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Myths shattered

The Maharashtra government’s ‘Memo-randum of Action to be Taken (ATR) by government’ in response to the report of the Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry, reiterates the familiar Hindutvawaadi version of the factors responsible for the riots:

 “Mumbai is the economic and commercial capital of the country and hence inimical forces were at work, both inside (read Muslims) and outside (read Pakistan’s ISI) the country, had planned to destroy the economic base of the country by fomenting trouble (December 1992 and January 1993 riots). This line of reasoning is amply borne out by the subsequent events of March 1993”.  (Pg. 243,  para25)

“Anti–national Muslim forces, within and outside the country, instigated these communal riots, continued them for a long period and carried out serial bomb blasts on March 12, 1993”. (Pg.242, para 18)

“A series of stabbings (in January 1993) and these two incidents (the killing of Mathadi workers on January and the burning to death of a Hindu family in Radhabai Chawl in Jogeshwari on January 8, 1993) worried the Hindus about their future and a spontaneous reaction for self–protection followed.” (Pg. 242, para20)

The ATR has been submitted by a government led by a party several of whose top leaders — including the party chief, Bal Thackeray and Chief Minister, Manohar Joshi — and a large number of whose workers have been indicted for their role in the violence. It is hardly surprising then that the ATR engages in a perversion of discourse that is typical of the Shiv Sena — no evidence to substantiate the prevarications. In keeping with this party’s utter contempt and disregard for constitutional authority and the judiciary, there is not even a token attempt to deal with the series of serious cases and instances enumerated in the report. Instead of applying itself to the issue by issue findings of the Judge, the ATR merely reiterates the series of generalisations that the Shiv Sena and Hindutva combine always use to cloud their criminal acts, generalisations for which neither the party nor the state could offer any worthwhile evidence before the Commission of Inquiry.

The ISI bogey

A significant contribution of the Justice Srikrishna Commission report is that it debunks the unsubstantiated theory peddled by the Sena–BJP–RSS combine — and conveniently accepted by the then Congress government and the administration — that the Mumbai riots in December 1992–January 1993 and the serial bomb blasts in March 1993 were part of a common design and were the result of a Pakistan–inspired ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) conspiracy to de–stabilise India.

This argument has been used repeatedly to justify acts of venom and violence unleashed by Sena leaders and their cadres on sections of Bombay’s minorities on the ground that they were carried out in self–defence and were “retaliatory” in character. Soon after the violence of December 1992–January 1993, Gopinath Munde, then leader of the Opposition in the state assembly, and presently the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra (BJP) had alleged that it was the areas infested by the ‘infiltrators’ from Bangladesh and Pakistan (read Muslim–dominated areas) that had provoked the violence in Mumbai. This theory has been conclusively exposed as malicious by the Commission of Inquiry since no witness, including the Shiv Sena Member of Parliament, Madhukar Sarpotdar, was able to provide any evidence to substantiate this spurious version. (Pg. 165, para 21.42). As to how widely prevalent this theory was is evident from the fact that even the then Governor of Maharashtra, C. Subramanium, had made an entirely unsubstantiated statement alleging a foreign hand behind the riots. (Pg. 220, para 1.21 & Pg.222, para 2.13).

In Chapter VI, Volume 1 of the report that deals with this issue, Justice Srikrishna has concluded that a causative link is in evidence between the two riots and the bomb blasts: “Tiger Memon, the key figure in the serial bomb blasts case, and his family had suffered extensively during the riots and therefore can be said to have deep–rooted motives for revenge. It would appear that one of his trusted accomplices, Javed Dawood Tailor alias Javed Chikna, had also suffered a bullet injury during the riots and therefore he also had a motive for revenge”.

The Judge adds: “Apart from these two specific cases, there was a large, amorphous body of angry, frustrated and desperate Muslims keen to seek revenge for the perceived injustice done to and atrocities perpetrated on them or to others of their community and it is this sense of revenge which spawned the conspiracy of the serial bomb blasts. This body of angry, frustrated and desperate Muslims provided the material upon which the anti–national and criminal elements succeeded in building up their conspiracy for the serial bomb blasts.” (Pg. 45, Term No.VII, para iii).

After the terms of reference of the Srikrishna Commission were expanded to investigate the “common design” between the riots of 1992–1993 and the serial bomb blasts of 1993, the Commission by an order dated January 22, 1997 directed the government of Maharashtra to disclose the material available before it in this context. By an affidavit of the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) dated February 5, 1997, the Commission was informed that all the material in the possession of the government on this issue had already been disclosed in the affidavits of former Mumbai Police Commissioner, Amarjit Singh Samra, former Additional Commi-ssioner, Mumbai, Vasant Narsingrao Deshmukh, head of investigators, CBI, Mahesh Narain Singh, former Mumbai Police Commissioner, Satish Sahney and two other police officers.

The deposition of Srikant Bapat — Police Commissioner of Mumbai during the riots of December 1992–January 1993 who has been directly and indirectly implicated for his inability in firmly putting down the violence — has been systematically examined and dissected by the Judge, especially with relation to his reluctance both in his affidavit and in court to dub the Shiv Sena as a communal organisation. This officer was also specifically examined by the Commission  on the issue of an ISI hand in the two riots. According to his affidavit on oath, the ISI was a factor that contributed to the violence.

However, while in the witness box, Bapat could give no evidence to show that the disturbances which took place on December 6, 1992 “was the result of a tactical plan executed by the ISI, nor was there any material to show that the ISI was responsible for the disturbances in January 1993. All that Bapat has been able to say, in the true fashion of a trained intelligence officer, is that the de–stabilising activities of the ISI were going on for quite some time, but there was no material elicited from the interrogation of the accused in the riot–related cases to establish a link between such cases and ISI agents or destabilisers.” (Pg. 197, para2.10).

In this context, the evidence of then Additional Commissioner, Mumbai, V.N. Deshmukh  bears mention. This officer gave a singularly courageous testimony that has not only exposed the Sena–BJP combine after it came to power but has candidly admitted to a growing anti–Muslim bias in the Mumbai police force. When examined by the Commission on the ISI and its role, Deshmukh stated that there was “no material to suggest that Pakistani elements were supplying arms and ammunition to Muslims in Bombay to engineer communal riots in December 1992 and January 1993, though a general intelligence input was given by the ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, that a band of commandos were likely to infiltrate into India to avenge the demolition of the Babri Masjid”. But,  Deshmukh, “had not come across any information from any of the police stations that they had been able to identify such commandos amongst the accused rounded up preventively or in substantive offences, nor had he come across material suggesting that any of the accused had been motivated by Pakistani elements”. (Pg. 200, para 4.2).

The Commission also issued a public notice in newspapers calling upon all members of the public to disclose on affidavit any information that they may have in connection with this term of reference. The only affidavit filed in response to this notice was one filed by Prabhakar V. Pradhan dated August 2,1995. No further evidence in support of this “common design” theory, repeatedly peddled by the Sena and its partners, was forwarded before the Commission. Neither the Sena, nor the police, nor any other section of government or the public has been able to convincingly substantiate this theory.

The Judge, while commenting on this affidavit says that the affidavit filed by Prabhakar V. Pradhan “appears to be based on rumours and does not really indicate any concrete material which would be of use to the Commission. All that he says is that he had casually bumped into someone who claimed that the serial bomb blasts were the handiwork of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of USA and not the outcome of revenge of Muslims because of the demolition of the Babri Masjid or the riots of December 1992–January 1993”.

“The Commission feels that the contents of the affidavit appear to be sheerly speculative.”(Pg. 43, Term No.VI, para–i).

No further evidence was led by the proponents of the Pakistan–ISI mega–conspiracy theory to substantiate it. The evidence of senior police officers doesn’t provide further insight. Neither the earlier Congress(I) government, nor the Shiv Sena either as a party or as the senior partner in government since March 1995, has been able to offer the Commission any proof of allegations of an ISI–inspired mega–conspiracy. Enough time was provided by the Commission to furnish any evidence that may have existed. The solitary affidavit submitted from advocate Prabhakar Pradhan has been debunked by Justice Srikrishna on the grounds that it is based on hearsay. Yet, in the ATR, the government reiterates the role of the ISI of Pakistan in instigating the riots and cites “increasing fundamentalism” as a cause of the riots. This is in keeping with the sustained policy of communal organisations to peddle theories that cannot be substantiated through either intelligence reports or other evidence. The Judge has clearly ruled against the state’s version of a conspiracy theory while remarking on the causative link  — embittered Muslims seeking revenge — between the December 1992 and January 1993 violence and the serial bomb blasts. The ATR twists this observation of the Commission to claim that the Judge has accepted the conspiracy theory and common design. (Pg.  247).

Who cast the first stone?

The importance of Justice Srikrishna’s report however, goes far beyond debunking the ISI–conspiracy theory. The report details how, nationwide and in Mumbai particularly, the Shiv Sena–RSS–BJP combine kept the atmosphere on the boil through provocative and incendiary speeches from July 1992 onwards in preparation for the demolition in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. Following these preparations, it was Hindus led by the Shiv Sena who first came out on the streets on December 6, 1992 to celebrate their “victory”. During the processions and celebrations, provocative and threatening anti–Muslim slogans were shouted. The Mumbai police allowed this to happen before, on and after December 6, 1992 unchecked.

This is the second element of consistent distortion, surrounding communal discourse in general and the Mumbai riots in particular that the report exposes. The report thoroughly  investigates, documents and thereafter passes judicial comment upon the manner in which communal  sentiments were kept on the boil by the BJP and its allies in the sangh parivar for six months prior to the demolition of the mosque at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.

At the national level, BJP leader L.K. Advani, and his rath yatra that left a trail of bloody riots in its wake all over India, is held responsible by the Judge for the divisive and polarised atmosphere. (Pg. 4, para 2.3).

Within Mumbai, it was the local leaders of the saffron combine who from July 1992 to December 1992, systematically held street and community–level meets whose sole aim was to spit venom and ire against the Muslim community while the ostensible campaign was the building of a Ram temple at Ayodhya. (Pg. 4, para 2.4). An indifferent government and an equally callous administration failed to act decisively to prevent these attempts at deliberate and systematic provocation.

In both Chapter I and Chapter II, Volume I of the report, the Judge elucidates how particularly from July 1992 onwards these obviously political campaigns were charged by slogans like, “Is desh me rahana hoga, to Vande Mataram bolna hoga”. Frequently, Ram Paduka proces-sions and Ghantanaad ceremonies (mobilisation rallies and victory celebrations) were used by Hindutvawaadi parties to polarise sections of the Hindu community on the issue. In both these sections, the report has also commented in some detail on the communal activities by Muslim organisations in response to the Ramjanmabhoomi movement that vitiated the atmosphere further. In this context the Student’s Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the Bombay Muslim Action Committee have been mentioned. ( Pg. 8, para 1.2–i).

