Roadside Shrines : Protection from Communal Mobs
Duration: 00:19:55; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 194.333; Saturation: 0.020; Lightness: 0.520; Volume: 0.385; Cuts per Minute: 2.258; Words per Minute: 78.884
During the 1992- 1993 riots, the roadside shrines had their own history, that have not been explored. In this case, the shrine evokes in the interviewee a memory of being protected by the presence of this shrine. She also evokes a memory of the maha aarti, the aartis organized by the Shiv Senas to rally Hindus together. They would often serve as beginning points for a mob attack. Maha-aartis were a direct response to namaaz that was carried out on the streets
One of the residents; a gritty lady describes some of the events she witnessed during the 1992 riots in one of the worst affected areas of the inner city precincts. There was mayhem during this time period where a lot of people were scared for their lives. Removal of fuses, total blackouts in areas so that people could not target zones based on ethnicities; people jumping into gutters to avoid mobs; vantage points used to hurl bombs; lynching and burning of people and possessions, and all sorts of horror stories were described by this woman. If not experienced, then episodes recounted to her. She talks of her association with the shrine by her house, her faith, which she says saved her life and the lives of her children during that difficult period. She attributes the proximity to the shrine as being one of the reasons for their survival, as people, despite the threats; infact chose not to attack that space, the place of worship.
Mumbai Central, previously known as Bombay Central, is the railway station we see as the shot on the bridge locates the shrine in question Its is a western railways station and Mumbai suburban and outstation lines operate from here. Access to inner city precincts like Crawford Market, Mohammed Ali Road, Tardeo, Kalbadevi, Bhendi Bazaar and Chor bazaar. Mumbai Central serves as the southernmost terminus in Mumbai for Western Railway outstation trains.
Mohammed ali road
Demarcation of Mumbai central station from the over bridge and locating the roadside shrine at the foot of the bridge.
The settlements surround the shrine and its proximity to the tracks.
From the staircase at the start of the bridge that leads down to the chawls,at the foot of the bridge, the shot zooms in to the road below and to the signboard depicting the name of the locality. As we move along the road (after climbing down the stairs)to the shrine, if we stand facing g the bridge, to the left we have the tracks of Mumbai central station and Tardeo to the right.
The settlements along the bridge are permanent structures (chawl) all having the common balconies, and single rooms per occupant (kholi) accommodations.
Closer to the tracks, the shanties are non permanent structures.
Resident: At the time of the Hindu-Muslim riots, this gate of ours over here was shut because all the Muslims living in that building over there were not being allowed to enter by the miscreants, those that came to riot. The Muslims living in that building over there, Noor Mohammed and Jhamela, their houses were completely burnt.
In that building over there, come I'll show you. They're from another village outside Bombay, but the husband lived here. All their household objects, their possessions were all removed from this room and burnt
VK:-Now can you tell me since how many years have you lived here?
It has now been 32 years since I got married and I've been living here since then; my in-laws have been living here for the past 50-70 years.
VK:-In the 1992 riots, where were you?
1992 riots we were here only, because they had broken our homes and given us these transit camp accommodations ,we are here since then
VK:-In that time, during the riots can you tell me in detail, what exactly transpired?
What is there to tell? In the 1992 riots, the muslims were doing namaaz(prayers) on the roads in this area, so the Hindus decided that they need to do aarathis over here too, and at that time, the Maruti Mandir…
One of the residents; a gritty lady describes some of the events she witnessed during the 1992 riots in one of the worst affected areas of the inner city precincts-
(interrupts)Which Maruti mandir?
The Maruti Mandir here at Tardeo circle, they did an aarathi there, and at the time of the aarathi itself, some argument broke out. and during these arguments, the fighting began
And then the muslims that lived here in our locality, their houses were burnt, the Muslim owned shops at the naka, the oil-shopkeepers shops were burnt too
VK:-before the 1992 riots, how many Muslims were living here?
As such, not too many, but enough, suppose for every 50 Hindus there were at least 10-12 Muslims
VK:-and what happened in these houses here?
Here, the Muslims living in this first and second room (points), they removed each and every possession they owned and burnt it all. They burnt it right in front of us.
VK:-At this point when they're burning things, did anyone help?
People helped, but were also scared for their lives….
VK:-Who were these people?
People living around here only…;all of them were young boys, living in the locality
VK:-Were any of them your acquaintances?
Well by acquaintance, I don't mean close acquaintance, just the people living in the same locality.
Resident describing some of the horror stories witnessed during the 1992 riots.
VK:-This temple/shrine is right next to you house. During the riots, can u tell me whether you had any problems because of this shrine being present here-any trouble from others?
No-we did not have any trouble. I would say, on the contrary, we had security and were saved because of the shrine actually.
At the time of all the unrest, up on the bridge there was a lot of running around, despite the curfew in the area.
People were throwing hand bombs/homemade petrol bombs, down here. People were continuously threatening us- there is a flag here, a shrine, you live next to it, we will light your home first.
We told them do it, do what you want, first god will burn, then I will burn, I'm not scared, we'll see.
People kept coming, with swords, some Muslims came by car, and people were calling us on the phone.
We didn't know what or who to believe, what was true and what wasn't.
But, in fact, they threw bombs from the bridge down here.
Yes, glass bottles, sodawater bottles, hand bombs. They used to say, we'll blow up your shrine.
They said it, but they never threw anything on the shrine.
That's why; we were protected due to us being close to the shrine.
