Tuesday, October 29, 2013

End Impunity for Mass Crimes, Table the PCTV Bill in the Upper House of Indian Parliament

End Impunity for Mass Crimes, Table the PCTV Bill in the Upper House of Indian Parliament

Institutional Measures to protect the Lives and Properties of Disadvantaged Citizens who are Victims of Targeted and Mass Violence during which bouts, officers of the state have shown overt or covert complicity; In short to breathe life into Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Indian Constitution (Right to Life and Right Against Discrimination and Right to Equality Before the Law)

Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister,
Government of India
South Block, Raisina Hill,
New Delhi  - 110011.

We ask for your support to ensure that all Indian Lives are Equally Protected

One Million Post Cards to India’s Prime Minister against the Politics of Hatred and Division
To demand the
----       Expeditious Tabling of Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence  Access to Justice   and Reparations) Bill 2011 in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament)

The Proposed Law is designed to
Breathe life into Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Indian Constitution (Right to Life and Right Against Discrimination and Right to Equality Before the Law). *

Buy a Post Card for 50 Paise, write a message and send it across today...
Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister,
Government of India
South Block, Raisina Hill,
New Delhi  - 110011.

Dear Prime Minister,
"The shameful spectre of recurring mass and targeted crimes with the complicity of state actors must be stopped.
We demand that your government fulfill its 9 year-old promise.
We demand that the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011 be tabled in the Rajya Sabha forthwith.”
Yours Sincerely.........

Sign Two Online Petitions
1)  Table the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice & Reparations) Bill in the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) of the Indian Parliament
Please join this campaign: http://chn.ge/H7Kn3L
Sign the Online Petition Above…..
2)  One Million Post Cards to Prime Minister .. Help Meet the Target

Brief Background:
After the genocidal pogrom of Gujarat in 2002, UPA I government in its Common Minimum Programme assured India’s minorities of a special law and well defined crimes to ensure that the perpetrators of mass and targeted violence are punished and fair reparations are made mandatory. This promise has been kept in cold storage for nine years. The recent perpetrated violence in the four districts of western Uttar Pradesh--Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Shamli and Meerut -- demands that India’s political class are compelled by People’s Voices to fulfill this long overdue promise. India’s National Advisory Council (NAC) drafted a bill in June 2011aimed at tackling communal and targeted violence and delivering justice and compensation to victims. 
The proposed Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence(Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill 2011 brought in categories like sexual offences, hate propaganda, dereliction of duty and culpability of officials within its ambit, widening the spectrum of crimes that constitute targeted and communal violence. Most significantly it brought in both dereliction of duty and command responsibility to pin responsibility on public servants and political and non political actors who are culpable for fanning both hatred and the outbreak of violence.
While the Bill seeks to prevent all forms of violence against victims of majotaitarian politics, linguistic and religious minorities and India’s Dalits and Adivasis are sought to be protected under the proposed law. These are the most disadvantaged sections of Indias, weak against an entrenched and feudal caste and community driven politics that has led to the legitimization of political forces who espouse exclusivism and hate. The many incidents of violence targeting religious minorities in the past three decades – e.g., Nellie, Assam (1983), Delhi (1984), Kashmir(1989), Bhagalpur (1989), Mumbai (1992-93), Gujarat (2002) and Kandhamal,Orissa (2008) – as well as the failure of the police and justice systems to punish the guilty show the need for such a law to ensure accountability, due process, reparation, and protection of these peoples’ human rights.  
           SAY NO to Violence, YES to Justice and Peace
           Ensure an End to Impunity,
           Ensure Accountability from Public Servants
Support the Justice for All Campaign
Supported by: Justice P.B Sawant (retired) Supreme Court of India, Justice Hosbet Suresh (retired) Bombay High Court, Justice S.H.A Raza (retired) Lucknow Bench, Allahabad High Court & Lokayukta, Uttarakhand, Justice Michael Saldanha (retired) Karnataka High Court, Justice Fakhruddin (retired) High Court, MP & Chattisgarh, Justice B.G Kolse Patil (resigned) Bombay High Court
*[Article 14 (The Constitution Of India): Equality before law: The State shall not deny  to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
Article 15: Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth
(1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them (4) Nothing in this article or in clause ( 2 ) of Article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes
Article 21:  Protection of life and personal liberty No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.]

