Behrampada & Its Residents: Nasima Bi
Duration: 00:04:06; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 24.317; Saturation: 0.298; Lightness: 0.381; Volume: 0.223; Cuts per Minute: 1.215; Words per Minute: 194.669
Summary: This is an interview from the rushes of the ‘I live in Behrampada’, a documentary on a Mulim ghetto in the context of the Bombay riots, an aftermath of the Babari Masjid demolition. I was 8 years old during the Bombay ’92-93 riots. My only memory of the time was an unscheduled two-month holiday from school, though the adult talk about stray dead bodies and destruction remains stored in some corner. Later various other incidents of violent identity politics and representations of the Bombay riots in films etc. made a constant a reference point. Going through the rushes after 15 years has also been a process of coming to terms with my own city and its black holes.
The riots of ’92-93 divided the famed cosmopolitan city of Bombay on communal lines and the neighbourhood of Behrampada bore the brunt of this division. The film explored social biases, which under emergency can create mayhem. In this search, the film interviewed people from different classes and religions – namely, Hindu building residences, and Muslim slum dwellers; authorized buildings and unauthorized or under-dispute settlements. What is apparent in the interviews is the different perspectives on each event, accusation of the ‘other’ community and the feeling of being wronged and rejected. However, reading/seeing the whole rushes makes it clear that it was a manifestation of old politics of majoritarianism. It is recommended to visit the other interviews under the same category in this site in order to understand the whole picture.
Nasima Bi was a daily wage worker who survives on odd jobs. Due to the riots on the city big business establishments had closed down, some had even been destroyed. Furthermore the Muslim settlements were under surveillance from the police and the right wing Hindu forces. These resulted in complete collapse of economic structure and the person like Nasima, who were at the bottom of the structure were the worst hit. With her excellent articulation and pragmatic logic Nasima exposes the prevalent politics of intolerance.
This interview has become iconic and representative of the Indian politics of last one and a half decade. It was quoted often in academic and activist fora. Visual artists such as Nalini Malani and Navjot created art works based on this interview.
Interviewee: Nasima bi (NB); Interviewer: Madhusree Dutta (M). Shot by: Moloy Roy
Director: Madhusree Dutta
Nasima Bi is a daily wage earner in a slum called Behrampada in Bandra east. The slum is situated in a prime land surrounded by the busy Railway junction, corporate offices and residential apartment buildings. The area was also, at that time, being developed for a long distance train terminus and a second buisness district of Bombay – Bandra-Kurla complex. In the wake of the communal riots in the city the Muslim settlement was accused of being a hindrance to the functioning of the offices and the residents. The class hostility got a communal grab. Nasima bi maps the whole scene with her simple articulation and simpler logic.
(NB): There have been no fights from our side, till today. Neither has anyone started any trouble, not from our colony, we have never caused any trouble or inconvenience to these company people. Why are these people after our Behram, why do they keep saying that they want Behram emptied by the 11th? For 11 years our company is also on, for 11 years if any of our boys or mothers-daughters have given them any problem and secondly these people, when they're walking on the roads, throw the cycle, the police then comes in from all sides. For how long will our men sit idle at homes, without any jobs? We can't even stand in our own neighbourhood. We do have a right to stand on the road, behind our own houses! They come, then they go and complain and come and capture our men and beat them up horribly!
bandra kurla complex
The class intolerance, poor Muslim people being assaulted from every side and in turn, are branded as criminals. Behrampada – the name that the city elites, Hindu middle class and the status-quoist media pronounced with resentment and Behram- the residents call with affection. Same settlement, two perceptions.
(NB): What does your husband do?
I don't have a husband, but they are all my brothers, sisters and your people also stay around here. Have we ever caused them any grievances? No. So many OM (Hindus) live here…have we caused them harm? No. I say I live here, have we caused them any grievances, no, go inside and ask them. So then why do you people cause us so much pain? Why do you hurt our boys like this? Why do you throw bombs from there and shoot bullets from there? And if there is a fire and our men go and try to put it off, you shoot at them! From all four sides you torture and then on top of that you blacken Behram's name! Why do you do this? What hurt have we caused you till today? Tell us…
This single mother, can't even do her odd jobs to feed her five children. The politics reaches even the most insignificants. All trade in this thriving community has been put to a violent stop. The most effective way of destroying a community is to break the economic spine. The destruction of big establishment leads to closure of small enterprises which affects the unorganized labour and finally makes a daily wage earner like Nasima bi starve. Thus attack on business houses of minority community during communal riots snowballs into pauperizing the whole community.
(M): No one is being able to go out to work?
(NB): Nobody is being able to go to work for our daily wages! Big big factories are now shutting down. I earn Rs. 10, don't have a husband and have been sitting at home for 2 months.
(M): What do you do?
(NB) : sometimes I carry mud, sometimes I sell fish, bananas. I have five kids! How will we get food to eat, tell me! There is no hand on my head-not a father's, mother's or sister's. wherever you go there are guns being shot, people being captured, wherever you go you here of these stories. What is a woman like me to do? If my Izad Bhai's work commences, I can tell him, bhai give me Rs. 50-100. Anywhere you see, even good businesses have stopped. Our husband's can't go out because the Police captures them as suspects, there is no way to get out of here, businesses have stopped, shops are closed.
petty business. vendor
This resident of Behrampada is unable to understand the reason for so much hostility from the people she considered to be her own neighbours. She looks at the situation from a macro viewpoint, pointing out with lucid articulation that this culture of intolerance would eventually ruin every business in this country.
(NB):What is it that has troubled you? Why are you troubling us? What grievance have our people caused you? If you continue being like this with us, then you have to continue living here and so do we. You are brothers, we are brothers, you are sisters, we are sisters. How long will you live like this under the influence of others, why are you bent on destroying our country like this? We want the answer to that! What will you get by destroying this country? I will take from you, you take from me. I will buy things from your shop and you buy from mine. Until you and I don't cooperate, there is no business or job that will run. You tell me this. The people who are influencing you, do they provide you with food?
Nasima Bi wants to strike a deal with the Hindus: don't practice your religion in "our" country and we will abide by your demand too. (She is referring to two instances: a) Objection of Hindu fundamentalist to the use of mic for azaan – call for prayer. b) Maha aarti – grand prayer, organized by Shivsena, the Hindu right wing party, by blocking the artery roads of the city in protest of public Namaaz.) If any of her higher class Hindu neighbours, muster up the courage to hear her thoughts, they will be surprised to see that this illiterate resident of "Behrampada" has a far more superior and contextual view on God, faith and religion.
Nasima bi's native intelligence almost sounds prophetic.
(NB):You will not read the namaz on the road. Then we also be stubborn, we will not read the namaz on the streets. You have a problem with our namaz right, we will not read the namaz on the road. You tell us, do not read the azaan into the mic, the entire world knows that we have been doing this for centuries and it will happen, our sacrifice will also happen if you keep the deal that you will not put up the ganapati. And not play ?? on the road, then we will read the namaz inside the masjid. If we want to call out to our God, that Inshallah we can do it from anywhere! Then we also have a shart deal.
(M): All faiths are one?
(NB):: All faiths are one, you are the one dividing the faiths. We have not said anything abut your faith. You are saying these things to our faith but we are not saying anything to yours. You believe in Ram, we believe in Allah, both faiths are the same, but both have differentiated their mazhabs (faith). We are all the same people, we have the same blood, everything is one but jamat (community) is different. Did you understand?