Behrampada & Its Neighbours: Female Residents of the LIG Colony
Director: Madhusree Dutta
Duration: 00:15:01; Aspect Ratio: 1.366:1; Hue: 33.741; Saturation: 0.178; Lightness: 0.485; Volume: 0.122; Cuts per Minute: 3.859; Words per Minute: 181.861
Summary: This is one interview from the rushes of the ‘I live in Behrampada’, a documentary on a Muslim 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 women of the building no. 30 in LIG (lower income group) colony, a building cluster made by the government that flanked the settlement of Behrampada. The building no. 30 is located at the vantage point between the slum and the middle class neighbourhood. In the two months period of the riots this building has often been marked as a source of attacks on the low rise slum. In this interview the women residents vehemently denies the allegation. This interview was conducted primarily in Hindi.
Interviewees: LIG residents; Interviewer: Neera Adharkar (N) and Madhusree Dutta (M); Shot by: Moloy Roy.
N: We want to ask you about the incident that took place in Behrampada on the 1st. We have gone and seen it, the huts have been burnt. It looks like the attack was made from here.
M: That's what they are saying that the attack was made from your side.
N: They said that because your buildings are higher and their huts are on a lower level, it looks likely that the attack was made from here. The fact that the huts are burnt, that we have seen with our own eyes. But we want to know what you have to say about this.
Girl in yellow: No it's not like that. When all this started on the 1st, the first bomb was thrown behind our buildings. The 1st bomb was thrown at the railway quarters. After that it was thrown behind. Would we bomb our own buildings? After that someone from the Police Force, a Police Officer got injured. The problems must have started after that. Whenever there have been riots in this area, it has never started from our side, no one has ever thrown anything from here. You can check our terraces etc, there is nothing like that.
Other lady: The police have also checked.
Yellow: Yes the police have also checked.
M: But their huts are burnt. What do you have to say about that?
Sari lady and others in unison: They must have burnt their own huts, that's what we feel. They must have been throwing bombs at us and a few must have fallen on their own huts that caused the fire.
Yellow: We have nothing to do with all this. We are ordinary middle class people, what have we got to do with all this. We don't want any such tensions. After all, we need to use the station road to commute, so why would we do all this. We don't want any tensions. We have not started this and neither do we want to end this.
Sari: We need the station to commute.
Yellow: That's it!
The interview of the women from the LIG (lower income group) colony. As the name of the colony suggests it is a lower middle class settlement. The economic status between the LIG residents and the Behrampada residents are not radically different. But the special status of being part of the majority community and located in the formal / authorized buildings, during the time of conflict, is a privilege that the LIG colony residents were well aware of. On the other hand the relatively elite of the MIG (Middle income group) colony and the right wing religious party Shivsena often use these people to shield their own agenda. In this clip the women talk about the incident of 1st February 1993, where 60 huts of Behrampada were gutted in a mid-night fire. It was alleged that from the terrace of this four storied building bombs and fire balls were thrown to the low rise slum. The women deny the allegation with lot of detail and counter allegations.
Behrampada, Bandra East
N: Since there has been attack from here, you must have also faced some losses?
Sari: Yes there have been our "bari" windows have broken.
Yellow: Our "bari" and windows have broken!
Sari: Since our houses are made of cement there hasn't been much damage.
Pink lady: See, they live in huts that can be damaged easily, but our cemented buildings are strong; you can throw many bombs at our buildings but they don't get damaged easily. That's the thing.
M: could you please repeat that? It got overlapped.
Pink: See the bombs that they threw on the 1st, they started that at 11 pm. Everyone was sleeping in their homes. After they threw one bomb, our building people went and complained to the police that this is what is happening. After 10-15 mins another bomb was dropped. After which they created a noise, and then they started. The firing had also started by then, but even the police didn't have strength to go in there and do something.
True to the environment of animosity and hostility along the religious and class line (Hindu middle class building residents and poor Muslim slum dwellers) of the time, the women refused to see the enormousity of 60 homes being destroyed – only because it belonged to the 'others'. They present a complicated chronology of events for that night which at its best could only prove that the slum people provoked the attack. Further research into the event showed other than 60 huts being gutted two people died of bullet injury and four others were injured. There was also a Hindu temple in the slum which caught fire. Abbas, a Muslim boy went to douse the water and died of bullet injury. But when a convoluted sense of insecurity is installed in the mind of majority community, they turn completely blind even to the obvious evidences. This is very common in the politics of intolerance.
lig colony. behrampada
N: Did the firing happen from your terrace?