V.N. Deshmukh’s evidence offers a senior police officer’s perspective on the communal tension that surrounded the kar seva. Deshmukh admitted that “from the day kar seva in Ayodhya was announced, though the police were expecting trouble, they had no idea as to the exact nature of the trouble. From July 1992 there was an undercurrent leading to communal tension on account of several activities being organised to propagate the rival views on the Babri Masjid–Ram Janmabhoomi dispute”. (Pg. 200, para 4.3). 

In several of the religious activities organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party  and Shiv Sena, even long before December 6, 1992, slogans like “Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain” and “Hindustan Hinduonka, nahi kisike baap ka”  were shouted and saffron and green flags were displayed prominently at different places. Deshmukh also stated that during this period of July to November 1992, “some of the speeches made by the leaders of Shiv Sena in public meetings which were well attended, particularly by young people, were abusive towards Muslims”. (Pg. 200, para 4.3).

This understanding of the motives and functioning of communal parties and organisations is particularly critical given the historical specificity and timing of the report. Not only does the party held responsible for igniting the communal cauldron nationwide head a coalition government at the Centre, the Union Home Minister, L.K. Advani, has been named as an agent provocateur by the Judge (Pg 4, para 2.3). Locally, units of the Sena, BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal do not escape the Judge’s censure. Sena chief, Bal Thackeray, and MP Madhukar Sarpotdar, apart from middle–rung Sena leaders stand similarly indicted.

The image of angry and violent Muslims inviting state wrath after December 6, 1992 has been fairly deeply ingrained in the psyche of a section of Mumbaiites. In the section that deals with the causes behind the two phases of riots, the report says that as far as the first phase in December is concerned, the immediate causes were, “the demolition of the Babri Masjid”, “the aggravation of Muslim sentiments by the Hindus with their celebration rallies” and, “the insensitive and harsh approach of the police while handling the protesting mobs which initially were not violent”. (Pg. 20, para 1.26)

But at 2.30 p.m. on December 6, 1992, the first communal incident that took place in Mumbai after the demolition of the mosque at Ayodhya was in Dharavi, where it was not angry Muslims but rampaging Shiv Sainiks led by Sena leaders Baburao Mane and Ramkrishna Keni who caused the first provocation. The local police allowed Shiv Sainiks to conduct a cycle rally of 200–300 persons. The rally passed through several communally–sensitive, Muslim–dominated areas in Dharavi and terminated at Kala Killa, where a meeting was held and addressed by the local activists of the Shiv Sena. Provocative speeches were made at this meeting. (Pgs. 7, 94 & 197)

Besides, Dharavi was kept simmering by the local wings of both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena through Ram Paduka Poojan Karyakrams and chowk sabhas between July and December 1992. Two Muslim organisations, the Tanzeem–Allah–o–Akbar and the Dalit–Muslim Suraksha Sangh, also organised meetings in the period of the run–up to the kar seva.

The speeches made by Hindutvawaadi speakers at one particular meeting held in Dharavi on October 18, 1992 have been held by the Judge to be “communally provocative in their militant exhortation to Hindus that they were insecure at the hands of outsiders (Muslims). The police appear to have condoned it on the ground that there was nothing objectionable in those speeches per se as no problem of law and order entailed”.

“A pamphlet was circulated in Tamil on October 12, 1992 in which it was emphasised that Muslims had an ancestry of invaders who had come to this country with the sole purpose of plundering it and expanding their religious interests. Neither the local police nor the SB–I, CID seems to have taken such things seriously”.  (Pg 92, para 10.5)

The ATR has dismissed the first communal incident that took place in Dharavi saying that “the said rally was not to celebrate the demolition of the Babri mosque but a pre–scheduled rally for construction of Ram temple” without addressing the findings in the report of the criminal actions undertaken during this rally. The fact that such mobilisations were used as occasions to spit venom and raise provocative slogans against the Muslim minority as documented by the report in the sections referred to above, in which the Shiv Sena, BJP, RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal actively participated, have escaped any comment by the state government. (Pg. 240)

A detailed reading of Volume II of the report reveals important instances about similarly provocative rallies, meets and processions held in various parts of Mumbai on December 6, 1992 by the saffron combine after the demolition at Ayodhya. Given the surcharged atmosphere, these were nothing short of provocative. The police administration and the state government committed a fatal error by failing to act decisively against the organisers even at this late stage.

To cite a few of these instances:

Byculla:  Between August and December 1992, constant programmes of Ram Paduka Poojans and Ghantanaad ceremonies were organised by the BJP and the VHP to focus attention of Hindus on the Ramjanma-bhoomi issue. (Pg. 67, para 5.33).

Dongri : Not just a communally sensitive area but also a part of south Mumbai, notorious for housing sections of the underworld. Dongri saw a Lalkar Ghantanaad Karyakaram organised by the VHP on December 6, 1992. Preceded by a chowk sabha organised by the VHP a day earlier. This “victory celebration” was also not dispersed by the Senior Inspector of Police. The reason he gave the Commission for his conduct was that it was a religious procession exempted from the order banning assembly and processions. (Pgs. 106–107).

Jogeshwari: A communally–sensitive zone in north Mumbai. The period between October to December 1992 saw hectic activities on the part of both communally–mobilised Hindus and Muslims, extolling their respective points of view on the Ramjanmabhoomi movement. Many activities like Ram Paduka processions and corner meetings, organised by the BJP, VHP and the Bajrang Dal, were held appealing to Hindus to participate in the kar seva at Ayodhya. A victory ghantanaad ceremony was also held here on December 6, 1992. (Pg. 125, para 14.4).

Pydhonie: A section of south Mumbai that has a strong element of the both Hindu communal parties and the Muslim League. Between July–December 1992, Hindutva-waadi parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena stepped up their campaign in support of the construction of a Ram temple at the spot where the Babri Masjid stood. Though the police maintained that the peace in the area was very fragile, it appeared to have moved no muscle to prevent such activities on the facile ground that these were harmless “religious activities”. In one such activitiy, organised on 23rd October 1992, a Shri Ram Paduka procession was taken out by the VHP. Dnyaneshwar Thorat of VHP and the local Shiv Sena Shakha Pramukh Hemant Koli and others accompanied the procession which wended its way through Muslim–dominated areas. At its termination a speech was given by one Praful Desai during the course of which he emphasised that the procession was not “a shobha yatra” but was intended to bring out the Ram which was concealed in the minds of the people and Ramdrohis should not be allowed to go alive. “No action appears to have been taken by the police in respect of the speech delivered by Praful Desai. There cannot be any doubt that the said speech was communally provocative, the implication being that people who obstructed the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya were Ramdrohis and, therefore, they should not be allowed to live. (Pg. 171, para 23.5).

The ATR is completely silent on this incident and similar  actions of certain sections that include the Shiv Sena, BJP, Bajrang Dal and VHP in leading provocative mobilisations prior to December 6, 1992 that contributed to a heightening of communal temper all over Mumbai.

“The police appear to be either naive, gullible or partisan in ignoring the dangerous implications of speeches of this kind. That this kind of propaganda was carried out from July to October 1992 is not in dispute. It is obvious that the atmosphere in the Pydhonie area became communally charged on account of the continuous barrage of propagandist processions, meetings, speeches and other activities of the Hindutvawaadi parties. This resulted in the atmosphere being so charged that it needed but a spark to ignite and explode”. (Pg.171–172, para 23.5).

R.A.K. Marg: In central Mumbai, this area that experienced brutal violence in both December 1992 and January 1993 had also been held to ransom by communally proactive elements led by the BJP and VHP. Right from July that year they held repeated Ram Paduka programmes, corner sabhas, cycle rallies. Even on December 6, 1992 a ghantanaad ceremony was held to celebrate the demolition of the mosque. (Pg. 177, para 24.7).

Myth of the Hindu backlash

The  third malicious element of commu-nal propaganda visible in Mumbai during the relevant period has been the theory of “a Hindu backlash in retaliation” in response to heinous acts against Hindus, like the burning alive of a family in a Jogeshwari slum (Radhabai Chawl incident) preceded by the murder of Mathadi workers (also see later sections). This theory of  “Hindu retaliation”, led by “Hinduhriday-samrat” Bal Thackeray, that gained wide sway and currency during and after the violence in Mumbai is rooted in Hindu communal discourse of yore. An examination of all judicial Commission reports in post–Independence India since the first major riot in Jabalpur in 1961, shows that the perverted discourse around “Who cast the first stone?” has been maliciously used by Hindu communal organisations — be it the RSS, Jana Sangh, the Sena or the BJP — to justify their blatantly aggressive acts. In every communal riot situation, this discourse points to violent acts of Muslims as being the flashpoint for that violence. This selective discourse conceals the systematic and deliberate provocation of  the minority  community — through hate–writing, provocative slogans and incendiary and insulting allegations for weeks and sometimes even months preceding the outbreak of violence.

The reason why the spurious theory of a “backlash” gained such wide currency during Mumbai riots was simply because even a Congress(I) Chief Minister, Sudhakarrao Naik and Mumbai Police Commissioner, Srikant Bapat, bought this theory and responded to the violence based not on an appreciation of the ground reality but on a deliberately misinterpreted representation of events.