Monday, October 28, 2013

Worlds apart in a divided city Darshan Desai The Hindu October 28 2013

ACROSS THE ROAD: In contrast to their Hindu neighbourhoods, an increasing number of Muslim ghettos are stories that portray grave neglect and discrimination. Photo: Rajvi Desai

  • The HinduACROSS THE ROAD: In contrast to their Hindu neighbourhoods, an increasing number of Muslim ghettos are stories that portray grave neglect and discrimination. Photo: Rajvi DesaiACROSS THE ROAD: In contrast to their Hindu neighbourhoods, an increasing number of Muslim ghettos are stories that portray grave neglect and discrimination. Photo: Rajvi Desai
    ACROSS THE ROAD: In contrast to their Hindu neighbourhoods, an increasing number of Muslim ghettos are stories that portray grave neglect and discrimination. Photo: Rajvi Desai
    The HinduACROSS THE ROAD: In contrast to their Hindu neighbourhoods, an increasing number of Muslim ghettos are stories that portray grave neglect and discrimination. Photo: Rajvi Desa
  • ACROSS THE ROAD: In contrast to their Hindu neighbourhoods, an increasing number of Muslim ghettos are stories that portray grave neglect and discrimination. Photo: Rajvi Desai
    The HinduACROSS THE ROAD: In contrast to their Hindu neighbourhoods, an increasing number of Muslim ghettos are stories that portray grave neglect and discrimination. Photo: Rajvi Desai

Muslims, who used to live across Ahmedabad, are now increasingly flocking to ghettos, mostly along the city’s fringes

Sajid Row Houses in the Maqdoomnagar locality of eastern Ahmedabad’s Vatwa suburb is an unauthorised colony that has existed for nearly 15 years. And so does Dharmabhoomi Society, divided by a wall nearly 10 metres away. But the similarity ends there.
This is one of the very few mixed neighbourhoods left in communally divided Ahmedabad, with more ghettos coming up over the last decade. Muslims from many areas who used to be scattered across the city are now flocking together in ghettos like Vatwa, a disorganised, industrial suburb.
No isolated instance
And a staggering four lakh-plus of them from all walks of life have moved into Juhapura, considered to be the biggest Muslim ghetto in Asia. Before the 2002 communal riots, Juhapura had an estimated 2.5 lakh people.
Most ghettos have come up on the fringes of the city, away from the Hindu mainstream and lacking in basic amenities.
Sajid Row Houses, that has 150 houses, and Qutb-e-alamnagar with around 500 — in Maqdoomnagar — present a picture of filth, slush and puddles of dirty water. They swarm with flies and mosquitoes. There are no sewerage lines. A foul smell permeates the air. There is no water supply, and whatever is drawn is not always potable. The garbage van from the Bharatiya Janata Party-controlled Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) is erratic.
In contrast, if you are perched on the top floor of any house in the Sajid Row Houses and look over the wall on the other side, Dharmabhoomi Society looks quite different. It has almost all the facilities that this neighbourhood lacks.
This is not an isolated instance, and is the same story in other places too. “What more can explain the reality than the fact that ours is a Muslim colony and theirs is not?” quips Subedar Shaikh, a retired railway employee living in Sajid Row Houses.
They came to live here in 1998, “but out of the blue the AMC declared this reserved land for public purposes in 2004, and so our colony has now become unauthorised,” he says. The AMC would not even include the society under its impact fee scheme that envisages regularising unauthorised constructions for a fee, points out Shabbir Shaikh.
“We are ready with all legal procedures completed but they would just not listen to us.”
Wasim Ansari, a local BJP leader for the last 15 years, counters this. “This problem is not restricted to Maqdoomnagar. It exists in all illegal Muslim colonies in Ahmedabad because of the nexus between the Muslim builder mafia and Congress councillors.
“They set up illegal societies without providing any facilities and later leave the residents to fend for themselves. Look at the Hindu builders and the colonies they build. They are so well laid-out with all facilities. It is not right to blame the ruling party and give a communal angle to this,” he argues.
What Mr. Ansari says, however, is only the partial truth, what with illegal constructions having proliferated across the city over the years irrespective of which community built them. Senior Congress leader J.V. Momin points out: “By the AMC’s own admission, there are as many as five lakh unauthorised constructions in Ahmedabad alone and most are in so-called posh Hindu areas. Regularising many of them is easier than doing so with those in Muslim areas.”
“Illegal buildings cannot come up overnight without the connivance of officials and rulers of the AMC. What were they doing? And now this discrimination,” he says.
Come to Alifnagar in Vatwa, where people veritably live in the middle of garbage, slush and potholes full of turbid water.
“Forget gutter lines, water supply or garbage clearance. The AMC does not even conduct any fumigation in the area,” says Afsana Bano, who runs a small shop here. You need to perform some acrobatics to avoid stepping on the dirt to reach her shop. With no support from either the AMC or the small-time builder who set up the colony, people in the 54 houses in Nazar Park recently pooled small sums of money to lay an illegal drainage line.
Neglect & development
Cut to Juhapura on the western tip of Ahmedabad, which throws up not only all the woes that the smaller ghettos like Vatwa and others face, but also a worrying reality. This is that, if you are a Muslim in Gujarat you have no option but to head for a ghetto, irrespective of your economic and professional status.
This explains the emergence of two Juhapuras in the area. One that has economically well-off professionals living in plush apartment buildings and bungalows, not by choice but by force — for nobody would give them a house in Ahmedabad’s mainstream upmarket Hindu areas.
Tucked away behind these buildings on the main road that leads to a highway towards the Saurashtra region is the other Juhapura, where every colony resembles a huge slum. The civic infrastructure here — or the lack of it — has remained the same through the years, while the population has doubled because of an influx of riot victims and those scattered in other parts of the city.
The contrast between Muslim Juhapura and Hindu Vejalpur, neighbourhoods on either side of a road that is popularly known as Border, is as striking as it is between Sajid Row Houses and Dharmabhoomi Society in Vatwa. One is a story of neglect, another is one of development — split by just a road.

