SABRANG EXHIBITION                                                                                                                                                                                         PANELS




Darkness Falls Bombay 1992-1993

Within hours of the demolition of the Babri Masjis at Faizabad-Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 – an image we saw only on BBC and Doordarshan – victory processions and temple bell ringing (ghantanaad ) ceremonies by the Shiv-Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine in Dharavi,  Pydhonie,  Kalbadevi on Sunday afternoon and evening itself proved enough humiliation and provocation to a minority, alienated by the failure of the Indian state to protect a 400 year-old Mosque. Some Muslim organisations also organised protests. The motivated campaign for the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya had never been just about that; it had successfully unleashed a hitherto curbed hatred of the “Muslim other”, now blamed and victimised for historical wrongs and in a medieval and macabre dance of revenge, was being made to pay.

The next morning angry and defiant protesters broke, destroyed and burnt buses and other symbols of authority as a trigger happy police, especially in Mohemadali Road and around, shot to kill. Journalists and photographers were attacked. Casualties of over 220 were reported in the first 72 hours and by December 10, 1992 when Muslim bastis near Macchimarnagar in Mahim were set ablaze, Bombay well and truly burned. In some sections of the city like Nirmalnagar, Deonar, Nagpada and Byculla, acts of aggression by the Muslims were also clearly visible.

In brazen attempts to twist facts, the BJP and SS kept trying to blame “illegal Bangladeshi immigrants for the outrbreak of the violence. An uneasy calm over the last two weeks of December 1992 was but the proverbial calm before a storm, well orchestrated and planned. The BJP-SS official announcement of a politically motivated  Mahaarti  programme in the third week of December, strangely permitted by the police and government, saw the stage being set for provocations and attacks on Muslim life and property across the length and breadth of the city. Fleeing Muslims were trapped and burnt alive in a Maruti at Antop Hill days before the notorious Radha Bai Chawl incident (January 8,1993) which however became the trigger for Bal Thackeray and his men to unleash unspeakable horrors on different neighbourhoods, aided by a “friendly” police and a compliant Congress-NCP led administration. Stabbings of  innocent Hindus and a Mathadi worker also in the last week of December and early January kept the communal cauldron boiling.

The cosmopolitan toleration myth of Bombay lay shattered. Two decades down, it is time to ask, how have we rebuilt our lives?