Justice Srikrishna, commenting on the second phase of riots in January 1993,  categorically rejects that it was merely a backlash of the Hindus because of the cases of stabbing, the murder of Mathadi workers and the Radhabai Chawl incident. He observes: “The events which took place between the period 12th December 1992 and 5th January 1993 indicate that there were attacks going on against the Muslims and their properties in different areas”. (Pg. 20, para 1.27–ii).

l On December 20, 1993, two Muslims were locked in a room and the room set alight within the Goregaon jurisdiction; due to the severe burns suffered one of the victims died.

l On the night of December 24–25, 1992 one Mathadi worker was killed; though subsequent police investigations revealed the identity of the criminal to be an alchoholic, the communal atmosphere and communal outfits interpreted that the killing was done by a Muslim.

l  The Mahaartis launched by the Sena-BJP combine from December 26, 1992 added to the communal tension, endangering the fragile peace which had been established. Some of the Mahaartis were later used as occasions for delivering communally–inciting speeches; the crowds dispersing from the Mahaartis indulging in damage, looting and arson of Muslim establishments on the way. The Mahaartis continued unabated with no restriction on them being imposed by the police throughout January 1993 and came to an end only by the first week of February 1993.

l  There were also several stabbing incidents carried out by professional criminals in different areas of the city, with the intention of whipping up communal frenzy, in which the majority of the victims happened to be Hindus The stabbings appeared to be executed with professional accuracy intended to kill the victims. The killers had not been then identified in several cases, though it was presumed, at least in the cases where the Hindus were victims, that the killers were Muslims. The motive for the stabbings appears to have been to whip up communal frenzy between Hindus and Muslims. Some of the Muslim criminal elements operating in South Bombay, like Salim Rampuri and Firoz Konkani, have been identified as the brains behind the stabbing incidents. That they were criminals was underplayed by Hindus; that they were Muslims was all that mattered, and a cry went up that the Muslims were bent upon a second round of riots.

l    On January 1, 1993, an article appeared in the Shiv Sena organ edited by Bal Thackeray, Saamna, under the heading “Hindunni Akramak Vhayala Have” (Hindus must become aggressors), openly inciting Hindus to violence.

l On January 2, 1993 a number of Muslim hutments in M.P. Mill compound within the Tardeo jurisdiction of south Mumbai were set on fire. On the same day, there was an incident in Dharavi where two Muslims were assaulted with iron rods.

l    On January 3, 1993 there was an attack on a Muslim in Dharavi jurisdiction with a knife. On the same day, several persons claiming to be officials of MHADA, and alleged to be Shiv Sainiks, went around Pratiksha Nagar in Antop Hill jurisdiction surveying the residences of Muslims there.

l  On January 4, 1993 a big mob of Hindus, led by Shri Gajanan Kirtikar, Shri Ramesh More and other Shiv Sena activists, took a morcha to the Jogeshwari Police Station complaining of lack of security for Hindus. Some of the people in the morcha attacked Chacha Nagar Masjid and the Muslims in the vicinity and injured them. Several Muslim huts in Magdum Nagar in Mahim jurisdiction were set on fire by Hindus.  

l    On the night of January 5, 1993 a Mathadi worker employed in the godown of Vijay Transport Company who was sleeping in the godown went to the street to relieve himself. Suddenly, he was set upon by miscreants who stabbed him to death. Three more Mathadi workers who came out of the godown to help him were also stabbed to death. The murders of the Mathadi workers created tremendous tension in the area. The Mathadi Workers’ Union called for a bandh. Huge meetings were held which were addressed by leaders of Mathadi Unions. Speeches were made during this meeting to condemn the police and Government for their ineffectiveness with exhortations that Hindus might have to pick up swords to defend themselves if the police failed to protect them. At the time when these murders of Mathadi workers took place, neither the police, nor the public, had a clue as to the identity of the killers, which came to be established much later. Nonetheless, the Hindus spearheaded by the Shiv Sena kicked up a furore that the murders had been committed by Muslims, virtually giving a call for arms. On January 5 –6, 1993 the Mathadi workers gave a call for bandh of wholesale markets, which also gave immense publicity to the murders of the Mathadis, allegedly by Muslims.

l   On January 6, 1993, the situation in Mahim went out of control at 9 p.m. Hindus attacked Muslims in Muslim pockets in Mahim area led by Shiv Sena Corporator, Milind Vaidya, and a police constable, Sanjay Gawade, openly carrying a sword. There were serious riots in which frenzied mobs of Hindus and Muslims attacked each other.  

Which incident among the list of horrors listed above was worse than the other? Should the Radhabai Chawl incident be elevated to a special category? The only thing that can be said for such selective projections that elevate one tragedy above others and relegate others to mere statistic is that it is poor comment indeed on the times that we live in. When the injury to a victim is measured by whether he/she is Hindu or Muslim and the veracities of testimonies are similarly upheld or dismissed.

Commenting on Bapat’s affidavit and testimony, the Judge remarks: “Even the state government and the police were sold on the theory that the Hindu backlash came on account of the said gruesome incidents. Though Bapat has been quick to point out these incidents in his affidavit, he claimed total ignorance with regard to several equally gruesome incidents in which Muslims were victims, which were put to him in his cross–examination.” (Pg. 197, Para 2.14).

“For example, he seemed either not to recollect, or be unaware, of the arson of a timber mart in Ghatkopar jurisdiction on December 15, 1992 resulting in four Muslims being burnt alive, an arson in Goregaon jurisdiction on December 20, 1992 in which one of the Muslims was burnt and killed, of the attack on Muslim hutments in M.P. Mill compound on January 2,1993 and large–scale arson of Muslim hutments on January  4, 1993 in Mahim jurisdiction and the morcha led by Shiv Sena leaders Shri Ramesh More and Shri Gajanan Kirtikar to Jogeshwari police station, en route causing havoc in Chacha Nagar and damaging the Chacha Nagar Masjid, of the arson of a taxi carrying two Muslims which was burnt causing their death on January  7,1993 in Antop Hill jurisdiction and the Devipada incident of January 12, 1994 in which two Muslim ladies were stripped naked and attacked by a mob and one lady and her uncle were murdered and burnt.” (Pg. 197, para 2.14).

The Judge further observes: “There is legitimate grievance made by the Muslims that the memory and information of Shri Bapat is either selective or that he had been selectively fed with only such material to be placed before the Commission as would suit a particular theory being advanced by the State Government and the police. Bapat also claimed not to know that Shiv Sainiks under the leadership of local Shiv Sena leaders Baburao Mane and Ramkrishna Keni had taken out a celebration cycle rally in Dharavi jurisdictional area (on December 6, 1992)  which went around the Muslim areas shouting abusive and provoking slogans during which a stone was thrown at a local Mosque, though he claimed that, if such an incident had happened and reported to him, he would have certainly shown it as the first in the series of incidents referred to in paragraph 42 of his affidavit. Despite the material on record in the concerned case (C.R.No.718 of 1992) showing clearly that the celebration rally/procession had been organised by Shiv Sena, to deny, as Bapat did, the role of Shiv Sena in the riots, is ignoring the obvious.” (Pg. 197, para 2.15).

Shiv Sena MP, Madhukar Sarpotdar had in his deposition before the Commission defended his party’s philosophy of retaliation even saying that “when incidents against Hindus took place in one part of Mumbai, acts of retaliation against innocent Muslims in other parts was justified.” Sarpotdar had also said that as a senior leader of the Shiv Sena he could say that this was the philosophy of his party as well.

A significant section of the ATR is devoted to the murder of the Mathadi workers and the Radhabai Chawl incident. The ATR reiterates the retaliation theory: “when action and reaction are taking place rapidly, it is difficult to investigate as to where they started.” The ATR also supports Bal Thackeray’s rejection of the interview given to Time magazine but makes no attempt to deal with the provocative and incendiary writings of Thackeray in his mouthpiece, the Saamna, that have been relied upon by the Judge in his indictment of the Sena chief.

No attention has been paid to the incidents listed by the Judge (mentioned above) that prove that right from December 20, 1992 till January 5, 1993, stray but gruesome incidents of violence continued unabated where members of both communities were victims. The government is utterly silent on specific instances of brutality that by their very chronology explode the theory that it was the selective targeting of Hindus on January 5–6 and on January 8, 1993 that were responsible for the Hindu backlash. The attitude of the government as reflected in the ATR is uncaring of the enormous loss of life and property that took place during the riots since it merely limits itself to justifying the Shiv Sena’s own role in the violence.


Another misconception surrounds the motives behind the launching of the Mahaarti programme launched by the Sena–BJP combine in the midst of the December 1992 and January 1993 phase of riots. A close look at how this misconception took firm root in the minds of a large section of the people illustrates how communal propaganda plays upon real or assumed aggravations,  irritations, and images of the ‘Other’ and then, at the critical time of a riot, misuses this aggravation by locating it in the current crisis which is an inflamed street atmosphere and again, garners widespread support for that misinterpretation of events.

The issue of Friday prayers, Jumma ki namaaz, taking place on public roads, often blocking road traffic or access of railway commuters to local train stations was here the aggravation. The reason for the spilling over of worshippers into the street was the lack of adequate permission (extra FSI) to build more floors atop mosques. Using this issue as their raison d’etre, the Hindutvawaadis chose a raw and communally–tense Mumbai to launch their programme of Mahaartis that far from being religious incantations were in fact part of the dangerous, Tu-tu, mein-mein (‘Us’ versus ‘Them’) syndrome. The Mahaartis were cynically used as launching pads to attack Muslim homes and establishments after violent and provocative slogans against ‘laandyas’  (an abusive term for a circumcised person) had been raised.

The Shiv Sena–BJP combine chose December 26, 1992, to launch this programme when Mumbai was still tense, still reeling from the ghastly memories of early December.The police remained complacent as the mobs went on the rampage. However, a similar attempt to misuse the programme of Mahaartis was nipped in the bud in Nashik in north Maharashtra (around 200 kms. from Mumbai) where the Police Commissioner banned the programmes outright. (Pgs.  12 , para 1.7–iii & Pg. 222, para 2.14).

The Srikrishna Commission report documents in detail this ploy of the Sena–BJP combine in Mumbai aided by an acquiescent state and police administration:

l     Bhoiwada Police Station: Interrogation of many of the accused Shiv Sainiks from central Mumbai suggests that after the crowd dispersed from the Mahaarti held on January  7, 1993 at Parel T.T, the dispersing crowd indulged in systematic stone–throwing at Muslim establishments along the lane. The Hindu accused stated during interrogation that the crowd returning from Mahaarti held on January 9, 1993 at 7.30 p.m. at Hanuman Mandir on Dadasaheb Phalke Road had attacked the Muslim establishments (C.R.No.34 of 1993). (Pg. 61, para 4.11).

l     Byculla Police Station: This is another area where the Mahaartis led to violence on January 9, 1993 when participants in the Mahaarti after dispersing indulged in burning and looting Muslim homes and shops. The local police resisted admitting this before the Judge despite evidence that two of the five Mahaartis had been permitted during curfew hours. This is another example of the local police station under the influence and sway of local Shiv Sainiks failing to act against them. (Pg. 70).

l    D.B. Marg Police Station: Eleven Mahaartis were held within this jurisdiction between December 1992 and January 1993 but the one held at the Kabirwadi Hanuman Mandir on January 9, 1993 has received special mention by the Judge. The Mill Diary of the police for that day records how the crowds dispersing from the Mahaarti turned violent and looted and burnt Muslim shops and establishments but the Senior Inspector Bhakare refused to admit the veracity of police records and record anything that is damaging to the Shiv Sena. (Pgs. 78-79).

l     Gamdevi Police Station: Nine Mahaartis were held in this area, all organised by the Shiv Sena and the BJP, and all during curfew hours. The Commission has noted first, the extreme reluctance of the Senior Police Inspector, Madhukar Ghorpade, to admit who the organisers were. Communal incidents took place after each Mahaarti, yet no action was taken even after, in one instance, 86 establishments were ransacked and looted. (Pg. 119, para 12.4).

l    L.T. Marg Police Station: Eighteen Mahaartis were held between January 8 and 18, 1993. After the Radhabai Chawl incident in Jogeshwari, exaggerated and incendiary rumours were spread and after the Mahaartis were launched, there were repeated incidents of Hindu mobs roaming on the streets, looting and ransacking shops and setting goods on fire. (Pg. 145–146).

l     Mahim Police Station: On January 9, 1993, a Mahaarti was held blocking all road traffic and yet no action was taken by the local police to stop it. Prakash Ayare, the local corporator of the Shiv Sena gave a speech after this Mahaarti. He said that the programme of Mahaartis was being held under the directions of Balasaheb Thackeray and that, because the government was partial to one particular community, Mahaartis would be held to continue to draw attention to the government. The Judge remarks, “Surprisingly, even against the background of acute communal tension prevalent on January 9, 1993, this type of speech was being allowed by the police and not being considered communally provocative. (Pg. 153–154).

l     Tardeo Police Station: On January 9, 1993, a Mahaarti was held at the Hanuman Mandir organised by the BJP and the Shiv Sena, with the VHP and the Bajrang Dal in the background. It was admitted by all police officers who gave evidence that despite there being tension in the area and the existence of a source report issued by SB–I CID, that the persons returning from the Mahaartis were likely to damage Muslim homes and establishments and homes while dispersing, there was no attempt by the police to stop the Mahaarti from taking place. (Pgs. 189–190).