P: No no, it happened from behind! None of us have such things!
Yellow: See we can't do anything. All we can do is pick up the phone and call the police. We can't do anything else. So we did just that, but the police comes after so much time and takes charge. This is what always happens. We have got protection only a few days ago. When the ministers had come here, we fought with them that we have to have police protection from all this. Otherwise how are we supposed to live here? Anything can happen anytime here. So now that we have police protection we don't feel scared even in the afternoon, otherwise there was no one here even in the afternoon, we would feel so scared.
P: we had been saying for so long that we want police protection but we didn't get any. After all this, after their huts got burnt, the police was stationed on our terrace and in the front, back everywhere. Does that mean that before all this we weren't in any danger! Even before this we had made so many requests. All the leaders who came here, we requested them….
Sari: No one ever came here. All the leaders only went there (Behrampada)
P: even if we requested them that we need protection, no one came here. However, after the 1st, there are 3-4 police stationed on the terrace at night, 3-4 in the front. We want this, but this is not for our security.
N: you must have seen the damage (in Behrampada) from your terrace?
P & Y: We don't dare enter our own terrace. Go and see for yourself.
Man: Our terrace is under lock and key (locked) and no one goes to the terrace. The police have been stationed there after the 1st and only the police go up there, no one else does. No one from the building goes there.
P: actually, we never open our terrace, no matter how much violence there may be. Only when they had attacked or building had we called the police once before, after that we went into our own homes. We don't even see who goes up or down. We had only given the terrace to the Police for our safety, before this we had never given our terrace keys to anyone.
The terrace of the building no. 30 in LIG colony was in the centre of the controversy as that directly overlooked the slum and allegedly accessed to attack the slum. As they refute that allegation the women also complaint about discrimination in police protection. It seems police protection is some sort of status symbol. The LIG residents were feeling ignored by the state and the society for not receiving exclusive and glamorous police protection. Many times the excitement and the adrenalin rush that involve in such situation create a kind of high in the otherwise mundane life of ordinary people. Contribution of this emotion to the chaos can often cross the comfort zone and become dangerous. Specially, the media often hype such attitudes in order to run their shops.
Though the women complained bitterly about police's apathy towards their cause, they seemed to be quite familiar with them. The Mumbai police during the riots of 1992-93 played an obnoxious partisan role against the Muslim community. (For more detail see Shrikrishna commission Report www.hvk.org/specialrepo/skc/skcch1.html
). It is obvious that the agenda of the Hindu neighbours and the strategies of the partisan police, regarding Behrampada, were comfortably aligned. Only the LIG residents wanted more of the same kind of police action. It is important to know that at that time many members of Muslim community and the secular civil society people demanded imposition of Army in Mumbai and withdrawal of police force. The reason behind the demand was that the police force had its allegiance to the local Hindu fundamentalist outfit, whereas, the Army battalion from other parts of the country would be more impartial.
M: Another thing is that you light halogen lights and throw it down on them. I'm saying this only because they have told us this. You light halogen lights and throw it at them so that you cannot be seen and they can be seen.
Man: The halogen lights are a police requirement. We have only put halogen lights with police requests. We had not put any halogen lights. That light too, they have broken. The halogen lights are here as per police requirements. We have no need to put them up.
Y: Halogen lights were required by the police and only that's why have we put them. Then the papers, Times of India printed that they have put halogen lights so that we can't see what's going on on their terrace. That very day we turned off our halogen lights. Then the police came to ask us why we turned the halogen lights off. We can't see anything that's happening there from here. Your lights help us in seeing better, so that we can take quick action. So we told them that when we go to ask something or they write against us in the paper, you give us this in writing. Then we can tell them clearly that look we have police permission. We will have proof. So we have asked them for it (their statement) in writing.
Man: We asked the police for their permission in writing that we can put up halogen lights. And they (Behrampada) also put up lights.
Yellow and man 2: Yes they also put up lights and the police themselves have told us this.
N: The other terraces that have put up lights, that's also under police permission?
Man: We don't know about others.