Interviewer2-what was here earlier?
Those hutments on the bridge were not there. it was all empty
Those walking on the bridge could see directly into our homes; at the time of the curfew, we had done a total blackout. People had all shut all their lights off.
The lights weren't on, or else if the lights are on, then people would know exactly who was living here. I had removed the fuse in my own house. For many days we lived without any lights.
At the time of the riots, all our neighboring people, there were lots of them who were leaving their homes and going away; some were going to their aunt's place, some to their sisters-reason being…if we leave this place and go elsewhere, we wont die here.
I, for one, I took my kids and I stayed here. If I had to die, I'd end up dying there or I'd die here. And my house is next to god, so I had full faith in my god. I knew nothing would happen to me; this was the guarantee I had in my own mind. if anything good has to happen it will happen here with parmeshwar at my side.
VK:-now could you tell me briefly, you were staying here, what was the general atmosphere of the whole area? Was it burning? What exactly was going on?
Our area wasn't burning, but outside the gate …..
VK:-was there smoke?
Yes, there was smoke out here from this side(points to left)
Someone was saying, that they burnt something in byculla, In Madanpura, behind us in Arya Nagar, things were burnt(points behind)
VK:- But you couldn't see anything..
no, we could see the smoke
VK:-you could see fire and smoke?
VK:-They were saying that people were dying. Even in the gutters?
The mouth of the Worli gutter meets here below us at this fork. Further down is the main gutter, they said that some people even came walking inside that main gutter, even one dead body floated by ,and from the drain at the railway fork, people pulled it out.2-3 men told us, they got scared and jumped into the gutter behind., i.e. when the riots broke out. There is a pipeline that runs inside right till this lid here.
VK:-What else happened in the gutters?
Yes, at the time of the riots, there were even some dead bodies in that gutter.
Someone said they were cut up and thrown in, we didn't know the actual situation, but this is what people told us.
Some people walked underground and were pulled out elsewhere.
The gutter below us, someone shouted out and was heard and pulled out to safety.
VK:-The Muslim families living here in your locality, they also packed up and left?
VK:-No, the Muslims living here didn't leave, they stayed back because we told them not to take any tension- while we are here; we will not let your lives be harmed. The Muslims living here didn't leave, only the ones there I told u about, those two families, they left in the end out of fear. We told them not to, but they said after all that has transpired, they did not feel safe. They went to their relatives places; otherwise even they wouldn't have left. The remaining Muslims living here stayed here only.
Resident interview continued-gutters description where she describes some other episodes regarding the sewage line.
She (resident) shows the main Worli gutter (main sewage line called Mansoor line)route where people jumped in
You want to see the gutter, right?
The Worli gutter's main key is here.
It connects on the route going to golpade
VK:- Do you have any trouble in the rains?
Yes, the sea water-suppose the level raises at high tide and they shut the key, the water comes flowing out.
VK:-all the gutter water comes out into your locality?
(shows the main key-gutter)
So this is where the people jumped in.
Yes, and they walked along the side steps all the way, hiding and looking for outlets.
sewage gutter main key gutter
A construction site
The same lady shows the crew the site of redevelopment being undertaken in the chawl area. The builder has promised new buildings with increased FSI.Most of these tenants had been given transit camp accommodations(current living space),which became their permanent housing.So,the builders are now infact redeveloping their transit camp accommodations after some agreement with either the govt,or some private party, whichever was responsible for shifting these people to this location.
Back on the main over bridge, the resident shows the multi-crore building that has replaced the mill where her father-in-law used to work in. she goes on to describe how she ran the milk booth (since the man who ran it was stuck in Jogeshwari, where he had riots in his own locality) at the time of the curfew risking her own life, so t hat people could at least get milk.
Now I've been married for 32 years, and my in-laws have been here for over 60 years. My father in law worked in the mill here called Shapurji-Manikji. They sold it to Great eastern shipping co, and great eastern built this huge building. the mill was shut and this cropped up in its place
they bought it for 24 crore
They gave compensation to all the workers, my father in-law included.
VK:-they gave money?
Yes, they had to leave their jobs, so they had to be compensated.
VK:-So, at the time of the riots, you were coming here to this milk booth...
Yes, we were coming to this booth-because we were living close by, we would finish (distribute) 200-300 bottles for the people.
I used to ask for the milk for all the people in this area, and it used to finish at this centre.
Our milk man Mr. Mahdik is from Jogeshwari and there were riots in his own locality, so he could not come during those days, he was stuck too
There was one centre here and one up ahead. We pooled all the milk to this one centre and distributed it.
Gouri Patwardhan-You were here in front of the police?
Yes, the police were telling us-you're sitting here, they'll cut you, kill you.
I said, if they cut us, let them-if you can't handle your own duty, you should go home and sit.
The cops were telling us not to start the centre,-if your lives at stake who will be responsible? etc.etc.
Our god will protect us, I told him.
VK:-at that time, did u see anyone getting killed?
No, the road was relatively calm and safe there was no one in the morning or the afternoon because of the curfew. Groups of more than 3-4 people were not allowed to gather or walk around. There were only 1 or maximum two people walking at a time.
VK:-still, you were coming to the centre
I was coming everyday, I had to. Otherwise I wouldn't get milk, and neither would the rest of the people.
VK:-so did u see anyone get killed?
No, no, we were sitting here, but we were getting reports, hearing things. Someone was killed here, someone was killed there, but we did not witness anything.
great eastern shipping company