Senior leaders of the Shiv Sena, including Maharashtra Chief Minister, Manohar Joshi (Pg. 228) and MP, Madhukar Sarpotdar participated in the Mahaartis that were provocative mobilisations. The report also documents the state and police attitude towards Mahaartis as exposed through the evidence recorded of then chief minister Sudhakarrao Naik and then Police Commissioner Bapat:

l    Naik said on oath before the Judge that he considered the programme of Mahaartis an entirely religious affair and therefore he could not ban them.  Subsequently he admitted that the political content of the Mahaartis that started as a religious activity increased as they gained momentum. (Pg. 218, para 1.7).

l   “Bapat’s attempt to equate the problem created during Namaaz on public streets to the problems created by Mahaartis organised by the Hindutva parties, was amusing. It is nobody’s case that the practice of Namaaz on the streets was started recently or that Namaaz on the streets was being carried out deliberately with a view to gain political benefits; with the Mahaartis, the avowed and declared object was to pressurise the Government to force the Muslims to stop calling Azaan on the loudspeakers and to stop doing Namaaz on the public streets.  That the Mahaartis which started off with such clear political objectives could have been considered to be “per se religious” and exempted from the operation of the ban orders by the Commissioner, strains credulity. Bapat realised that the occasions of Mahaartis were being used for making provocative speeches and shouting provocative slogans and appealed to the Government to solve the problem. However, the Government dilly–dallied till it was too late.” (Pg. 198, para 2.18).

Here again, the ATR restricts itself to reiterating the Sena–BJP’s official position that the Mahaartis were a “natural and spontaneous response of Hindus who were inconvenienced and irritated by the actions of Muslims in reading the Namaaz on the streets. The ATR has nothing to say to refute the conclusions put out by the Judge in the report that details instances of the Mahaartis leading to abusive and terrorising slogans, followed by acts of arson and the looting of Muslim homes and establishments. All this evidence has been garnered by the Judge through a perusal of the police records, testimonies of policemen and the evidence of ordinary witnesses. Shiv Sena leaders in general, and Prakash Ayare from Mahim in particular, have been named as guilty. Yet, except the general defence of Mahaartis, the government has offered no comment on these indictments. The mala fide intent of the ATR becomes clear when on page after page it offers no explanation for the specific indictments.

Radhabai Chawl tragedy

While referring to the January 1993 phase of the riots, there is a blatant attempt by Hindu communal parties to magnify one incident that took place in a slum in Jogeshwari in north Mumbai in the early hours of January 8, 1993. A family with one male member and five female members were locked inside a chawl and it was set on fire. This one incident has been sensationalised and exaggerated, particularly by the Shiv Sena and Bal Thackeray to justify the “retaliation” of January 1993.”

The Judge after detailing, how Mumbai was kept on the boil by targeted acts of violence against the minorities,  ably assisted by the Mahaartis to mobilise mobs to go on the rampage, and systematic stabbings of Hindus by Muslim communal elements,  concludes that “the communal passions of the Hindus were aroused to fever pitch by the inciting writings in print media, particularly Saamna and Navaakal which gave exaggerated accounts of the Mathadi murders and the Radhabai Chawl incident; rumours were floated that there were imminent attacks by Muslims using sophisticated arms.

These factors impelled some of the irresponsible and hot–headed Hindu elements to take to violence. “From January  8, 1993 at least there is no doubt that the Shiv Sena and Shiv Sainiks took the lead in organising attacks on Muslims and their properties under the guidance of several leaders of the Shiv Sena from the level of Shakha Pramukh to the Shiv Sena Pramukh Bal Thackeray who, like a veteran General, commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organized attacks against Muslims. The communal violence and rioting triggered off by the Shiv Sena was hijacked by local criminal elements who saw in it an opportunity to make quick gains. By the time the Shiv Sena realised that enough had been done by way of ‘retaliation’, the violence and rioting was beyond the control of its leaders who had to issue an appeal to put an end to it.” (Pg. 20, para 1.27–ii).

Hundreds of incidents rocked Mumbai in December 1992. These were bestial in that they turned neighbour against neighbour, spurred as they were by hate–driven propaganda. While the systematic target of this venom were members of the Muslim minority, in larger number, both media reports of that period and Justice Srikrishna’s report have documented how Muslims and Hindus alike fell victims to the violence. By attempting to magnify either the Radhabai Chawl case of arson and murder or the murder of Mathadi workers, the perpetrators of systematic venom have crudely obliterated the plight of scores of other victims of that period. Just a recount of some of the worst incidents that scarred Mumbai’s image that have been documented by the Judge show that when communal violence is allowed to continue unchecked, it spares none in its wake:

l December 12: Four dead bodies, all of Hindus, having multiple stab wounds on vital organs and in highly decomposed condition, were recovered from the gutter along A.K. Marg —Nirmal Nagar in Bandra–East. In yet another incident, one Hindu woman by name Shevantabai was found murdered with her throat slit and her body was dumped in the open compound of National Girls’ High School adjoining Behrampada. Two more bodies, one of a male Hindu and another identified as that of a uniformed Muslim Police Constable attached to the Nasik Rural Police Head Quarters, were recovered from the septic tank of the public latrine in Behrampada on 20th and 21st December 1992 respectively. These bodies also bore multiple stab injuries. It would appear that there was a systematic attempt to stab and murder Hindus and the policeman, though a Muslim, became a victim of the anger of the Muslims directed against the uniform worn by him. (Pg. 159, para 21.18).

l    January: Though a hue and cry has been made by the Shiv Sena and the police about recoveries of the bodies of Hindus from the Behrampada area, there is another equally gruesome incident  in which five persons from a family of Muslim hawkers were burnt to death by the rioters and their bodies were thrown into the fire to destroy the evidence. In fact, the situation in that incident is graphically described by the witness who says, “the Hindu miscreants were running through lanes and bye–lanes with swords and choppers, etc. and attacking houses of the Muslims and looting and burning the articles on the roads. Police were chasing them. However, the miscreants were taking advantage of lanes and bye–lanes and continuing their destructive activities”. A sad commentary on the law and order situation. (Pg. 163, para 21.35).

l    January 1: “In January 1993, the first incident of communal disturbance  occurred on January 1,1993 during which a mob of violent Hindus attacked Muslims behind Jaihind Nagar and Gausiya compound…and threw stones on vehicles plying the Western Express Highway ….probably the immediate target of attack was the Gausiya Masjid and the Muslim residents in close vicinity thereof and the police were attacked because they tried to prevent it.This attack is of some significance as it belies the theory of the Shiv Sena, the state and the police that the Hindus resorted to violence by way of retaliation only after the grisly Radhabai Chawl incident at Jogeshwari. (Pg. 159, para 21.19).

l     January 7: On January 7, 1993 a taxi in which three Muslims were travelling was set on fire in Pratikshanagar in the Antop Hill jurisdiction resulting in all the inmates being burnt alive. (Pg. 54, para 2.14).

l     January 9–12:  Between January 9–January 12, 1993, a large number of Muslims numbering between 3,000–5,000 had abandoned their homes for fear of attacks from rampaging Shiv Sainiks and congregated on the road without shelter. They were surrounded by 40,000–60,000 Hindus and had to spend almost three days under constant fear of attack till they were rescued by an army column on January 12, 1993. Initially when an attempt was made to supply food to the marooned Muslims, the vehicles containing food were chased away. Finally when the army column was transporting the marooned Muslim families, it was also attacked and had to be dispersed by firing resorted to by army personnel. (Pg. 58, para 2.25).

l     January 10: There was a serious incident at the Hari Masjid in the RAK Marg jurisdiction on January 10, 1993 in central Mumbai in which six persons, all Muslims, were shot dead by the local police as they offered their Friday prayers and one Hindu died as a result of burns. (Pgs. 178–181).

l     January 12, 1993: A gruesome incident occurs in Devipada in Kasturba Marg jurisdiction (Borivali, Mumbai North). A Hindu mob surrounds, strips and assaults two Muslim women. The older woman manages to run away. The uncle of the younger woman who comes to rescue the young girl of 19, and that girl, are beaten and burnt alive by the violent mob. The names of the miscreants are disclosed to police by a Hindu lady in the locality. (Though the miscreants were arrested and tried by the Sessions Court at Bombay, later on they were all acquitted on the ground that the panchanamas were defective and that the eye–witnesses were not produced). (Pg. 16, para 1.15).

Once again, the ATR has turned a blind eye to copious details of cases listed in the Commission’s report and has restricted itself to an exaggerated dealing with the Radhabai Chawl incident. There appears little stress or concern, as evidenced in the ATR, over a series of other gruesome incidents that occurred and many of which involved Shiv Sainiks.           

Acts of Muslim Aggression

The Shiv Sena led by Bal Thackeray, MP, Madhukar Sarpotdar and other leaders like Gajanan Kirtikar and Milind Vaidya have been directly indicted in the Commission’s report. The report which is unsparing of acts of Muslim aggression states however that there was no evidence to show that on the side of the minorities there was any single individual or organisation responsible for fomenting trouble.

Chapter III, Volume 1 of the report dealing with the specific terms of reference, “whether any individual or group of individuals or any other organisations were responsible for such events and circumstances”, the report states categorically:  “As far as the December 1992 phase of the rioting by the Muslims is concerned, there is no material to show that it was anything other than a spontaneous reaction of leaderless and incensed Muslim mobs, which commenced as peaceful protest, but soon degenerated into riots. The Hindus must share a part of the blame in provoking the Muslims by their celebration rallies, inciting slogans and rasta rokos which were all organised mostly by Shiv Sainiks, and to a marginal extent by BJP activists.

