Behrampada & Its Neighbours: Men of LIG Colony
Duration: 00:22:53; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 32.114; Saturation: 0.165; Lightness: 0.389; Volume: 0.235; Cuts per Minute: 0.044; Words per Minute: 125.757
Summary: This is one 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.
This is an interview with the residents of a building cluster made by the Government. It is called LIG – Lower income group colony. The undignified policy of the govt. making clusters of homes by the economic status and then making it obvious in the address itself.
Shot by: Moloy Roy
Director: Madhusree Dutta
The LIG people are generally low level govt. employees or owners of very small business. The very fact that they live in govt. housing colony shows that they are not old residents of Bombay, but must have migrated in last 40 years or so. They are surrounded by MIG – Middle income group colony and the slum – Behrampada. So they live between the aspiration and contempt. It so happened that the place of aspiration is inhabited predominantly by Hindus and the place of contempt predominantly by Muslims.
Obviously the tense political air of the time which got aggravated by the demolition of Babri masjid on 6th December, provided validity and a communal colour to the class hostility of the lower class towards the poor.The lower middle class wants the slum to be evicted to make way for further development – shopping malls and fancy railway terminus. They are completely oblivious of the fact once the slum gets eradicated, it will be their rickety homes in the list of 'eviction for development'.
(Q): The new Bandra terminus which is going to be built, where will it be? Where is the new road going to be and what is its relation to Behrampada?
(Man): From Building no 28 to the Indian Oil office, parallel is the railway boundary wall. On the railway land is the half the Behrampada locality and half the locality is on collector's land. And Behrampada…according to the Supreme court decision has to be moved, according to the Rajagwadi decision. And just before that they have started this riot. In Behram, if you see, people live, there are businesses and approximately 2500-3000 people come to work here from outside. There are almost 70-80 footwear workshops, 60-65 garment workshops in behram. And others like Jari workers, there are many people who work there and come from outside. And therefore their daily wages, as they work on daily wages, has stopped. And these people (from Behrampada) are wholesalers, the retailers are Hindu businessmen and that is why their wholesale work has stopped almost. And the other thing is that they have to be moved as Bandra Terminus is a 66 crore project. Today its in the newspapers, that the first phase has been completed, second phase is starting. In the second phase, the quarters behind building 28 and the shops called Bapuji stalls have to be moved completely and there is going to be a 120 feet wide road. And the beside that there will be seven platforms, right now there are two, but there will be seven added. A commercial centre will be built. And railway has made this shopping complex.
(Q): and so only if Behrampada goes away will this take place
(Man): yes, only if Behrampada goes away only then this progress will take place. And when the question of moving Behrampada comes up, the MLAs and the MPs, at that time the MP was Janardhan Chandurkar, and now MLA Sunil Jadhav create some problems, because from this locality they get 95% votes. At one go, they don't get these many votes from anywhere.
Once the middle class voters are taught the rhetoric of development they can
reproduce it in order to justify any xenophobia. But when asked to specifically list the benefit that they expect to receive by demolishing the neighbouring slum, it was all half sentences and rambles.
(Q): what is the benefit to you…because the terminus gets constructed, whats the benefit to you?
(Man): Because of the terminus, the offices here, Bandra Kurla Complex, Indian Oil, ONGC, MSEB, all
(Q): So they will get better traveling facilties..
(Man): Traveling facilities and also the trade will increase here.
Other people: the road which has closed will open up, the benefits are many… (Man): this (paper) is of 7th December, no 7th January, two sadhus were coming from Saurashtra Express….3 sadhus were stabbed. And the statement they have given is that this is an old photo, from the riots of '84.But where was the terminus then? Terminus was at that time…see we can see the road in the photo, the bridge…
Bandra Kurla complex
bandra kurla complex
(Q): this atmosphere of tension, which all the women are talking about, when did it start?
(Man): after 6 th dec.
(Q): Will you tell how this happened?
