Centre, Delhi govt failed to act responsibly to contain Delhi riots, says report

The Citizens Committee, chaired by former SC judge Justice Madan B. Lokur, said in its report that the Union Home Ministry failed to take effective steps to stem the spread of the communal violence

Representative (DW Photo)
Representative (DW Photo)

NH Political Bureau

A Citizens Committee comprising former Supreme Court and High Court judges and a former Union Home Secretary has released a report which indicts the news media, the social media, the BJP and other Hindu nationalist leaders, the Delhi Police, and both the Centre as well as the Delhi government either for their role in fomenting the North East Delhi riots of February 2020, or not doing enough to quell them. 

The report, titled ‘Uncertain Justice: A Citizens Committee Report on the North East Delhi Violence 2020’, has been authored by Justice Madan B. Lokur, former Supreme Court judge; Justice A.P. Shah, former Chief Justice of the Madras and Delhi High Courts and former Chairman, Law Commission of India; Justice R.S. Sodhi, former Delhi High Court judge; Justice Anjana Prakash, former Patna High Court judge; and G.K. Pillai, retired Indian Administrative Service officer and former Home Secretary of the Union government. Justice Lokur chaired the committee. 

Here are some key takeaways from the 170-page report:  

  • The microcosm of an engineered anti-Muslim narrative leading to the violence signals the growing fusion of hate messaging in public discourse with the actual incidence of violence. There seems to be a deafening lack of institutional will to act against hateful content.  

  • A section of the media played a key role in propagating hateful narrative…the need to regulate deeply harmful content on social media while retaining the free space it offers is one of the most urgent challenges of our times.    

  • The clearing of anti-CAA sit-in protest in North Delhi cannot be overlooked an isolated instance. The use of the violence to silence the protesters and the use of UAPA in the subsequent investigation has cast a chilling effect on the act of protesting itself. Such action poses serious threat to the health of our democracy.   

The report accuses the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Delhi Police and the AAP-led Delhi government for “glaring failures of constitutional duties” during the communal riots which left scores dead and many injured.   

It blames the Central government for a delayed response and the Delhi government for failing in "civic mediation and statesmanship".

It held the Delhi Police responsible for “failing to take punitive measures against hate speeches made by political leaders”.  

Noting that the hate speeches made by certain BJP leaders led to the communal clashes, the report says, “The response of the Government of India, namely the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), was wholly inadequate. Despite having command over both the Delhi Police and the central paramilitary forces, the MHA failed to take effective steps to stem the spread of communal violence.”   

On the Delhi government’s role, the report noted that it did “precious little” during this time to “mediate between the communities, even with the sharp warning signs in the lead up to February 23”.   

“The committee feels that it failed to exert the role of civic mediation and statesmanship to calm the situation. Further, the Delhi government has failed to ensure timely and adequate relief and compensation to those affected by the violence. Approval of compensation by the government and the Claims Commission is riddled with delay,” reads the report.   

On the role played by the Delhi Police, the report said, “Repeated assurances on February 24 and 25 by the police top brass and government officials that the situation was under control did not match the visibility of violence on the ground.”  

Demanding a commission of inquiry “to establish the factors that led to the violence and issues of accountability and reparations in its aftermath”, the report also highlighted the role of social media during the riots.   

“The decisive time of February 23, 2020, running into February 24, witnessed a frenzied and wide use of social media…The content of Facebook Live videos over these two days, broadcast by political leaders affiliated with the BJP and Hindu right-wing extremist groups, reveals more of the divisive Hindu-Muslim narratives, with much content amounting to hate speech and violent content,” says the report.  

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Published: 08 Oct 2022, 7:13 PM