For the January round of violence, the Shiv Sena has been held squarely to blame. Turning to the events of January 1993, the Commission’s view is that though several incidents of violence took place during the period from 15th December 1992 to 5th January 1993, large–scale rioting and violence was commenced from 6th January 1993  by the Hindus, brought to fever pitch by communally inciting propaganda unleashed by Hindu communal organisations and writings in newspapers like Saamna and Navaakal.

It was taken over by Shiv Sena and its leaders who continued to whip up communal frenzy by their statements and acts and writings and directives issued by the Shiv Sena Pramukh Bal Thackeray. The attitude of Shiv Sena as reflected in the Time magazine interview given by Bal Thackeray and its doctrine of ‘retaliation’, as expounded by Shri Sarpotdar and Shri Manohar Joshi, together with the thinking of Shiv Sainiks that ‘Shiv Sena’s terror was the true guarantee of the safety of citizens’, were responsible for the vigilantism of Shiv Sainiks. Because some criminal Muslims killed innocent Hindus in one corner of the city, the Shiv Sainiks ‘retaliated’ against innocent Muslims in other corners of the city.

“There is no material on record suggesting that even during this phase (January 1993) any known Muslim individuals or organisations were responsible for the riots, though a number of individual Muslims and Muslim criminal elements appear to have indulged in violence, looting, arson and rioting.” (Pg. 22, para 1.2–ii). However, the report is unsparing of several individual acts of Muslim communalism and aggression unlike what the Maharashtra government would have the people believe:

l     Dharavi: “There were meetings held on October 21 and December 1, 1992 by the Muslims advocating protection of the Babri Masjid and opposing the construction of Ram Mandir at the disputed site at Ayodhya. These meetings were held in Naiknagar on L.B. Shastri Marg… One of the speeches advocated that if the Hindus were to snatch away the Babri Masjid from Muslims, there would be no stopping of disintegration of the country; that if Hindus were to build a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya and usher in Ram Rajya, then the Muslims would, through the Babri Masjid Committee, fly the green flag on the Red Fort at Delhi and rule the country. 

Three activists of Tanzeem–Allah–o–Akbar, which organised some of the meetings, Hayatbhai, Sayyedbhai and Shakoorbhai were quite active during the violent incidents which took place on  December 7, 1992.  

In one of the meetings organized by the Muslims on November 15, 1992, one Maqsood Khan declared that 25 crores of Muslims in India would not remain passive without demanding and getting a partition of the country, as they would not like to remain slaves in this country. Once again, no action ensued, since the police considered that, though objectionable, the speeches were not actionable in law.” (Pgs. 92–93, para 10.6).

l Deonar: “This is one police station jurisdiction where, during both phases of riots, the Muslims gave more than they took. During December 1992, police registered 36 cases of communal violence/rioting of which 18 cases were closed by classifying them in “A” summary and charge–sheets were filed in rest of the cases.  In one case accused died after the charge–sheet was filed in the Court and the case abated.  Out of the 36 cases registered by police, 19 cases were in connection with rioting and mob action and 17 pertained to assaults on individuals. The trouble began in December 1992 at about 9 p.m. on December 6, 1992 when mobs of Muslims started pelting stones at vehicles and BEST buses moving along the link road through Muslim dominated areas. At about 11 p.m. on the same day there was an attack on the house of one Gundeti, a local Bharatiya Janata Party activist and leader of Bharatiya Janata Party from Shivaji Nagar  The interrogatory statements of the accused arrested in this case, which included two Hindus, suggest that the reason for the attack was the organising of several meetings in the area by Gundeti. There was also an attack on Shiva temple and Geeta Vikas School and an attack on Hanuman temple at Shivaji Nagar, Plot no.34. There was damage and attempted arson to Shiva temple and Geeta Vikas School. Hanuman temple in Shivaji Nagar was damaged completely and the idol of Hanuman was smashed to pieces. There was heavy stone pelting at the houses around the Hanuman temple. Though the police claimed that the Muslim mob had carried out heavy stone pelting at houses around the Hanuman Mandir in Shivaji Nagar, the panchanama recorded in C.R.No.895 of 1992 does not bear out this fact. Nor is there any reference in the FIR to attack on Hindu houses on Plot No. 34 in Shivaji Nagar.”  (Pg. 82, para 9.6).

l     Dongri: Is a predominantly Muslim area with the reputation of being communally–hypersensitive. It is also the haunt of several illegal activities including drug peddling.“During the period 8th December 1992 to 31st  December 1992, 23 cases of communal incidents were registered by the Dongri police station in which Hindus were aggressors in seven cases and Muslims were aggressors in 16 cases. Contrary to the police perception that during the December 1992 phase of the riots, it was only the Muslims who were aggressors, it appears that the Hindus also contributed their share towards riots and communal incidents during this period. Out of the seven cases in which Hindus were aggressors, four were cases in which Muslims were stabbed; in two cases there was looting and one involved looting and arson of a Muslim establishment. During the same period, out of the 16 cases in which Muslims were aggressors, nine were individual stabbing cases, and seven were cases of looting of different Hindu establishments.”  (Pg. 108, para 11.21).

l     Nagpada: “In the period between July–December 1992, there was a lot of activity by the Muslim organisations active in the area. Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and Bombay Muslim Committee were quite active during this period. On July 24, 1992, an Urdu blackboard was displayed by SIMI which contained extremely provocative writing. During November 15–26, 1992, many Muslim organisations had organised meetings on the Ayodhya–Babri Masjid issue. (Pg. 165, para 22.3).

l    Nirmal Nagar: “The fury of the Muslims (in December 1992) was directed against the Police Chowky at Behrampada Gate No.18, Police Chowky in Navpada and Ambewadi. Further up in the Golibar locality, against the Shakha of Shiv Sena and the Hindu shops located on the Golibar Road between Ambewadi Chowky and Adarsh Apartments. There was violent confrontation between armed Muslim mobs emerging from the kabrastan shouting anti–Hindu slogans and the police. In an incident of rioting at Indira Nagar the Muslim mobs attacked the Indira Nagar Police Chowky damaged it and set on fire articles inside the Chowky and a scooter of a police officer. There was also an incident of rioting near the Fish Market, Nehru Nagar, Bharani and Dawari Colony during which one Head Constable was assaulted and injured by a chopper wielded by the Muslim in a mob.”  (Pg. 159).

l     Mahim: “On December 25, 1992 a pamphlet in the Urdu language was distributed around Jama Masjid area in Mahim. This pamphlet, without doubt, is communally provocative and incites Muslims to fight against the atrocities committed on them by Hindus, starting with the demolition of Babri Masjid and calls upon the Muslims to resolve that, if the Babri Masjid had to be constructed with blood, they should be prepared to do so. The police have registered a case  in this connection. Though there was a sizeable Muslim population in this area, the intelligence gathering machinery of police with regard to Muslim activities in this area was totally ineffective. There was only one Muslim police person attached to this police station, even he could not read Urdu and keep tabs on the activities of the Muslims in this area.” (Pg. 151, para 19.13).

l     Pydhonie: Once the riots erupted in January 1993, several known criminals from the area, though undoubtedly Muslims, took advantage of the situation and fanned the fires of communal hatred. Groups led by Salim Rampuri, Abdul Rauf alias Rauf Chacha and others moved around the locality instigating the Muslim youths to come out and help in looting the godowns of Hindus. This area saw the circulation of pamphlets containing incendiary communal material urging Muslims to communal violence and also calls given on loudspeakers fixed on Masjids urging Muslims to come out in large numbers with arms and attack ‘Kafirs’. The police has been remiss in not keeping tabs of the activities of known Muslim organistions, Jamait–E–Islam–E–Hind, Muslim League and SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India), who were known to have participated in some of the previous protests. Similarly, no watch appears to have been kept nor intelligence gathered about the activity of Raza Academy. The slogans shouted by the mobs invariably indicated their anger at the police.”

l    “During the first week of January 1993 there were several cases of stabbing incidents in which Hindus were stabbed after ascertaining their Hindu identity. Most of them have remained unsolved and classified in “A” summary by the Police. The Commission is inclined to think that these were deliberate attempts by professional killers with a view to whip up communal passions.” (Pg. 175).

 Once again the ATR has nothing to say on individual cases that illustrate/uphold the Commission’s findings. Despite the fact that the Commission’s report does not spare individual and sporadic acts of Muslim aggression and communal provocation (as listed above), the ATR comments critically on the findings of the Judge wherein he says that no Muslim organisation was involved in both phases of riots. The only alternative that the ATR can offer is once again, the Pakistan–inspired ISI theory that has been rejected for lack of evidence already.

Police bias

A detailed reading of both volumes of the Justice Srikrishna Commission report is imperative to understand both the rank inefficiency and in–built anti–minority bias that has come to dictate the actions of a large section of our policemen. Erstwhile Police Commissioner of Mumbai, Srikant Bapat’s testimony put to severe scrutiny and cross–examination by the Judge is extremely important in this regard. He states on oath not only that he believed January’s violence to be the result of a “Hindu backlash”, but compounds this unsubstantiated version with complete ignorance of incidents of brutality from December 1992 until January 1993 that were directed against the minorities (detailed above).

The situation in Mumbai under a Congress(I) administration in December 1992–January 1993 smacked of utter anarchy as police station after police station remained impotent and in no sign of control, while large sections of the police personnel revealed a callous indifference to the plight of the city’s minorities, in many cases even participating in blatant acts of criminal violence. In several areas it also appeared that local Shiv Sainiks were guiding the actions of policemen. In the few cases where local Shiv Sena shakha pramukhs were arrested, evidence from police records and the testimonies of policemen shows that, bowing to over political pressure, the police has subsequently released the offenders with no punitive action.

One of  the most glaring incidents, though there are several others, has been the Mumbai police’s treatment of Sena MP, Madhukar Sarpotdar, who was arrested by Major Goswami of the Indian army for possession of illegal arms during the riots and let off the same evening by Police Commissioner, Bapat. His conduct even within the jurisdiction of his parliamentary constituency, within both the Kherwadi and Nirmal Nagar areas, was incendiary and provocative, spreading canards and rumours rather than assisting the police in dousing the fires of communal hatred and even leading mobs to attack. (Pg. 162–163). 

“Communal trouble started on December 6, 1992  in the Nirmal Nagar area with the desecration of a Ganesh idol in the Ganesh Mandir on A.K.Marg…..It appears to the Commission that this incident was a deliberate attempt on the part of some mischievous elements to whip up communal passions and stir up communal riots. Unfortunately the Hindu community in this area appears to have fallen prey to this game–plan, brainwashed by the local leaders of the Shiv Sena, including Madhukar Sarpotdar, who unleashed a barrage of propaganda that Muslims were responsible for the outrage. Though Shri Sarpotdar claimed to have some inside information  that the miscreants were Gullu, Ilias and Dilawar, all Muslims, he did not bother to pass on the information to the police, nor did he inform the police as to the source of his information so that the police could carry on an effective investigation. Had the local MP Shri Sarpotdar displayed the same zeal in co–operating with the police, which he showed in making speculative and unfounded allegations, probably the miscreants could have been nailed. For unfathomable reasons, no such efforts were made by Shri Sarpotdar. (Pg. 157-158).

