Congress in spot over Punjab’s sacrilege Bills, no firm view

New Delhi, September 5: As public criticism of Punjab Government’s anti-sacrilege Bills mounts, the Congress is finding itself in a spot.

Senior party leader Manish Tewari told The Tribune that blasphemy laws had taken their own course across the world and this course had not been very encouraging.

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“This was best demonstrated by the 2011 murder of Salman Taseer, the Governor of Pakistan Punjab. So there are issues (around the Bills),” Tewari said a day after 34 former civil servants challenged the necessity of two Bills the Congress-led government piloted and the state Assembly recently passed.

The Bills seek to make desecration of religion texts a major offence punishable with life imprisonment.

The Congress, it is learnt, is yet to take a formal view on the IPC (Punjab Amendment) Bill-2018 and the CrPC (Punjab Amendment) Bill-2018 passed on August 28. The party will debate the issue soon as Congress chief Rahul Gandhi returns from the Kailash Mansarovar yatra.

“We will have to work out an extremely calibrated response going forward,” another Congress leader privately said, acknowledging they won’t pass muster in the courts of law, especially on counts of definition of sacrilege and the choice of  texts sought to be protected.

“On what grounds can you resolve that the Bhagwad Gita deserves to be respected more than the Vedas do?”

Officially the Congress was tightlipped on the Bills with Manish Tewari refusing an elaborate comment a day after several senior former bureaucrats reminding the Congress of its “chequered history of occasionally fishing in communal waters for short-term political ends”.

The Bills also have the potential to derail the narrative the Congress is seeking to establish of “the 2019 battle being between fascism represented by BJP and democracy represented by pluralistic, liberal, secular forces”.

Source Tribune India

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