M: Ok you speak only about your own building.
times of india
Cracks on the wall… dinner plate broken… indeed a matter of serious security protection! Though nothing was said about the security of the Muslim family who lived in this building and left ('just' as they said) as the pogrom against the community picked up. The issue of security is an argument, which is always used to attain political gain. The US citizens were not secured and so the Iraq had to be bombed. LIG women are not secured and so Behrampada must go. The most tragic figures in this tale are the US citizens and the LIG residents who would gain nothing either way. After Iraq and after Behrampada and after so and so … who?
M: The damage that has taken place here, can you show it to us?
Man: Yes it's on the back. On their window.
Woman: A lot of windows like this have been broken.
M: What damage has happened?
Blue: The wall fell and plates etc broke and the stains of the bomb are a little visible.
M: Can we see it?
Blue: It's upstairs, above 2nd floor.
M: I want to ask one thing, is there any Muslim person living in this building?
Women: There was one, they left.
N: They just left?
Women: Yes, just, 2-3 days back.
M: Were they on leave license?
Women: No no, actually they were here for 2 months, they just left.
N: There must have been cooperation between you all?
Women: We don't have any problems with anyone. We all live together in peace.
A citizen's regular complaint about lack of civic amenities. But that itself was converted into the hatred for the fellow citizens, the neighbouring Muslims. The warped development policy and the politics of aid make its citizens greedy and wickedly envious of other constituencies and never question the genesis of deprivation. In emergency these dissatisfaction of common people are used by the vested interest to wedge a war. Media and police were quoted reverentially when it benefited them and condemned when in few occasions they themselves were alleged.
M: One of you please tell me that why is all this happening, what do you think?
Sari: We think that it's the leaders like Sunil Dutt who come here who incite these people (Behrampada). They provide them with things from the top, with force, with amenities. When there was a curfew, no one asked us for even milk but they were provided with milk, food, everything! If the Government is for everyone then what have we done? Everyone is out to destroy 30 no building's name. The papers, everyone just print wrong information and we have to face problems. There is no road that we can use to get to the station. We are worried about our husbands who come home late and then the hawaldars bombard us with all sorts of questions, why are you coming home so late this that. We are also facing so many problems, but our problems hold no value…
M: Has anyone been hurt or injured from this building?
Women: No one has been injured.
Yellow: There is no question of that happening.
Sari: What happened on last Friday, something could have happened then, but we got saved. It happened on the Friday before the 1st also and on 26th January, 2 bombs had been burst. In the Railways (buildings), the Railways are proof and even here (our buildings) over there. But when we created commotion, the police told us that tomorrow is the 26th of January (Republic Day), this happened on the night of 25th January. They said tomorrow is 26th of January, please keep quiet. Yes on 25th night also the bombed behind.
Blue: Every 3 days they would bomb. One went right in front of me towards my house and I thought it was going into my house so I quickly opened the door and I came outside. So above our 2nd floor, someone named Pande, it went and hit the wall near his door. And if I tell you the inside story, they (Behrampada residents) is the corporator of this area, if they hurt me I don't care. They themselves give those people who take part in this violence, soda bottles, stones etc. And I have seen this with my own eyes.
Sari: And we have heard about it also.
Blue: Forget about hearing about it, I have seen it with my own eyes. The corporator is that bearded man right.
Yellow: Infact when the elections were on, he came to each and every one of our houses. We too have given him our votes, its not that we voted for someone else but did we benefit from it? If he could come to our homes to ask for votes, why couldn't he come here when the riots started? He is being partial.
Sari: They haven't even cleaned our gutters, just go and see how full our gutters are.
Yellow: Now he is nowhere to be seen.
Sari: During the monsoons, our gutters get completely filled with water….
M: Where did you see all this?
Blue: I live right there, that side…in the corner. Mahanagar had carried a photo of my house also! I live in the corner…yes you can see everything. That day on the 6th, the 6th was a Friday I think. That day about 70-80 people were dressed completely in black. My head was hurting so I came out and I saw them gearing up. There is a man named Vijay Pandya, I told him that they are going to attack us and luckily at that time at 2:30, 2:45 the police came and controlled it.
M: You have talked about the MP of this area, whatever you felt and you also spoke about the corporator. Do you want to say anything about the MLA?
Blue: Sunil Dutt ji right?
Y: No no. Sarpotdar, the MLA. Our Sarpotdar (MLA) he has helped us a lot. We are not saying that because he is from the Shiv Sena, that's why he has helped the Hindus. If anything happened he would immediately come here to help us and no one else has come. He did everything from going to the police, complaining and why all this is happening.
M: Was there any enmity before?