“While the police were prompt in arresting Muslim miscreants at all levels, they showed a marked reluctance to arrest any of the miscreants connected with the Shiv Sena. In fact, the assessments in the Crime Reports suggest that if accused belonging to the Shiv Sena were arrested, there was a likelihood of a flare–up in the communal situation and therefore it was decided that no Shiv Sainik should be arrested. This view was taken not only by the lower police echelons, but also had the approval of the Assistant Commissioner of Police and the zonal Deputy Commissioner of Police. Thus there have been cases where the accused Shiv Sainiks were charge–sheeted even without arrest and interrogations, apparently under the orders of DCP, Pande. It appears to the Commission, that repeated morchas and flexing of muscles by the Shiv Sena hierarchy and the crowds led by them, affected the police morale and psyche. (Pg.162, para 21.27).

There were several other incidents where police conduct was blatantly determined by the strong–arm tactics of the local Shiv Sena Shakha or Vibhag Pramukhs.

l In the Agripada jurisdiction,  within the BIT chawls with a preponderance of Hindu residents, the few Muslim residents were refused local police assistance  when their homes were attacked with men (local Shiv Sainiks) throwing stones and carrying choppers. When one woman resident called the local police station, an unidentified person slammed down the phone saying, “Landyabai chup baitho, Abhi kuch nahin huva.”  Later, policemen assisted the mob trying to attack residents and loot their homes and it was the arrival of an army picket that saved them a day later. (Pgs. 48–49). Two police constables were actually arrested  in connection with rioting and causing damage to Muslim property  along with local Shiv Sainiks. (Pg. 52, para 1.18).

l Within the Antop Hill jurisdiction, after three Muslims were burnt alive in a taxi within barely 150 feet of the police picket on January 12, 1993. (Pg. 54, para 2.14). On January 15, 1993 the police arrested two persons in connection with this incident and on the same day  a morcha of about 3,000–4,000 men and women led by  Sena Shakha Pramukh, Prahlad Thombre, Sena MLA, Kalidas Kolamkar, Congress MLA, Eknath Gaikwad, Sena corporator, Krishna Vishwasrao, Congress corporator, Karuna Mhatre and others came to the police station and to secure the release of one of the accused, Bal Thombre.

The ATR is utterly silent on the role of Shiv Sainiks during the violence that have been referred to in Volume I of the report, particularly of one of the party’s leader, Milind Vaidya, in leading attacks on mobs with the help of a policeman, also brandishing a naked sword.

The testimonies of former Mumbai Police Commissioner, Srikant Bapat and the then Additional Commissioner of Police, Mumbai, V.N. Deshmukh bear mention here. The former was indicted for his personal failure in guiding the Mumbai police with adequate authority during the December 1992–January 1993 riots. In his affidavit, Bapat failed to mention the Shiv Sena by name, a fact for which he had been pulled up by the Judge in open court. “Ergo, Commissioner of Police, Bapat, was able to assert boldly that he was not in any possession of any material to indicate that any party or organisation had a hand in the riots. Diplomacy is a quality appreciated in a diplomat; not in police officers. In fact, Bapat’s argument that he would be unwilling to name the Shiv Sena as a communal party because it had been registered with the Election Commissioner flies in the face of the “Guidelines” issued by the government which were binding on him and which he was expected to implement.” (Pg. 196,  para 2.8).

Despite the existence of a state government guideline for “Dealing with communal disturbances”, April 30, 1986 in which the RSS, the Shiv Sena and the names of some Muslim organisations are also cited, this instruction did not percolate down to the police station level for effective action. (Pg. 195–196).

Deshmukh’s testimony was significant in that it has revealed how during the in the six–month period between January 1996 and June 1996, when the Sena–BJP combine had disbanded the Justice Srikrishna Commission, the state government and the police, for no explicable reason,  had destroyed all police records pertaining to the riot period that were not in the possession of the Judge. This revelation was made by Deshmukh in court during his testimony and reveals, more than anything else, the mala fide intent of the alliance government in power. This detail  has surprisingly escaped public debate and scrutiny.

“A significant fact admitted by Deshmukh is his assessment of the deep–rooted and biased belief among 80 percent of the lower echelons of the Mumbai police that Muslim youths were more prone to crime though he was quick to add that there was no such impression among senior officers.” (Pg. 201, para 4.7). Following manifestations of this bias in 1992–93, some training measures have been initiated by the force. “Mr. Deshmukh was fair enough to accept that, possibly, this in–built impression amongst the members of the police force might have affected their handling the riot situations in December 1992 and January 1993. In any event, it was evident from the manner in which the members of the police force used to act and behave towards members of the Muslim community.” (Pg. 201, para 4.7).

The ATR rejects this finding outright saying that the Mumbai police is by and large very secular. No comments are offered on the glaring individual lapses in police conduct used as substantive evidence to back its finding, by the Commission. In the stray cases of lapses, says the ATR without specification, “efforts would be made to  enhance the secular character of the police.” (Pg. 238, para 1.28–i).

Chapter IV of Volume I of the report ( pg 23 ) also details in general terms the malaise which affected the functioning of the Mumbai police to such a degree that they failed to anticipate the outbreak of violence and therefore took no action against the provocative posturings of large and influential sections of Hindu communal organisations and, even after the demolition of the Babri Masjid took place, allowed provocative “victory celebrations” that spiralled, not contained, the violence. This laxity was also observed in  allowing provocative speeches from sections of the Muslim minority at the outset of the violence. (See earlier section on ‘Acts of Muslim Aggression’).

 The ATR is silent on administrative inaction in response to the provocative build–up of communal tension. In the initial stages it was a complete failure of intelligence in gauging the impact, on different sections of the population, of the demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya (Pg. 23, para 1.1), because of a complete absence of initiative and conviction in applying the “Guidelines for Communal Disturbances” that makes it incumbent on every police station to maintain the “list of communal goondas”. (Pg. 34, para 1.7). Consequently, when the then Commissioner of Police instructed the police stations to round up these “communal goondas”, there was wholesale confusion in understanding the import of the message, each Senior Police Inspector interpreting it in his own fashion. The preventive rounding up was, therefore, confined only to known criminals and bad characters on the list of available police stations. (Pg. 196, para 2.8).

While rejecting the Commission’s findings that a failure of intelligence about the impact of the kar seva in Ayodhya created further laxity and confusion in the Mumbai police, it has accepted administrative recommendations for a professionally better equipped force. Many of the Commission’s recommendations deal with the urgent question of professionalism of the police force, better working conditions, both a dire need of the day. But within the scope of these findings, there are severe indictments for a force that once prided itself on being the best in the country. These observations deal with the growing evidence of communal bias in police conduct, a bias that has meant scant regard for the preservation of law and order among the men in uniform.

“Even after  it became apparent that the leaders of the Shiv Sena were active in stoking the fire of the communal riots, the police dragged their feet on the facile and exaggerated assumption that if such leaders were arrested the communal situation would further flare up, or to put it in the words of then Chief Minister, Sudhakarrao Naik, “Bombay would burn”; not that Bombay did not even burn otherwise. (Pg. 25, para 1.20).

But it is the stringent comments later in this section and Chapter V that lists 15 police officers whom the Commission has directly implicated in the violence that offer a glimpse of the Mumbai of December 1992–January 1993, when it appeared that police station after police station had been virtually hijacked by the Shiv Sena and the spurious ideology of its allies. The more detailed Volume II examines 26 police station areas and documents for posterity the evidence of senior police officers that stand out either as shining examples of impartial and courageous action or as shameful instances of dereliction of duty sought to be subsequently covered by evasive testimonies.

On the question of wilful inaction against the incendiary Mahaartis (mentioned above), the report states that instead of firmly dealing with the law and order situation arising out of such provocative programmes, the police merely “left it to the political Judgement of the then Chief Minister who failed to act promptly and effectively by giving clear directives. (Pg. 23, para 1.1).

The Judge observes: “The response of police to appeals from desperate victims, particularly Muslims, was cynical and utterly indifferent. On occasions, the response was that they were unable to leave the appointed post; on others, the attitude was that one Muslim killed, was one Muslim less. The alertness of police pickets left much to be desired. Several arson incidents, stabbing and violence occurred within the eye–sight and earshot of the police pickets without any action by them. In one case, a bakery situated within the very compound in which the police station (Jogeshwari) is located was attacked, looted and burnt in broad daylight without the police lifting a finger. (Pg. 24, para 1.12).

The ATR is utterly silent on these lapses commented upon in the commission’s report.That police officers and men, particularly at the junior level, appeared to have an in–built bias against Muslims was evident in their treatment of Muslims suspected of violent acts and Muslim victims of riots. The treatment given was harsh and brutal and, on occasions, bordering on inhuman, hardly doing credit to the police. “The bias of policemen was seen in the active connivance of police constables with the rioting Hindu mobs on occasions, with their adopting the role of passive on–lookers on occasions, and finally, in their lack of enthusiasm in registering offences against Hindus even when the accused were clearly identified, and post–haste classifying the cases in “A” summary.” (Pages 12, 24).

The second volume of the report details numerous instances where the Mumbai police closed hundreds of cases thus, leaving the guilty unpunished. The ATR accepts the mala fide reasons for closing the cases but states that these will be re–opened only after a state government committee has examined each case thus closed. Only if found to be a valid case for re–examination, will such a re–examination take place. This in effect means that the prima facie findings of the Judicial Commission of inquiry are not being accepted outright but will be subject to executive scrutiny that, it is reasonable to suspect, given the guilt–ridden role of the current political regime, will be governed by a partisan pressure

“Even the registered riot–related offences were most unsatisfactorily investigated. The investigations showed lack of enthusiasm, lackadaisical approach and utter cynicism. Despite clear clues, the miscreants were not pursued, arrested and interrogated, particularly when the suspected accused happened to be Hindus with connections to Shiv Sena or were Shiv Sainiks. This general apathy appears to be the outcome of the built–in prejudice in the mind of an average policeman that every Muslim is prone to crime.” 

“The degeneration of the protests, which were initially not violent, in Minara Masjid area on 6th December 992 and Dharavi area on 7th December 1992 into violent riots was partly on account of insensitive handling of the rioters by police. The police should have realised that the Muslim community felt betrayed, hurt, humiliated and distrustful of the authorities on account of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in spite of the assurances and promises at the highest level and that too in the presence of armed police and para–military forces. Though there was some violence like stone–throwing, it should have been controlled by use of persuasion and minimal force.” (Pg. 24, para 1.15).