Minority Mantra Weekly Column Rashtriya Sahara October 25, 2013

Minority Mantra
By Teesta Setalvad

It is the voter that is the ultimate arbiter and it will be the politically shrewd and savvy north-Indian voter of Uttar and Bihar Pradesh that will unequivocally decide the nation’s future in 2014. Unlike the two party options available in western India, the north has, post the BJP-driven bloody politics of the 1990s carved itself viable options that allow discontent to be channelized elsewhere. One divide or laxman rekha that seems non-negotiable is the secular-communal divide, never mind the BJP’s Goebellian talent for anointing a lies, several times spoken, as their version of the truth.

Five thousand caps and burqas we are reliably informed went waste as none, or very few Muslims turned up for Modi darshan last Saturday. Kanpur where the rally was held has eight lakh Muslim votes. The BJP desperate and wily, in playing its double-games cannot escape the harsh questions that internet, television etc make difficult:- questions like
BJP and VHp what’s the rishta?
Ram Mandir yes or no? But Mandir apart what do Shah or Modi or Rajnath Singh or Jaitley have to say about the demolition of the Babri Masjid, an iiilegal and criminal act under Indian Law? Any answers? What about the party’s defiance of its own assurance to the Supreme Court?
In short does the BJP believe in the rule of law and the writ of the Constitution?

To win minority hearts and minds, a pamphlet is doing the rounds in UP that attempts to paint more Goebellian lies about Muslim safety, Muslim development and Muslim growth (not population!!) in Gujarat.

As a counter, here are some interesting facts:-

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) assessing the goals for poverty reduction in India among different sections of the population (February 2013) has analysed that the poverty head count for Muslims is  “very high in states of Assam, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Gujarat”. In these states, nearly 50 per cent of agricultural labourers and 40 per cent of other labourers are below the poverty line in rural areas where households with primary level and lower education have the higher poverty ratio.” This certainly does not absolve other parties especially the Congress, Communists but it does not show the BJP or Modi up well either.