Yellow: No no, we have good acquaintances and friends in Behrampada! I have so many students who come to me for tuition from Behrampada. There was nothing here and we never thought that something like this could happen. At least in Bombay we never thought that there would be a Hindu-Muslim fight. When we go out, when we go to office, we have so many friends who are Muslims and we talk to them properly. Its not like oh they have done that, nothing like that.
M: We went to Behrampada also and they also said the same thing that it was never like this before. They say that this is due to votes between parties.
Y: Yes it is between parties.
Lady: If they understand that then why is all this happening?
Y: Yes why must all this happen, we don't understand this at all. Why are our buildings undergoing so many problems then? Why doesn't anyone come here now?
The electoral structure of the neighbourhood is such – the corporator, gulzar Sheikh, who was representative of the Municipality ward is member of centrist party Congress and a Muslim from Behrampada; Madhukar Sarpotdar, the MLA (member of the legislative assembly) represented the larger Bandra east constituency and member of the Hindu fundamentalist party Shivsena (he was even arrested during the riots for carrying unlicensed fire arms) and a resident of the local middle class neighbourhood; Sunil Dutta, the popular film star and secular activist, was the MP (member of parliament) representing the large constituency of Bandra east and west, member of the Congress and resided at the posh Pali Hill. Congress depended heavily on the poor Muslim settlements as their vote banks. Shivsena, though supported by the large middle class Marathi constituency could not match the votes of the poor from the slum. The riots were enacted in this background.
Lady in green sari: During the riots only one person, only the Sarpotdar came here. No Sunil Dutt nor did that Gulzar come here. When it was time to ask for votes they came and begged us for votes.
Y: They came to each and every one of our doors to ask for votes.
B: The body that they found in the toilet, that was all because of the Sarpotdar. If they hadn't gone inside, no one would have ever gone what was happening in there. The Shevant Bai (person who died) that they found they found right here behind (pointing) which they must have not shown you. They must have shown you the temple inside. They must have not shown you where the body was found.
Green: And they cut off the head of the Ganpati Mandir there. The ayodhya thing happeed on the 6th and on the very night of the 6th, they went and cut off the Ganpati head.
Y: The riots started on the 6th night. On the 7th it had become very bad here.
G: it started at 10. Our daughter went for her computer class from here itself. And at 10 how it started, no one could get out. Swords, knives, guns they were demonstrating like this at the back!
N: you saw this?
G: Yes we saw it with our own eyes.
Y: we can see everything from behind.
G: We live right here…we can see everything clearly from our window.
Woman: The railway building people let them come and fight. They shut their doors and let them fight. Thy easily come and fight from the railways side. And they are such hooligans that they even tease girls that are walking. Don't ask us what our state has become to even commute and everything else. Since 2-4 months we have not even seen the station, its been at least 2-2.5 months. We need to attend weddings but we have to tell them over the phone that you do this from our side, we'll do this later. We have too many tensions, our kids go to the West. From this side they have Behrampada, from that side comes Bharatnagar. But no one comes to ask us our plight, our plight is such today that until our husbands don't come home we don't even eat. We have no one to ask us. They cry so the papers talk about them. We don't know how to cry and if we did we would….
B: They say that our Muslims kids don't go to school, that's a very wrong thing. All the kids go…the kids have not done anything. The kids have not done anything, the used to go from here…now there is a gate but they used to go from our building earlier.
Sari: So many of our people have died using the station road but has anyone even touched their kids? No! So many of our people died, not only of our colony but also so many office going people died. What wrong had they done? If the colony people have done something wrong, but what have these office goers done?
The counter allegations continue. As long as the sense of insecurity and injustice would be preserved by the vested interest, the animosity will not resolve. The Ganapati temple at the outskirt of Behrampada had another interesting twist to the tale. It was an insignificant shrine of Saibaba (a secular saint and not a religious god). A few months before the riots some people put in a Ganapati idol in the shrine. Ganapati is known as the god of achievement and thus revered by the Hindu business people. On the night of Babri Masjid demolition, 6th December 1992, the head of the tiny idol was desecrated. It made a huge hue and cry the next morning and the riots against the Muslims started which lasted for two months. In these two months, based on public sympathy the temple acquired large amount of surrounding space and installed an expensive idol of Ganapati. Today it is a major religious establishment with very high revenues. As the temple is situated in front of the Bandra court, it ensures clientele from large number of litigant who would need a bit of blessing from the divinity.