The Constitutional Conduct Group, a group of former civil servants belonging to the All India and Central Services, on Sunday announced the formation of a “citizens committee” on the Delhi violence in February. The committee will be called the Citizens Committee on the Delhi Riots, February 2020: Context, Events and Aftermath.
“Considering the horrific nature of the riots in North East Delhi in February 2020, the scale of violence, the loss of lives and the resulting communal divide between communities, we felt that an expert body should carry out a thorough examination of what transpired before, during and after the riots,” the Constitutional Conduct Group said in a statement. “This has become even more necessary as the investigation carried out into the riots by the Delhi Police has evoked extensive critical commentary in recent times.”
The group said there was a need for an “objective and fair” understanding of the riots and their aftermath. It said it has invited judges and former civil servants to be members of this committee. The invitees include former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan Lokur, former Chief Justice of the Madras High Court and Delhi High Court Justice AP Shah, former Delhi High Court judge RS Sodhi, former Patna High Court judge Anjana Prakash, former Union Home Secretary GK Pillai, and former Bureau of Police Research and Development Director General Meeran Chadha Borwankar.
“This committee’s task is to create a contemporary record of acts of omission and commission around the riots, and their aftermath,” the Constitutional Conduct Group said. “The Committee is free to formulate its own procedure. It will submit a final report twelve weeks after it starts functioning.”
The group said the committee will investigate the events that transpired before and during the riots, including the response of the state machinery in dealing with the violence. It will assess the response of the police force to the violence. It will examine the role of mainstream and social media in spreading real or fake news before, during and after the violence, and assess the civic administration’s efforts at providing relief and extending reparations to the victims.
The violence and its aftermath
The violence in Delhi between February 23 and 26, set off by clashes between supporters and opponents of the Citizenship Amendment Act, took the lives of 53 people and wounded hundreds.
The police claim that the violence was part of a larger conspiracy to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and was hatched by those who organised the protests against the amended Citizenship Act. They further claimed the protestors had secessionist motives and were using “the facade of civil disobedience” to destabilise the government. The police have arrested several activists and students based on these “conspiracy” charges. But the police have been accused of either inaction or complicity in some instances of violence.
The police have named 15 people as accused in a 17,000-page-long chargesheet. All accused have been charged under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Indian Penal Code and the Arms Act.