More specifically, there are recent studies that are interesting.  Comparing the literacy rate of Gujarat’s Muslims which is at 73.5 per cent to Andhra Pradesh where it was 68 per cent, Kancha Iliah attributes to the fact that in Gujarat, Muslims study in Gujarati whereas in AP, education is divided into two languages. Telugu and Urdu. Hence while the basic literary level of Muslims was slightly better overall, in terms of each level of education Muslims in AP were doing much better. Up to primary school, in terms of school attendance, the community in both states were at the same level – 74.9 per cent in Gujarat and 74.7 per cent in AP. Those Muslims who made it to middle school in Gujarat constituted 45.3 per cent whereas in AP it was 52.6 per cent. Worse, as they move upto matriculation, only 26.1 per cent of the Gujarati Muslim population passed Std X whereas in AP, 40.6 per cent succeeded. The dropout rate in Gujarat was higher but most surprising was the fact that barely 5 per cent of Gujarat’s Muslims completed graduation whereas in AP the figure was higher at 9.6 per cent.

Gujarat surprisingly given other economic growth indicators emerges as a state with high levels of hunger while at the same time boasting of higher per capita income and consistent income stability. Gujarat’s hunger levels stand side by side with Orissa and Bihar, only Jharkand, Chhatisgarh and Madhya Pradesh having worse levels.

Abu Saleh Sharief evaluating comparative data from the NSSO and NCAER sets right the false propaganda put forward by the BJP related to Muslims, Sachar Committee and Gujarat. Poverty among urban Muslims is eight times i.e.800 per cent more than high caste Hindus, about 50 per cent more than Hindu OBCs and the SC/Sts. Over 60 per cent of Gujarat’s Muslims live in urban areas and they stand today as the most deprived social group in Gujarat. Rural poverty amongst Gujarat Muslims is 200 per cent more. While Muslims have bank accounts proportionate to the size of the population, the depth of institutionalised bias and prejudice is evident from the figures related to access to bank loans, microcredit. Poor financial inclusion is evident from the fact that of the total, barely 2.6 per cent loans dished out by banks are the beneficiaries Muslims. So much for equality, fair play and a level playing field. Muslims are also much more vulnerable to theft and burglary.

The most successful way to assess security and integration is through the quality of life for one and all, the depth of societal integration, mixed neighbourhoods and classrooms. The schools within urban Gujarat, especially in the majority dominated areas rarely allow admission to a child from this minority. Ghettoised existence has become a reality within large sections of urban Gujarat as the term ‘borders’ is used to define to segregation of neighbourhoods.
Pertinently, let’s ask, how many Muslims are part of Modi’s government, how many Muslim candidates did he field in 2012?  Modi has not a single Muslim Minister; in fact during his 12 year old term in office in Gujarat, he has never trusted a Muslim as a ministerial post. But then how could he? When he has never fielded a single Muslim candidate in the three elections in Gujarat that he has lorded over!!
Though 9.1. per cent Gujaratis are Muslim, they play no part in Modi’s government or state legislature party. It is arguable and debatable how many actually support him and his policies (this column will bring details on this one).
Today, as he desperately runs to keep in the race for 2014, a moot question to him would be, why not a law to prevent targeted communal violence? A law that punctures the culture of impunity for the perpetrators of hatred and violence ?
A law that helps victims and complainants access the law and ensure that the guilty are punished? A law that actually recognises the culpability of public servants and modifies the limiting provision under section 197 of ‘sanction’ that acts as a barrier against prosecuting public servants guilty of criminal acts? (Under the proposed law ‘deemed sanction’ will be given by a judicial authority if s state government does not act; in 2002, Modi as Gujarat’s home minister, despite the recommendations of senior police officers like his own ADGP Intelligence RB Sreekumar and SP Bhavnagar Rahul Sharma, refused to grant sanction for the criminal prosecution of the VHP/RSS pamphlets containing hate speech and the Sandesh newspaper for spreading hatred and venom and violating sections 153a and 153b of the IPC) ?
A law that recognises command responsibility of political, bureaucratic and non-state actors? Will Modi’s BJP support such a law? To ensure that no Muzaffarnagars, no Gujarats, no Bhiwandi’s, no Hashimpuras, no Dellhis (1984) ever happen?
So far he has not let on what he thinks of such a law when violence could be prevented and the guilty readily punished. So far he has said not a word on the violence perpetrated by BJP elected representatives in the four districts of Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Baghpat and Meerut. No prizes for guessing at the motives behind Modi’s mysterious silence.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Righting Institutional Bias 27.10.2013

