Centre must debate possibility of anti-racial law, says panel

The Centre should debate on the possibility of bringing an anti-racial law in the long run to deal with assault on people from the North East in metros, according to a committee set up to look into their concerns.

New Delhi: The Centre should debate on the possibility of bringing an anti-racial law in the long run to deal with assault on people from the North East in metros, according to a committee set up to look into their concerns.

The committee headed by retired bureaucrat M P Bezbaruah, which was set up be the Home Ministry after the death of Nido Tania, a student from Arunachal Pradesh in January in the Capital, said in the short term either a new law should be promulgated or IPC should be amended making the offence cognizable and non-bailable.

"We felt that within the broad framework of our Constitution the legal, strategic and philosophical aspects of the demand of an anti-racial law should be debated and in the long run a suitable decision should be taken," the committee said in its report.

It, however, said since the issues related to anti-racial law were very wide and needed "very detailed examination" and the committee did "not have the expertise nor time to go in depth", it did not come out with a firm view.

However, it said: "We are of the firm opinion that government should ensure that any crime of racial nature is viewed very seriously. Recognition of the problems of racial discrimination in all its dimensions should be an essential part of the political discourse in a democratic system like India."

In order to address the immediate concerns over rising instances of attack on people from the region in metros, specially in Delhi, the report said either a new law should be promulgated as directed by the Delhi High Court in February or the IPC should be amended "in that order of preference".

The Delhi High Court had stated that the Centre should

give thought to the possibility of bringing a legislation for preventing natives of a state from harassing in any manner migrants from any other Indian states or from indulging in hate crimes against them.

"Whatever legislation is decided upon," the report said should make such offence cognisable and non-bailable and the investigation of the FIR should be completed compulsorily in 60 days by a special squad, investigated by a police officer not below the rank of Deputy SP/ACP.

"A special prosecutor should be appointed to handle all such cases and the trial should be completed in 90 days," it added.

Calling for fast track courts for handling of cases relating to the North East people, particularly those which are racially motivated and crimes against women and children from the region, the report said: "It has also been felt that justice to be effective needs to be dispensed promptly. A few cases settled quickly with deterrent punishment would go a long way in preventing recurrence in such incidents."

It further said: "We also feel that having designated courts would give some urgency and importance to the matter and may be appropriately considered."

The committee also recommended that in the next review of NCERT books, initiatives should be devised to integrate each aspect of the North East into the consciousness of the people outside and not just put in a few instances of North East history or a few North East heroes in the text books.

It also said creation of a special squad supervised by North East Special Police Unit would go a long way in the speedy justice in criminal cases. The squad may be manned by the police specially selected for such purpose and could be specially sensitised about the problems of the North East people.

On the need for sensitising Army personnel, the report said: "The North East has very strong presence of Army and Central Armed police forces. They come into contact with locals and when they are dispersed carry their impressions with them. Unfortunately, use of army for civil assistance for long periods in the region and the use of the much-criticised Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which was argued before us as discriminatory - have often created a hiatus between local population and the armed forces.

"It is therefore essential also to sensitise the armed forces personnel. MHA in consultation with ministry of defence should work out modalities for such sensitisation."

While highlighting cultural exchange programmes as a means of bringing the people of North East and others closer, the committee also said tourism promotion must also be used as a means of creating awareness and understanding.

For the people of North East, the committee recommended that people from the region must also be educated and sensitised before and after arrival in metros about ways of living and adjust to the culture they have to live and work.

They must also make a greater effort for interaction with the local communities in which they live and facilitate two-way interactions for a healthy living atmosphere.

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