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Bhatkal probe panel for common civil code

Staff Reporter

Kedambady Jagannatha Shetty Commission of Inquiry says policemen were ineffective in controlling violence


  • Committee recommends punitive tax to deter people from indulging in violence and arson
  • Calls for introduction of moral and cultural education
  • Says ISI was secretly operating through its agents in Bhatkal
  • Panel absolves BJP, RSS, VHP of violence charges
  • In many cases `C' report was filed indicating that there was no proper investigation

    BANGALORE: Communalism in India cannot be eradicated unless a uniform civil code is enacted and effectively enforced. This is one of the remedial measures suggested by the Kedambady Jagannatha Shetty Commission of Inquiry, which probed the violence, arson and looting in Bhatkal in 1993, which claimed 17 lives and left nearly 100 people injured.

    Pointing out that Indian society is heterogeneous it has said all sections can live peacefully if there is common social norm and laws aimed at fostering national unity. The price of living in a secular country like India would be the acceptance of a common system of the law.

    Laws

    It has said that members of the Hindu, Muslim, Christian and other communities follow their own personal law in family matters, and that has encouraged separatist tendencies, leading to friction and communal disharmony.

    The committee has termed as "unfortunate," the failure of the state to enact a common civil code even after several decades. Apart from a common code, it has suggested measures such as controlling smuggling of arms and ammunition, and formation of a coordination committee comprising police, Customs, CBI, SSB and the Enforcement Directorate to weed out this evil.

    It has recommended punitive tax to deter people from indulging in violence and arson. Such a tax would help compensate the victims of the violence and also make people think twice before indulging in violence. It has called for a reorientation of the education system and the introduction of moral and cultural education.

    Police response

    The committee has said frequent and "unwarranted" transfer of officials in Uttara Kannada district, lack of response of police and its failure to act effectively to clamp down on the violence, its lax response during imposition of curfew, the role the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the area and smuggling of arms and ammunition, the lack of land reforms and a host of other reasons had triggered the long periods of violence in Bhatkal.

    Though it has been nearly 10 years since the report was submitted, it has not been made public. This newspaper first published a report of the commission in 1997. Since then, the report has neither been published nor have its recommendations been accepted. The three-volume report runs into more than 700 pages.

    In its chapter entitled "Communal history of Bhatkal," the commission has said communal clashes were taking place in Bhatkal from 1978 to 1991. The rath yatra (procession) during Rama Navami on April 1, 1993 taken out from the Maruthi Temple was stoned and that this was the beginning of almost nine months of mayhem and violence. The commission has said there were at least five distinct phases of violence.

    ISI role

    The Commission, citing witnesses, has said it established that the ISI was secretly operating through its agents in Bhatkal, causing disturbances.

    The commission, citing police and administration witnesses, has said that members of Lions Team, who were from the Muslim community, were involved in the violence and they were classified as fundamentalists.

    The commission has dismissed the allegation that the Bharatiya Janata Party was responsible for the violence. It has said that this aspect is not proved. It has also absolved the Hindu Jagrana Vedike (HJV) of any role in the violence. However, it has admitted that vedike activists made some provocative speeches.

    On the role of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, it has said that there was no proof to show that the Sangh had indulged in violence. It has said that there is no satisfactory or credible evidence on the role of the Vishwa Hindu Parishat in the attacks.

    Lapses

    In the chapter on "Lapses and inaction of the police," the Commission has taken the police to task for their inaction in not conducting a proper search to seize the weapons that were used during the violence. In many incidents of clashes between the two communities, the police remained mute spectators, it has said.

    The commission has said that from the evidence of the witnesses it has examined, it is clearly established that the inaction on the part of the police and their failure to contain and prevent communal clashes had led to continued and unabated violence in Bhatkal.

    The commission has quoted the then Superintendent of Police of Uttara Kannada, R.P. Sharma, as saying that he had recovered arms and ammunition from the area.

    It has said there was no proper investigation by the police. In many cases, "C" report was filed, indicating that there was no proper investigation.

    Some of the other remedies suggested are better educational opportunities for the youth and the setting up of special courts for dealing with riot cases, formation of a community relations council to monitor, analyse, report all events and incidents that are likely to affect communal harmony.

    It has said that Bhatkal town has to be declared a trouble-prone area. The city requires prompt action at all levels of the administration to prevent communal tensions.

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