Righting Institutional Bias
Teesta Setalvad
Six days into 2013, about a 1,000 kilometres away from the nation’s capital, in the faraway north Maharashtrian town of Dhule, a brutal police action, videographed in evidence, has documented the shameful killing of 6 innocent young Muslims, by men in uniform. Though these deaths amounted to crimes by protectors of the law, they have hardly registered on the nation’s psyche. Months before that, in September 2012, four Gujarat police officers had shot dead three Dalits, including a 17 year old, using AK 47s on the night of September 22-23 2012 at Thangadh in Surendranagar district, not far from Ahmedabad.  In early September 2013, perpetrated violence in four districts of Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Shamli and Meerut has, once again, documented even more crude cases of police complicity.
The script that was being played out in western UP, Dhule and Thangadh is a familiar re-run of what the country has witnessed since the late 1980s, when evidence of deviant conduct by men in uniform surfaced from several bouts of targeted violence countrywide (Nellie, Assam 1983- 3,000 Muslims massacred in Assam; Delhi 1984 – over 3,000 Sikhs systematically killed; Hashimpura, Uttar Pradesh 1987--51 Muslims shot dead by the PAC of Uttar Pradesh; Bhagalpur, Bihar, 1989 -- a massacre that left thousands dead and evidence buried below a hastily planted cauliflower field; Over 1,00,000 Kashmiri Pandits forcibly displaced from the Kashmir Valley; Bombay 1992-1993 – over 1,200 dead; Kandhmals, Orissa 2008 – nearly 100 Christians; Gujarat 2002 – over 2,000 Muslims massacred) courts and Judicial Commissions have strongly indicted India’s police for harbouring a distinct anti-minority bias, committing crimes through manifestation of this hatred and not being punished for it.  In Gujarat, the violence that lasted from February 27 to early May 2002 , saw institutional resistance to vile political diktats from about eleven districts and commissionerates where the police chiefs and administrative heads refused to bend to the criminal intent of their political superiors, and were made to pay for it.