The section entitled  ‘Delinquency of Police Personnel’  bears mention. (Pg. 40–42 ). It is hear that justice Srikrishna lists the names of 15 police officials found guilty of gross prejudicial conduct. “The evidence before the Commission indicates that the police personnel were found actively participating in riots, communal incidents or incidents of looting arson and so on. The Commission strongly recommends that Government take strict action against the following persons:

l Colaba: “S.I. Vasant Madhukar  More, A.P.I. Sahebrao Hari Jadhav, PC–3181 Suresh Pandurang Ithape, PN–985 Shivaji Govindrao Kashid, PN–2238 Hanumant Pandurang Chavan and HC–3649 Gopichand Shaitram Borase. These police personnel were responsible for allowing the violent mob to hack to death one Abdul Razak alias Aba Kalshekar  (C.R.No.13 of 1993)”. (Also see Pg  74–76).

l Agripada: “PC–23960 of LA–IV Ashok Naik and Rajaram K. Bhoir were arrested while indulging in rioting and violent activities (C.R.No.98 of 1993). Ashok Naik was arrested by N.M. Joshi Marg Police. (Also see Pg. 52, para 1.18). No subsequent action was taken”.

l   Byculla: “Sr. P.I. Patankar, P.I. Wahule and S.I. Ramdesai. Their conduct during the riots was extremely communal. They refused to record complaints in which Hindus were the accused and harassed and ill–treated Muslims. Their conduct indicated attempt to shield miscreants belonging to Shiv Sena (C.R. No. 591 of 1992). The Government should also institute an impartial inquiry into the cold–blooded murder of one young boy, Shahnawaz Hassanmiya Wagle. The inquiry conducted by Deputy Commissioner of Police Surinder Kumar is just an eyewash”. (Pg. 71–72).

l Dongri: “Joint Commissioner of Police R.D. Tyagi, Assistant Police Inspector, Deshmukh and Police Inspector Lahane of the Special Operation Squad are guilty of excessive and unnecessary firing resulting in the death of nine Muslims in the Suleman Bakery incident (C.R.No.46 of 1993). The ostensible reasons for this firing was that the police were “flushing out Kashmiri terrorists”. (Also see Pgs. 15 & Pgs. 113–117).

(Tyagi was rewarded for his conduct by being made police Commissioner in October 1995 by the Sena–BJP government. On retirement in early 1998, prior to the Lok Sabha elections, he declared, “I am a loyal soldier of Balasaheb.”)

l Mahim: “Police Constable Sanjay Laxman Gawade was openly indulging in riots and violent activities while carrying a naked sword along with Shiv Sena activist Milind Vaidya. Though the constable was placed under suspension and the sanction of the government was sought for his prosecution, the sanction had not yet been granted. The Commission recommends that such sanction should be granted”. (Also  see Pg. 15, para 19.20).

l L.T. Marg: “Assistant Police Inspector Kamath, for utter dereliction of duty by not acting against the miscreants in the Diamond Jubilee Compound incident (C.R.No.25 of 1993). They burnt down several Muslim hutments in that incident”. (Also see Pgs. 147–149).

l     M.R.A. Marg: “PC–24242 Vidya-dhar Raghunath Shelar, Police Inspector Salvi, Police Sub–Inspector More. Babu Abdul Shaikh had been taken into custody by them. But because of their conduct, he was attacked and murdered by Hindu miscreants (C.R.No.579 of 1992). Though the accused, all active Shiv Sainiks, have been arrested, the conduct of the police personnel is not beyond reproof”. (Also see Pgs. 155–156).

l     Nagpada: “Police Inspector Dhavale over–reacted by firing at a mob of 10–12 miscreants throwing stones, resulting in injury to a two–year–old child. Constable Sanjay Bhosale was part of the miscreant mob which broke open and looted articles from the shop ‘Cat’s Collections’”. (Also see Pg. 168).

l    Tardeo: “PC–7783 Shrirang Pathade, popularly known as “Richard Hawaldar”, was openly collaborating with the Shiv Sainiks in looting and violent activities. These incidents took place over a period of several days and yet the officer was not restrained”. (Also see Pg. 188–191).

l  R.A.K. Marg:  “Police Sub–Inspec-tor N.K. Kapse’s act of unprovoked firing at Hilal Masjid killed seven Muslims (C.R.No.17 of 1993). The police prevaricated while recording evidence on this incident”. (Also see Pgs. 178–187).

l   Antop Hill: “Inspector B.B. Shinge, Sub–Inspector Shivgonda Patil and Constables A.M. Ghadi, A.Y. Kamble, P.S. Dukare, D.R. Phadtare, S.P. Patil and B.K. Gaikwad failed to protect the lives and properties of the Muslim victims. Only one police officer, Senior Police Inspector, Vinayakrao Raosaheb Patil of the Antop Hill police station was removed from service with effect from April 30, 1993 for reasons of developing  a relationship with “criminals” and “communal elements’ in Antop Hill Police station and thereby shielding them from government action. (Also  see Pg. 58, para 2.27). The communal elements in question are Shiv Sena MLA, Kalidas Kolamkar and Sena Shakha Pramukh, Bal Thombre. It was due to this connivance that a massive operation was launched by the Hindu miscreants in Pratikshanagar, some of whom openly professed their connections with the Shiv Sena. This massive operation is the combing and marking of Muslim homes for attack and holding to ransom 3,000–5,000 Muslims for three days and nights on the streets outside their homes without food or water”. (Pgs. 53–59).

In each of these instances, the Commission has recommended that government take appropriate action. This means that criminal cases be launched against the guilty police officers immediately. Instead of accepting the Judge’s findings as prima facie valid, the ATR  says, “a committee under the Director General of Police and consisting of representatives of the Home, Law and Judiciary departments and the Director of Prosecution will further examine the cases for taking appropriate action. This amounts to nothing short of delaying action, if not rejecting outright the Commission’s findings on blatantly criminal, communal behaviour on the part of policemen. This attitude as reflected in the ATR also amounts to a rejection of the prima facie findings of a Commission of inquiry. The mala fide motives behind this rejection are not far to find, given that in most of the cases the policemen are guilty of actions in collusion with Shiv Sainiks or at their behest. It is unlikely that the examination by this committee will not be similarly subject to partisan considerations.

The report also comments adversely on the abject failure of the Mumbai police in garnering the support of the army despite the fact that army patrols were holding flag marches and the army had been summoned into the metro due to the complete collapse of the state police administration. (Pg.  39, para 1.26). This reluctance to hand over charge to the army despite a fast deteriorating situation led to an avoidable loss of lives, limb and property.

The government rejects the observations of the Commission on the lack of co–ordination with the army but adds, “however steps would be taken to better such co-ordination.” Some serious observations have been made by the Judge in his recommendations for avoiding such a collapse of the law and order machinery in future in the report. These pertain to the singular failure of the administration in “Maintaining Records with Reference to Communal Riots” (Pg. 34, para 1.17). Investigations with regard to Communal Offences  and Investigations with regard to Riot–Related Offences that get classified into the ‘A’ category (True but undetected) letting communal riot–related crime go scot–free.

The ATR merely “notes” these recommendations and promises no action.

Sections 153(a) and (b) of the Indian Penal code that deal with “inciting hatred and violence against a particular religious community” have been used too sparingly by the police and the state government in this riot. Even in instances where the police did file cases, against Bal Thackeray particularly, these were delayed for lack of sanction by the earlier Congress(I) government and finally withdrawn by the current Shiv Sena–BJP combine. The then Additional Commissioner, V.N. Deshmukh’s evidence reveals how  out of the total of 24 cases filed against Thackeray, 16 could not proceed as the government did not grant sanction for prosecution; in six cases sanction had been granted and charge–sheets filed, but the Sena–BJP government decided to withdraw the cases and did so on August 28, 1996 and October 18, 1996. Two cases are still pending in the criminal courts. (Pg. 202, para 4.16).

There is no comment or explanation in the ATR of communally incendiary writings in the Saamna and Navaakal. Worse still, despite this conclusive evidence related to these 15 officers, the ATR rejects the conclusion of the judge on the widespread communal bias governing the acts of our policemen.

Justifying its assertion that the police force is efficient and completely unbiased, the ATR says:“The Commission blames the police for not having been able to control the riots effectively. However, the Government feels that although the police suffered from the paucity of number and resources, they brought the riots under control in minimum time and handled the riots effectively. The police opened fire 153 times in the first phase of riots during the December, 1992. In this, 30 Hindus 133 Muslims and 11 others died; and 93 Hindus, 189 Muslims and 10 others were injured. In the second phase police opened fire 308 times, i.e., double the number of the first phase. In this, 80 Hindus, 90 Muslims and one other died and 326 Hindus, 146 Muslims and 5 others were injured. If the number of dead and injured from both the communities is seen and the leadership and the role of the two communities in the riots is considered, the actions taken by the police does not show any bias against any community. Barring some exceptions, the Government cannot agree with the conclusion of the Commission that police assumed the role of mute spectators during the riots or that they even took part in the riots or that they had lost moral authority  to control the riots. On the contrary, while controlling the riots, two police officers and 5 policemen were killed and 184 police officers and 312 policemen were injured. This shows that police sincerely tried to control the mobs firmly and impartially with complete disregard to the grave dangers to their lives.

 “The Government feels that barring some stray exceptions, the police force is, by and large, secular, impartial and free from bias. The Government cannot accept the conclusion of the Commission based on stray evidence of one or two officers that the entire police force of Mumbai was communalised or polarised. The Government feels that such a statement could be the personal opinion of that police officer. The impartial way in which Mumbai police have handled these or other communal riots for the last many years, have adequately proved their secular and impartial character”. (Pg. 245, para 35).

The history of the Mumbai of December 1992 and January 1993 is a sorry tale of a pathetic paralysis in the administration, compounded by instances of apathy or bias that governed the action of several policemen. Fifteen such cases have been documented in detail. One Police Inspector already dismissed from service for his shameful conduct. The ATR is utterly silent on refuting these specific allegations, resorting to the time–tested technique of the Sena–BJP combine in particular, and Hindutvawaadi forces in general, of resorting to unsubstantiated generalities. Instead of replying case–by–case to 15 cases of blatant communal bias that have been detailed, the ATR attempts to brush off these prima facie findings as the “opinions of individual police officers.”

It has been no one’s case that the victims of the riots were only Muslims, though the loss of property and business reveals a distinct pattern where the minority has been the target. Neither do the substantiated allegations of increasing anti–minority bias within the force ever suggest that the entire force is so communal. But again, left with no moral authority to refute the direct findings and prima facie conclusions drawn by the Commission, attempts to take shelter behind half–baked truths. A careful reading of the report and the ATR exposes this motivation of the Maharashtra government.

