Mumbai, July 21: Police used Mumbai blast as an excuse to unleash terror on Muslims. For five days in December 1992 (6th to 10th December 1992) and fifteen days in January 1993 (6th to 20th January 1993), Bombay was rocked by riots.
Then on March 12, 1993 Mumbai was set ablaze by a series of bomb blasts, leading to the death of 260 people and 1,000 injured.
The bomb went off on Friday and rocked Bombay Stock office to Centure hotel. The casualty was not high but it made communal Hindus sit and think about their strategy vis-a-vis Muslims. Before that despicable incident Muslims of Mumbai were treated as dirt. Their properties were looted in the communal riot. Several of their innocent youths were put behind bars for protesting against the demolition of historic Babri Mosque.
Things had gone from bad to worse. Muslims were unsafe and they started giving up their cultural identity shaving off their beard, wearing kurta pyjama and taking off purdah. They were teased and called katua (circumcised). Muslim commuters had to give their seat to Hindu commuters in Metro Rail. Life had become unbearable. They were demoralized. These things were the norm rather than exception. However, the incident of Black Friday reversed the trend.
Fingers were pointed towards outside forces. Then home minister SB Cavan told the Rajya Shabha on March 12 that an “international conspiracy” seemed to be behind the bomb blast. He said that bomb blasts were so powerful nature that hardly local gangsters can hardly be behind it.
What followed after that was shocking. Muslim leaders were gobsmacked at the treatment mooted out to the Muslims by the fascist police force. Riots broke out. Several Muslim industrialists were arrested and tortured and a great number of Muslim youths are still languishing in jails. Thus the second round of state sponsored prosecution of Muslims started. Crude and barbaric methods were adopted to teach lessons to Muslims.
Just after the blasts, Shiv Sainiks (Hindu militants) started attacking innocent Muslims. On 21 April 1993, Ziaududdin Bhukhari a former Muslim league MLA was shot dead by Hindu Militants. Cases of abduction, torture and molestation came to the fore.
BJP-backed The Pioneer in its editorial (Policing by excess. 12 May 1993) wrote: “The metropolis’ policemen and their counterparts in Raigad district (where the smuggled consignments of explosive were landed) appear to have cast aside all norms of civilized behavior, democracy and the rule of law. Worse, they seem to have given free rein to their personal communal prejudices. A series of habeas corpus petitions before the Bombay High Court reveal that the police have been indiscriminately picking up ordinary citizen, invariably Muslims, booking them under TADA (a law meant exclusively for terrorists) and then detaining them for inordinately long periods.”
The stories of those who suffered under TADA can never be erased from the collective memory of the nation. Innocent Muslims were even denied the basic right of seeking legal assistance.
The National Minorities Commission had condemned the misuse of the law against the minorities. Justice Rajinder Sachar, a retired chief justice of the Delhi High Court and senior functionary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) said, “TADA was being misused…After Bombay (bomb blasts) many Muslims have been arrested under TADA.”
An Amnesty International report said after its delegation visited Mumbai that ‘particularly disturbing were the allegations that the police use ‘hostages’ to force the surrender of suspects in the wake of bombing which took place on March 12 1993...the police resorted to taking away...family members of suspects they could not find.’ A frustrated Abdur Rahman Antulay, a former Maharashtra chief minister and senior Congress leader once complained to the NHRC detailing the specific instances of an entire Muslim family that was falsely accused of complicity in the Bombay blasts detained and tortured. He asked the NHRC of an impartial inquiry into the matter and said that in the interest of justice it was imperative at the minimum that Pawar, the then chief minister should resign.
The Pioneer wrote: “Most reprehensible has been its (Mumbai police) treatment of women. One petition filed by a 21-year-old student speaks of how she was assaulted, insulted, and threatened with unspeakable atrocities in front of her father in a bid to get him to reveal the where about of her brother. The policemen willfully ignored basic norms that prohibit women being kept overnight in a lock-up or being interrogated except in the presence of policewomen. The Bombay and Raigad police have unleashed a virtual reign of terror in their respective areas. Their vindictiveness against Muslims has unnecessarily given a communal tinge to what was being seen as an impartial investigation in to a heinous crime.”
A weekly Indian magazine in its June 1993 edition also carried the same story.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims, including women, children and youths, were arrested and dumped in Mumbai’s concentration camps. Young girls were molested and emotionally blackmailed by the police.
Almost 28 commissions have submitted their reports on communal riots. Krishna Commission Report revealed the nexus between the police and Hindu rioters. It said: “The precautionary and preventive measures taken by the police were inadequate. On several occasions police station concerned did not even have persons knowing Urdu to interact with Muslims and feel the pulse of Muslim community or even to read and understand Urdu writings. This also led to their inability to keep themselves apprised of the communal Urdu writings circulating in the city.”
Despite the clear-cut guideline in the “Guidelines for controlling communal disturbances”, no police station appears to have maintained the ‘list of communal goondas’. Consequently, when the commissioner of police instructed the police stations to round up ‘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 the respective police stations. The report said that though the army was alerted on 6th December 1992 itself, there was utter confusion in making effective utilization of the army columns.
Both in December 1992 and January 1993 the army could have been given operational role which could have swiftly and decisively put an end to the communal riots. The police over-estimated their ability to control the communal riots, or were reluctant to requisition the aid of army to disperse unlawful assemblies when it was apparent to the local police officers that the situation was slipping out of their hands. This has led to avoidable loss of lives, limbs and property.
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.
Police officers and men, particularly at the junior level, appeared to have an in–built bias against the Muslims which was evident in their treatment of the suspected Muslims 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.
The Commission has received valuable inputs from several senior police officers and political leaders examined before it. The Commission has also studied the report of the Rustamji Panel of Assessors as well as that of the Panel of Assessors headed by Dr RK Hebsur, making invaluable suggestions. There appears to be near unanimity amongst the witnesses that there is imperative need for restoring the authority of law and refurbishing the image of the police.