat, Mander’s NGO has received a significant amount of financial contribution from foreign organizations.
Roop Rekha Verma
Verma is an ex-Vice Chancellor of the Lucknow University. Recently, she was invited to an event of the All India Professionals’ Congress. We have documented her ideology and background in an earlier report. Verma vehemently opposes the celebration of our culture in government institutions, even Saraswati Puja at educational institutes. She has also expressed her reservations with the verdict of the Allahabad High Court which had paved the way for a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. She is also believed to have supported the cause of expelled students at Lucknow University who had indulged in vandalism at the campus and attacked teachers.
Gagan Sethi is a Board Member of Oxfam India. He has been a member of the Planning Commission of India and was appointed to the National Human Rights Commission. As per Oxfam, his clients have included GTZ, Swiss Development Co-operation, Christian Aid, Ford Foundation, Misereor, IGSSS, Swiss Aid in India. Sethi is also the Vice Chairperson for Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), an organization that receives funding from abroad. He is the founder of JanVikas, another FCRA NGO. He is on the Governing Board of Human and Institutional Development Forum (HIDF) as well.
Arnab Goswami’s punching bag also lent his valuable wisdom for the drafting of the bill. John Dayal’s bigotry has been well documented by us at OpIndia.com. He is one of the ‘prominent personalities’ batting for Rohingyas as well. As per Wikipedia, he is the secretary general of the All India Christian Council and a past president of the All India Catholic Union.
Apart from these people, other highly respected members of civil society include Dr Manzoor Alam, General Secretary, All India Milli Council and Maulana Niaz Farooqui, General Secretary, Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, Farah Naqvi and more of the same kind. Teesta Setalvad was part of this group as well.
Thus, it is clear that people who are associated with NGOs that receive foreign funding from abroad were charged with the responsibility of drafting the extremely controversial Communal Violence Bill. Fortunately, the law was never implemented. But it does call into question the functioning of the UPA regime. The Congress party needs to answer why were people who received contributions from foreign entities, often missionary organizations, tasked with such a responsibility.