Man: On 6th Dec, the hindu temple was broken down, the Ganesh Mandir opposite the court was broken down at night, after that people….in Ahmed Zakaria Nagar beside Behrampada, from there the first attack took place on the transit camp and New MIG colony. And then later, the stoning, bombing was continuous for 15 days. After that a few days there was a gap. Then on 6th January, it started again. 8th Jan was a Friday, they had Namaz,, 1.30 was the namaz time, the moment the Namaz got over, they threw a bomb on building no 28, 29. Petrol bomb.
(Q): Where did they throw the bomb from?
Man: from the Mosque. It is just behind Building no 28.
(Q): but the distance is huge from the Mosque to the building…
(Man): But there is a maidan between, its open in the maidan, they were carrying weapons – sten guns and revolvers.
(Q): you saw all this?
(Man): Yes I have seen all this…
(Q): In the news papers their statement has come that they live in hutments and these are building and they could have never reached them..
(Man): No but they have thrown bombs on the buildings and the roofs and window glass in these buildings are broken…you can see that…if you want.
(Q): with the bomb…
(Man): yes…30 no has a window blasted…
(Q): when did this happen?
(Man): on 8 th Jan,.
(Q): And on 15th Jan something happened…namaz was going on are you telling about 8th Jan?
(Man): Yes, sorry I am talking about 15th Jan…they were throwing bombs.
(Q): But there is a wall over there how can they throw bombs from there?
(Man): No, there is no wall. Building no 30 and the mosque and there is a mosque in Bapuji quarters. In railway quarters ground they were praying.
(Q): How did you retaliate?
(Man): we could only throw stones to retaliate…from the ground. Because the terrace was covered by the police.
(Q): there were police in the terrace? They didn't let you go up?
(Man): No they didn't let us go up.
Behrampada and the neighbouring areas on those days were like a b-grade thriller movie. It was full of Whodunit – stories. The Hindu side said that a Ganesha idol was beheaded on 6th December night and thus the riots started. Behrampada people denied any connection to that. It is another matter that the said Ganesha idol and his temple since then has grown into a formidable institution of great revenue and real estate.
On 15th January 1993 some Behrampada people died on firing. Behrampada people said that the Hindu boys under the protection of partisan police fired at them soon after they finished their Friday Namaaz. The Hindu residents of the building said that after the Namaaz the Muslims fired at their buildings from the masjid. The proof of their claim is some shattered window panes.
MIG Colony, Bandra East
ahmed zakaria nagar
hindu – muslim;
(Q): Did you get any protection from the police when all this happened? How
(Man): Yes, they fired in the air and that's why they attacked with lesser intensity and then pushed towards New MIG colony. From 28, 29,30 they attacked and pushed further.
(Another man): there is almost a 30 feet gap between where they sit for namaz and 28 no building. The entire gap is open. That is why when they threw the first bomb, I was on second shift and was eating, so when they threw the bomb the sound caused me to go to the window to see what happened. Those people were all together, they were prepared, I think they wanted to start the riot, so I saw stones everywhere. I told everyone to close the windows and went down. That time there were no police. The boys gathered after hearing the voice, the boys retaliated. After that for one hour this went on. Then the police came, and told all the boys to go back. I didn't go to work, at around 2.30 or 3 pm, they attacked even the police. The road which comes from the terminus, Navpada there is a short cut for them to come. They attacked from there even on the police. I got to know that. From 25, 26 no building terraces you can see the Mohemmedans who live on leave and license, there was a sten gun stack from there.
What is interesting to note from the tone, body language and choices of words from these testimonies are:
a) In 1993 already the menace of reality TV was setting in and people are excited about their tryst with the camera. b) The popular game of conspiracy theory. More the stories come with 'I was eating' or '2.30 PM' more it becomes a popular narrative.
(Man): A woman was shooting with a sten gun.
(Q): Who saw this?
(Man): 25 and 26 no boys saw this. We ourselves were on the terrace, he was there Madhu Palande,
(Q): from your terrace?