Significant observations have been made by the Judge under the section, “Religious processions, meetings and use of loudspeakers” (Pg. 38, para 1.23).  Since many such processions flare up into communal riots, particularly in congested areas where communities live side–by–side, the Judge has recommended that there should be a stricter control enforced in the matter of religious processions. Similarly, announcements on loudspeakers and religious observances in public places have also led to avoidable friction amongst different communities which have the potential for communal disturbances.

For example, the Commission has recommended that:

l “It is recommended that there should be stricter control enforced in the matter of religious processions and a security deposit of not less than Rs. 5,000 should be taken from the organisers of religious processions who should also be called upon to execute a guarantee for the peaceful conduct of procession. If there is any disturbance by the processionists, the deposit should be forfeited and action taken against the organisers of the processions”.

l “Every religious procession is required to be accompanied by police to ensure that there is no disturbance or attacks upon the processionists or by them. It is suggested that the organisers should be made to pay the charges for deployment of police leaving the number of policemen to be determined by the Senior Police Inspector of the respective police station”.

l “Religious observances, whether by Hindus or Muslims or any other, in open public places so as to cause obstruction, annoyance or inconvenience to the citizens at large, must be strictly discouraged and action taken against those who defy the instructions of police”. 

The ATR  merely “notes”  these recommendations offering no comment nor promising any action. It is highly unlikely that a government headed by the Shiv Sena, a party who’s political philosophy and method of mobilisation centres around the appropriation of religious and ostensibly religious festivals would be in any hurry to even accept, let alone implement, these recommendations.

Equally significant observations have been made by the Judge under the section, ‘Political interference in police work’) where he firmly recommends: “Once a prosecution has been launched against a person for rioting, it should under no circumstances be withdrawn. Not even the repeated ground of  ‘public interest’ should permit prosecutions of communal offences to be withdrawn. It is not only demoralising to the police, but also sends wrong signals to the offenders that they can somehow get away with it.” The ATR “notes” this, offering no comment or assurances. (Pg. 38, para 1.25).


If there is one aspect where Justice Srikrishna is sparing in his comment, it is when it comes to analysing and commenting upon the role of the Congress(I) that ruled in Maharashtra during the riots. Whether it was in 1970 or 1992–1993, the tragic truth is that the Congress has allowed the Shiv Sena to wreck havoc on the lives of innocent citizens and go unchallenged. Despite posturing, no Congress Chief Minister has shown the political courage to punish Shiv Sena chief, Bal Thackeray, for his blatantly provocative posturings and his battalion of Shiv Sainiks for acting on the venom he periodically spits.

Justice Srikrishna has unfortunately been too sparing on an administration that allowed a whole metropolis to be held to ransom. The evidence of then Chief Minister Sudhakarrao Naik bears this out. (Pgs. 217–220).

The fact that it was under a Congress–led administration that the Shiv Sena was allowed a free–run of Mumbai and several of the police stations within it, deserved a more detailed examination by the Judge. This gross political failure has been dismissed in a few words: “Effete political leadership, vacillation for political reasons and conflicting orders issued to the Commissioner of Police and percolated downwards created a general sense of confusion in the lower ranks of the police, resulting in the dilemma ‘to shoot, or not to shoot’. Four precious days were lost for the Chief Minister to consider and issue orders as to effective use of army for controlling the riots.” (Pg. 20, para 1.28).

An inglorious record

A comparison between the conclusions and recommendations drawn by Justice Srikrishna about the Mumbai riots of 1992–1993 bear a chilling similarity to the observations made by Justice D.P. Madon about riots that took place 28 years ago. No steps were taken then to implement the recommendations of the Judge, no attempt was made to learn from past mistakes made. There is every chance that the mammoth task undertaken by the present Commission of Inquiry instead of leading to prosecutions and thereby the punishment of the guilty, systemic changes within the police administration and amendments in the law related to communal violence and commissions of inquiry, will yet again be allowed to gather dust. Vigilance from the public and persistent public pressure are vital if the critical lessons are learned from December 1992–January 1993 violence and grave errors not repeated.

It is not just Mumbai and Bhiwandi that reveal a poor track record in accountability for communal conflict and criminal acts. A study of the reports of many earlier judicial commissions inquiring into the major communal riots in post–Independent India — beginning with the first communal disturbance in Jabalpur in 1961 — shows that those guilty of criminal acts during communal riots, be they acts of murder, rape, arson or looting, have gone unpunished.

The state has also failed to act decisively against those political parties and organisations whose roles in creating an atmosphere of suspicion and hatred between different religious communities has been cited by judicial commissions, right  from making communally provocative speeches and raising provocative slogans to the final stage of actually instigating acts of violence.

Several instances have been cited by these commissions of the abuse of sections 153(a) and (b) of the Indian Penal Code — inciting hatred and violence against a particular religious community before, during and after every communal riot. Yet the police and the Government have done nothing to ensure that those guilty of this abuse of the law get punished. Not surprisingly, those guilty of breach of the law, function with greater and greater impunity with each riot, defying democratic norms and legal provisions, confident that their illegal and criminal acts will not invite any scrutiny.

The inquiry Commission reports also show that outfits with a majoritarian worldview and their leaders and representatives — Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Jana Sangh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Shiv Sena, the Hindu Munnani, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or the Bajrang Dal — have escaped swift and stern action by the Indian state and law and order machinery despite clear–cut indictments through judicial Commission reports for their direct involvement in fanning communal hatred and even actively participating in violence. 

Worse still, the Indian state has a poor track record in ensuring that the equal protection and treatment by the law is the right of every citizen, regardless of community, caste or gender. Put more starkly, the state has shown scant regard for enhancing a sense of justice and fair play within Indian society through the punishment of those held guilty of communal violence. This is absolute pre–requisite for a lasting and genuine peace, reconciliation and  harmony between communities.

Equally disturbing are the oft–documented instances of one–sided and biased police conduct that denies to the minorities the protection of their life, liberty and property. This consistent fact of most post–Independence communal riots has also escaped punitive action. The role of the Indian State in this context has amounted to condoning acts of proven communal bias among senior and junior echelons of the Indian police, many of whom have retired in senior positions, rewarded instead of being publicly condemned and punished for serious lapses.

This has been the unfortunate stance of the State towards communal leaders and parties, communal organisations, police officers and policemen. All this, in most cases, under a Congress dispensation with its avowed commitment to secularism. It is hardly surprising that today, with a BJP–led coalition government ruling in New Delhi and the BJP along with other Hindutvawaadi allies controlling reigns of government in five Indian states, the attitude of the state to the findings and conclusions of a Judicial Commission has veered sharply from callous indifference earlier to a blatantly contemptuous and dismissive response today.

Derision, abuse and scorn have been used in turn by Shiv Sena leaders, particularly its chief, Bal Thackeray to belittle the historic task undertaken by Justice B.N.Srikrishna of the Bombay High Court even before the Sena–BJP combine came to power in Maharashtra, two years after the worst–ever communal riots in Bombay.  Thackeray’s attitude towards the judiciary, like his utterances on other democratic institutions, has been publicly contemp-tuous. In June 1993, six months after the appointment of the Commission of Inquiry and three months after a public interest writ petition was filed by citizens demanding the arrest of Bal Thackeray — for his writings and speeches promoting hatred against Muslims and inciting violence against them — he had in interviews to the media (including one in his own party organ, Dopahar ka Saamna) boasted, “Mein adalat ke phaislon par laghushanka karta hoon” (“I piss on the judgement of courts”).


Much myth–making and distortion of facts has surrounded incidents of communal conflict within India during and after August 1947. The peculiar circumstances of the vivisection of the sub–continent on religious lines has left deep wounds among a people brutalised by the barbarity of the violence. Acts of violence and retaliation inspired by mistrust have in turn aggravated suspicions between the two major religious communities. Violence has been justified by fictitious, exaggerated and real accounts of the wrongdoings of the “Other.”

Rumours have sustained hate–campaigns of communal organs of the Hindu, Muslim and Sikh varieties, and instigated sections of people into committing the most brutal acts of violence during the partition–related riots in 1947.

Unfortunately the Indian State and large sections of Indian society have failed to honestly address the issues that arose out of this huge, man–made trauma. As a consequence, the malaise of bitter suspicion, real and assumed wrongs sustained through stereotypes and historical myths, ails us even today. Every communal riot sees a minor or major re–play of the horrors of yesteryears.

The phenomenal growth of communal parties in post–Independence India, has deepened the malaise. The growing support to such parties and rise to power through the democratic process has legitimised a clearly sectarian discourse. But much of this discourse was allowed to go unchallenged in the initial decades post-Independence under erstwhile secular regimes, long before the growing electoral support to overt communal parties.

The agenda of these parties has been to garner support through an appeal to a narrow notion of identity always in conflict with an inimical “Other.”  To widen and to legitimise the appeal of a sectarian and narrow identity, communal violence has been systematically used by communal forces to polarise neighbourhoods, even entire cities and districts. Riots are preceded by sustained rumour campaigns, incendiary speeches and hate–propaganda all of which succeed in making a large section among the majority acquiescent in the brutality that is to follow. Barbaric acts of violence are then justified as legitimate self–defence.

Bombay in December 1992 and January 1993 is among the most recent examples of the archetypal communal riot scenario. For five days in December 1992 and a fortnight in January 1993, Mumbai was held to ransom as communal elements among Hindus and Muslims, led in the main, overtly by the Shiv Sena and covertly by the BJP, the RSS and the VHP, unleashed anarchy and terror on the streets, tearing away the veneer of cosmopolitanism that had been the trade–mark of India’s urbs prima. Violence and brutality, unprecedented in magnitude and ferocity, became the order of the day as a government unwilling to act and a police administration driven by bias allowed communalists to carry out their misdeeds unchallenged.

The familiar pattern of myth–making and distortion of facts, common to every post–Independence communal riot was in plentiful evidence in Bombay. Majoritarian communal parties, particularly the Shiv Sena, the BJP, the RSS, and the VHP in Bombay in December 1992–January 1993 carried out this sustained propaganda through their well–oiled rumour–mills, incendiary reportage and a pre–meditated distortion of the sequence of violence.

Thousands of lives have thus been lost in communal conflict, the schisms that have arisen between individuals, neighbourhoods and communities remain unbreached, the State’s track record in punishing the perpetrators of violence — that could help re–generate faith among victims in the fairness of the system and thus create the possibility for real reconciliation — remains abysmal. The post–riot bomb blasts in Mumbai in 1993 and in Coimbatore in February 1998 are a grim reminder of the prospects staring India in the face if the State, the political class and society as a whole continue to remain complacent, at best, and connivers, at the worst, in this dangerous drift towards the communal abyss.

— Teesta Setalvad