If Article 14 and 21 gives every Indian the right to life and equality before the law, Article 15(1) of the Constitution guarantees that “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them”. If, as repeated bouts of targeted and communal violence in the country have shown, regardless of who casts the first stone, the logic of identity driven majoritarian institutional functioning is, that the minority (linguistic or religious, Dalit, or Adivasi) suffers most in terms of loss of life, livelihood and property, should there not be legal measures to remedy this? Laws to protect women have been termed discriminatory and anti-family by many who would prefer women not complain about violence and abuse. Opposition to the  1989Atrocities law that seeks to prosecute crimes driven by a deep caste ridden mindset is no less widespread though muted.
A candid look at the trajectory of communal and targeted violence in the country will lead us to several reports of judicial commissions of enquiry appointed by different state governments in response to major communal carnages – Jagmohan Reddy Commission (Ahmedabad, 1969), D.P. Madon Commission (Bhiwandi, Jalgaon and Mahad, 1970), Joseph Vithayathil Commission (Tellicherry, 1971), Venugopal Commission (Kanyakumari, 1982), Jitendra Narain Commission (Jamshedpur, 1979), the
B.N. Srikrishna Commission (Mumbai, 1992-93), reveal two common threads that run through all these reports: one, the criminal role of Hindutva organisations in masterminding the violence; two, the partisan, anti-minority (Muslim, Christian, Sikh) conduct of the police. Just two examples: “Here was not only a failure of intelligence and culpable failure to suppress the outbreak of violence but (also) deliberate attempts to suppress the truth from the Commission, especially the active participation in the riots of some RSS and Jana Sangh leaders.“ -Justice Jagmohan Reddy Commission on the Hindu-Muslim Ahmedabad riots, 1969 “The RSS sets itself up as the champion of what it considers to be the rights of Hindus against minorities. It has taken upon itself to teach the minorities their place and if they are not willing to learn their place to teach them a lesson.”Justice Venugopal Commission on the HinduChristian Tellicherry riots of 1971. An obvious exception to the above was the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in Delhi. It was spearheaded by Congress leaders where, as always, the police either remained passive and indifferent or sided with the murderous mobs.
Institutional correction that should follow such institutional acknowledgement of a deep-rooted bias within police functioning has been absent. Such correction is only possible if the malaise is first widely recognized, and that too with some candour and detatchment.
Which is not to argue that none from the minority be he or she a Muslim, Sikh, Bihari, Christian, Dalit or Tamilian are incapable of the first act of violence. They are. When such acts take place, however as they have done, in Malegaon and Mallapuram among others, the police and administration have acted swiftly and firmly. When minorities, linguistic or religious, Adivasis or Dalits, have been the specific target, however, the functioning of the police and administration, has been observed to have turned partisan bending towards the numerically and otherwise, more powerful. The loss of lives, livelihood and properties of these sections is therefore invariably and proportionately much greater. It is a recognition of this unbalanced and partisan functioning of institutions of governance that the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill 2011 seeks to acknowledge and remedy.
Why and how are policemen and administrators, as also elected representatives and non-state actors able to commit such crimes, again and again, with impunity ?  Because they live secure in the knowledge that the law will not act against them. Their superiors too sit pretty, never being held to count for the failure to protect the loss of lives , homes and businesses. The PCTV Bill has proposed therefore broadening the definition of dereliction of duty — which is already a crime — and, for the first time in India, added offences by public servants or other superiors for breach of command responsibility. “Where it is shown that continuous widespread or systematic unlawful activity has occurred,” the draft says, “it can be reasonably presumed that the superior in command of the public servant whose duty it was to prevent the commission of communal and targeted violence, failed to exercise supervision … and shall be guilty of the offence of breach of command responsibility.” With 10 years imprisonment prescribed for this offence, superiors will hopefully be deterred from allowing a Delhi 1984 or Gujarat 2002 to happen on their watch. It is draft that proposes accountability of the most profound kind from a public servant.
Section 197 of the CrPC is a provision of law, bestowed by the British, through which errant governments have refused to give sanction to prosecute offenders. Leave aside the public servant, absence of sanction has prevented a Thackeray, Togadia and Modi, equally, from being hauled to court in a private complaint under sections 153a, 153b, 505 of the Indian Penal Code and 295 of the CrPC for spewing hatred and venom. The proposed law removes the barrier of sanction when officials officials are to be charged with offences which broadly fall under the category of dereliction of duty. For other offences, sanction to prosecute is required to be given or denied within 30 days, failing which it is deemed to have been given. Reparation and compensation for loss, not limited to “majority” or “minority” has been standardised and related to a rational scheme related to the cost price index, not left to the whims of a particular government.
It is no wonder then that such a proposed law that recognises the corrosive ill of majoritarian, communal and caste bias has generated more heat than reason. The most hysterical criticism has come from outfits that have benefitted politically from fuelling a majoriatrian and supremacist bias, often being perpetrators and agent provocateurs of violence themselves. Representatives of these outfits have gone to the extent of imposing brute will on police stations when officers of the law have tried to constrain them during bouts of communal conflict. The Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and BJP are equally guilty of attempting to bully local police stations to paralysis and inaction at such times. It is the same bullying tactics that is precluding any rational discussion on a long overdue measure that signifies mature institutional correction of anti-minority bias and partisan administrative and police functioning. Fortunately this time round, other political players like the Left, the JD(U), the National Conference and the Samajwadi Party have greeted the tabling of the Bill with cautious enthusiasm.
Finally another caveat. A Bill, once it gets tabled, always goes to a Standing Committee, before and after which amendments can and will be tabled, shaping and re-shaping the draft. The RTI of 2005 went into over 180 amendments after coming in draft form to Parliament. This will and must happen with the PCTVB also. Once it is tabled in the Rajya Sabha however, regardless of the shape and colour of the next Parliament, it will be a step on the verge of being taken. No wonder than it is the very forces that have been the political beneficiaries of communal violence that are preventing Indian lawmakers from taking this quantum leap.
(The  writer is an activist, educationist and journalist who was associated with the drafting of the Bill)