(Man): from the 25 no terrace. Around 2.30 to 3 pm. Then after it was quiet here, we went to that terrace, thinking that the attack came from there…
(Q): Did you see the woman with the sten gun?
(Man): Yes he saw it himself…
(Other man): I ll tell you, police were watching her while hiding on 26 no building as they couldn't fire on a woman. They were watching from the terrace to see who was attacking, later they went to the locality but we don't know if there was an arrest.
(Other young man): Till then the woman had run away. By the time the police went, there had put a lock on the room and ran away by jumping from the first floor, that s what the police told us. And this happened really. And the attack from the mosque the people had revolvers. We saw them from building no 27.
(Q): you people were on 27 and where did you see the attack? In the railway colony?
(Young Man): No from the mosque. They threw bombs, petrol bombs and they had revolvers in their hands. In the hands of two people, who ran away inside. Later when police came. The railway police also came but they did not do anything. Those people told them to fire on this side, towards us when we throwing stones.
By this time the conspiracy theory is running in full speed. A woman with arms has also entered the script. But what is important to note is the sense of reaching a point of no return. The essence of all the stories is that the ghetto opposite is a land of evil and so it must go.
(Madhu): was it that day when Daily and Mid-day, because we had to read in the newspapers, there were reports that people died on that side…
(Q): the report that the collector has is that mostly Muslims died in those riots.
(Man): Those people attacked the police when they went there and so the police must have fired on them. Everyone who died died in police firing, there was no retaliation from here. Only we threw stones.
(Q): but even those people did not attack directly
(Man): no, no they fired first on the building. And when the police came they fired on them too, so that's why no one died here, everyone who died was in the slums over there inside.
(Q): So that means in their attacks no Hindus died…
(Man): no they did die after 6th Dec, the seven to 8 dead bodies which were found…
Another man: that Umar Qureshi, he is Javed Khan's man, he is the root of everything. Of riots. He has boys from outside and they create the riots, the riots had stopped on 1st Jan. but after that on 1st Jan they threw that bomb at night, things got bad again. And Gulzar Sheikh who is our corporator he was himself firing on us.
(Q): you saw him?
(Man): yes I was in front, throwing stones…
(Another man): Every time they say that Hindus have attacked. Bu the reality is, do the Hindus really have weapons? Has it been proved till today? And where do you get weapons and bombs? In the papers this is getting proved that in a particular slum they found bombs, petrol bombs, revolvers…did they find it with Hindus? That proves which side is attacking. In any paper, or journalist, you will know where weapons have been found.
(Q): cannot be heard but protests
(Man): I am saying that the Hindus have hit them, agreed, but where did we have the weapons. We can throw stones or at the most bottles. But have they found weapons with Hindus?
(Another man): all the times they have carried out combing operations, they have found petrol bombs, acid bombs, with them. They have always found with them.
(Q): but they found them in Sarpotdar's car..
(Man): yes correct but …
(Other man): shouldn't we protect ourselves a little? If a man is keeping weapons for his self protection then is it a crime? Is it not right to keep a pistol or anything for self protection?
(Q): Then even those people at Behrampada will say that…
(Man): yes they say that. But do we Hindus all have weapons? Why don't we have pistols and bombs…
(Q): How can you say that they too all have bombs?
(Man): the newspapers are saying this! They show that really they have found weapons at a place.
A special magistrate's court in Mumbai court has convicted senior Shiv Sena leader Madhukar Sarpotdar and two others in a 1993 Mumbai riots case.
Magistrate RC Bapat Sarkar has convicted Sarpotdar along with two Shiv Sena activists -Ashok Shinde and Jaywant Parad - for making inflammatory speeches and causing enmity between religious groups during the riots. Sarpotdar was later granted bail by the court.
He has been sentenced to one-year imprisonment and fined Rs 5,000.
"I will not comment on the court's judgement. It has to be honoured. It was not a political procession but a religious one. My party will stand by me. I will appeal against the judgement," Sarpotdar told CNN-IBN.
