Behrampada & Its Neighbours: Women of LIG Colony
Duration: 00:08:36; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 18.361; Saturation: 0.398; Lightness: 0.380; Volume: 0.236; Words per Minute: 121.643
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.
The following interview was conducted in Marathi with the residents of the LIG colony, 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. These are working class or lower-middle class, Marathi speaking women who are narrating the events of 15th of December. A sticker on their wall reads “Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain” (We are Hindu, say it with pride!)
It was a Friday afternoon. The building residents claim that under the cover of Namaaz the Behrampada people attacked the building. Broken window panes and asbestos roof are their proof. The Behrampada residents claim the police and the Hindu boys opened firing on the Namaazis. The police record shows names of Muslim men killed on that day. One incident, many versions. But unlike the men of the building these women do not claim to be eyewitnesses.
LIG colony, Behrampada, Bandra, Bombay
Question: what happened on 15th December?
One of four women, in black blouse: that day I was in school, so I think these women will be able to tell you what happened that day.
Question: what was your experience can you tell that?
Woman: that day there was a lot of confusion, curfew and fighting. I found that after I came home in the evening. Later there was curfew, they were not allowing us on the street…
Question: you people had some problems with the settlement on that side, was it that?
Woman: yes, even later, the bombs were being thrown,
Question: could you see them?
Woman: yes we could see everything on the road…when it first started and the police saw people throwing bottles. And if you see from this corner you can see that straight. That corner over there, you can see everything over there. Later was the curfew.
Question: so you don't know much about that day? What confusion was there about the next day?
Woman: confusion, in the sense that…
Woman in black printed saree: confusion in the sense that the atmosphere was very tense. We couldn't even dare to see outside.
LIG colony, Bandra East, Mumbai
Most residents of this LIG colony show unconditional faith in the police force. The Mumbai police has been accused of being partisan during the '92-93 riots. The Srikrishna Commission report on the '92-'93 riots has substantiate this allegation in detail. 6th December 1992 Babri masjid got demolished and from the next day the riots started. In many places the Hindus feared retaliation (or was it a kind of guilt) from the Muslim community and read threat from even ordinary gestures. Even here the women talk about 'they stopped Namaaz and all of them stood up' – to attack. After the prayer it is customary that everybody gets up together. 'to attack' is an interpretation.
Question: you were here on the 15th…
Woman: at around one we were sitting to eat, at that time there was a rain of stones from that side. So all of us left food and ran out. After we came out, we closed the doors and windows. Later…I don't know as I fainted..
Question: but if they were reading namaz prayers …did anyone of you see the order in which things happened?
Woman in red blouse: while reading namaz they brought stones and swords from behind the buildings…our building got a lot of stones, the tin roof on our building is broken. And we were all scared…we could not understand what would happen.
All women together: when the stones stated coming we closed our doors and windows. We didn't understand anything….in the afternoon between 1.30 and 1.45…
Question: yes but at that time their people were reading namaz down there.
Woman in red blouse: but later when they started throwing stones, they stopped namaz.
Other woman: they stopped and all of them stood up to attack.
Woman in red: yes. Police protection came after an hour or so, immediately.
Fear is the keyword in riots and public violence. Fear kills more people than a war call during urban violence.
LIG colony, Bandra East, Mumbai
Question: were people praying and those who attacked were different?
Woman: no those people only had come…. Other women, they were standing there. Some were praying and others were standing behind them…
Woman: with swords and stones…we could see them from our staircase. We couldn't dare to watch them as they were hitting us with stones. And we were not even sure that they couldn't enter our building. They looked like they were planning to. We couldn't understand what was going on. Our kids were very scared.
In truth, our boys don't know this road for three months. They travel via Khar station. No one goes on that road. No girl also.
Question: why don't they go?
Women: because of fear…they killed that Jain, don't you know? So how will young people go from there? They always carry swords…
Woman: no one uses that road for the last two months. You can ask anyone going on the road.
Question: but we just came from the station road…
Woman: which road did you come through? You came via the Anant Kanekar Marg, is that right? There they have given protection. But here there are no police…that is why we cant use the station road. If you go to see actually by the station road, you will not see men…
Question: we came by the Anant kanekar marg…
Woman: no no that road is a new road. There is an ONGC office there. But if you climb down from here east side…from there if you go to Behrampada, there is a road from there to come to our colony. There even now you wont find anyone. Even the police say that you cant go from here.
Question: where do they go from?
Woman: from khar…but now we need 25 mins to go to the station. And now if you ask these kids where they go from…now there is a curfew so they have the road free.
Women: … the school are closed.
LIG colony, Bandra East, Mumbai
The disruption of normal life is another key factor in maintaining public violence. When ordinary citizens are convinced that their daily routine and amenities are not accessible, they get scared and become prone to rumors. Riots survive on fear and rumors.
anant kanekar marg
Memory of another riot. Riots are law and order issue. No amount of religious or other kind of intolerance can grow into violent riots if the state and the police had strong will against it. In most cases these riots are orchestrated for other vested interests and the law keepers let it unwind (sometimes even abet) till the time they need it. That is why most riots stop abruptly.
Question: has this happened before? In the time that you remember?
Women: no, this is the first riot that has happened in our area. since last 30 years.
Woman: no but this has happened in '84…in the afternoon once. That time I was here. At 1.30 people had gone for work. This happened in '84. There is a shop there can you see? There was actually Muslims who had come with swords at the shop. In the afternoon, when there were no men in the colony. These attackers were thrown out but that day in the evening all of us marched to the police station. For protection… for some time the riots had stopped. Our corporator here, Sarpotdar and Shrikant Sarmalkar came in and ensured protection…so the riots had stopped. After that its this riots – Babri Masjid riots. Last 4,5 years we didn't have trouble, we could use the road without fear…
LIG Colony, Bandra East, Mumbai
Kamatis are mason, working class, lower caste people destined to live in a Muslim ghetto!
Question: did you people ever have relations with those people…
Woman: I do census work, I am a teacher. So I have gone to Behrampada and visited the entire settlement. There are Marathi people, Kamathi, they also have huts there. I wasn't troubled at that time. And why else would we have relations with them?
Question: for some work…
Woman: no no, here all women work at home. No other relations…
LIG colony, Bandra, Mumbai
Question: some people say here that your MLA has been arrested so those people will trouble you more…have you people thought about your protection?
Woman: you mean are we scared for our safety? No we are not…
Question: how come?
Woman: because if someone comes to harm us, we will retaliate, wont we?
Question: so you are not troubled?
Woman: in the sense that if something happened then he was our support – that he will do something for us. Like that who has been arrested from their side? The corporator is there, Gulzar, whoever he is, but we cant take our problems to them because he will take the side of his people.
Question: but you should go….haven't you gone before?
Woman: no there was no need to…elections took place in March and not even one year has gone by….
The elected representatives are now clearly divided by the religious line – Hindu MLA (member of legislative assembly) and Muslim corporator (member of the municipality).