On Friday, a key witness in the case had identified Sarpotdar as the person who gave a provocative speech on December 27, 1992, near a Ganesh Temple in Bandra.
However, the sentence for all three convict including Sarpotdar has been suspended till August 16 on an application filed by the defence lawyer. They will now approach the Sessions Court against the conviction.
Other co-accused Umesh Pawar, Shantaram Sarvantar and Pradeep Khanvilkar were acquitted due to lack of evidence.
(CNN-IBN, July 09, 2008)
Sorpotdar officially got convicted after 15 years.
There is a favourite logic of majority community and its media in all countries and at all situations – 'It is the minority who does riots and the proof of it is that the violence happens only in the minority ghettos'. It is almost insanely illogical, but has been often used by the majority.
Madhukar Sarpotdar was the MLA from the right wing Hindutva party Shiv Sena. He is famous for his shrill xenophobia. He was arrested for carrying firearms during the riots time. Our protagonists perceive him as the savior and are upset over the arrest. Sense of natural justice is a strange thing. Depending on one's class, social and political belief the sense of right or wrong change all the time. What is apparent in this section is how easy it is to manipulate people's ordinary feelings about deprivation and economic insolvency into xenophobia.
Sunil Dutt was the MP (member of parliament. He was a popular actor and famous for his secular initiatives). The protagonists of this interview were very upset with him. The matter was aggravated also by the fact that he was from the Congress party and a rival of Hindu right wing party Shivsena and its MLA Sarpotdar. This building is obviously a fort of Shivsena. There had been instances of Hindu Shivsena supporter roughing him up, even a woman slapping him with sandal. Even now to read this interview it sounds so ridiculous. Till today there has been no instance of any Hindu girl getting killed on the Highway during the riots. But this old man believed it with conviction.
(Q): did the police come here?
(Man): yes they came here too, combed the place…they searched all the buildings from 26 to 30. Did they find anything? No. They found weapons only in Behrampada, Navpada. Why? Why didn't they find them with us? So are the attacks taking place from the Hindus or by them? If you go into this issue..because they are blaming the Hindus for no reason. But why should the Hindu society pay for this? I am talking straight. In this area, Sarpotdar was there and that's why we were saved. We have to say this. Today is there any Congress leader who will stand up for us? Sunil Dutt…did he come to ask the Hindus even once? What happened? Don't we feel anything? But Sarpotdar, day and night, stood by us, not caring for food or water and still that man gets arrested? 7 – 8 bodies were found in Behrampada and no Congress person came to ask us.
(Other man): their throats were slit.
(Old Man): 6th or 7th dec. all the bodies that were found were of the Hindus.
(Other man): and I feel ashamed to tell you that in this lane, our young girls were coming from work and they have killed them. In that lane. After 6th dec. did anyone see? Did it come in the newspapers? Then on the highway, our girls were killed. No one sees that. Only their caste and their religion,..is seen. Now all leaders come and take their side. Do the Hindus have any guardian? Anyone? Since 6th dec, till now is there anyone standing for the Hindus? And whoever goes takes our side, his throat is caught, he is arrested. And the police close their eyes. Don't they know where they found it, when?
6th december 1992
LIG Colony, Bandra East
(Younger man): … we were attacked from behind the mosque, that side they started throwing bombs and stones and so we started throwing stones, they were telling the police to fire at us. (Bearded man: railway police…) And they were catching the police by the scruff of their necks and throwing them out. What will the policemen do? They stepped to a side and started firing towards our buildings. When we came this side too there was firing. We didn't have safety in our rooms this was our condition. How can we sit inside, closing the windows from front and back? A bullet can come from anywhere. And then in the evening, we saw that bombs were being thrown from that side in a line.
(Question(: when did this happen?
(South Indian Man): on 15th dec. in the evening. So from the back of the building there were such loud blasts that we were scared that our entire colony is being attacked by the whole Navpada. At that point, the ACP's car passed that side and gave the orders to them that no one should be allowed inside here. So since they didn't allow anyone to come inside, we were saved. The army truck was standing, the police car also and in front of them two bombs fell right nearby from that side. We were watching but the police didn't do anything. And the next day we saw in the papers, they said we attacked them, no one talked about the bombs. On this I had called a peace rally and our minister Athavle and Pushpatai Hire, we all had gone to the polytechnic high school for this peace meeting he listened to all of us and then at the end asked us what is the solution? The solution is not just for us, but the entire world knows that unless Behrampada is not moved from here, there is going to be no peace. How many ever CRP, Army or police you give for protection, it will stop for a few days but it will start again. Even now I m telling you this peace you will not find, unless you will not move Behrampada there will be no peace in the whole Bombay.
The sense of being wronged prevails. By now the fantasy narrative goes up to the absurd level that the police were caught by the neck and thrown away by the Muslims and the police force had let it pass. But what is stunning in this clip is the man with South Indian accent. He pronounces the ultimatum –
Without demolishing Behrampada there will be no peace in the entire Mumbai. The Shivsena party, who had manipulated and led the riots, first came to public visibility in late '60s as the chauvinist party who led a violent campaign to outstead the South Indian migrants. In 1993 this south Indian migrant spoke loudest about throwing away the neo-others. Is it a political amnesia? Or a survival strategy?
This discrimination in the name of God leads to the real issue, caste and class. Has the Islam too got affected by the Hindu caste system in India? Or is it a convenient and popular expression for class structure. The protagonists are trying to push the 'rubbish' into other neighbourhood. Others are not willing, not even under the religious brotherhood.
(Question): about moving Behrampada…
(Man): Why we contacted the Muslims in the west to transfer these people from here to there. Even with the govt, but even they said that these people are butchers and they will not stay with us peacefully don't bring them here. The govt also tried to shift them to Kandivli Charkop, but the people there said that we are Muslims but these people are the lowest caste among us. They will not stay with us peacefully. So we are staying with such people for so many years there has been a problem. No other Muslim also wants them. Now we can say as Hindus that we don't want them but their brothers, other Muslims say that they might be Muslims but they are of a lower caste. Butchers. They make our name bad. We had a meeting… I stay among all people and they said what can we do? These people don't have education or culture, so what can we do about this? They are very helpless.
Kherwadi, Bandra East
The class intolerance of peace time emerges as religious hostility during conflicts. But even in the clouded logic of the Hindu neighbours there are indications to the real issues – real estate and re-development. Though they are only blaming the Behrampada people, it is obvious that there are big players from the world of politics and real estate business behind the mayhem. And it is beyond the full comprehension of either the Behrampada people or the residents of LIG colony. Yet they must actively participate in this sordid drama. The script is written and it is not new one.
(Question): do you want to oppose the behrampada or is it a movement against all Muslims…
(Men): no no …. Only Behrampada. We are not against the Muslims.
(Man): Madam, this is a land issue. This a slum settlement and a certain community lives here illegally and they have to be moved and somebody is making them do this.
Behrampada people are living in these rented huts. The huts belong to such people, 10-15 belong to one person, other 10-15 to the other person, its like this. So these owners now want to move people to give the land for redevelopment and these people create these problems. So the Behrampada people have been given notices to move.
(Other man in glares): 15th dec was the date given to them. And all this happened was not spontaneous. It was planned. Udgar Seth starts it, Qureshi cools it down. Udgar Seth stops it… Qureshi starts… someone or other comes and throws two bombs at night at 30 no building. This has happened so many times. There will be four police – one with a rifle and three with batons. What will they do? We called them so many times to the peace meetings. There were 5 meetings but they came only 4 times. Y C Pawar came and that's the time when they came.
(Other man): when the first meeting happened, one man called Gulab chacha took the responsibility that Kher wadi road will be safe… these people killed him! He was a congress worker.
Yes Gulab bhai…Gulzar Sheikh is a Congressman……