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Summary: interview with an activist from Bombay Urban Industrial League for Development (BUILD), an NGO working on socio-economic development issues. He is reporting about a fact finding mission they had undertaken in Malegaon in the wake of the riots in October 2001.
Photograph 1: Burnt down ?Hindu?-owned power loom - Navkiran Powerloom Co-operative
No personal damage to women or families during the riots. The focus was totally on the financial centres, like shops, the rickshaws, the vans, tourist vehicles, go downs. That's what we found. Secondly, on the 26th, Muslims started it. We agreed. Sonia Gandhi went recently. She was taken only to this place.
Navkiran Powerloom Co-operative. It's a big power loom owned by
?Hindus? It was totally burnt down along with one rubber factory, sorry one pipe-making factory, one saw mill, that were in the same locality - Dyane Village. It was done on the night of the curfew. But people still claim that they burnt only two shops, burnt or looted at that time. Then immediately there was a police lathi
charge and they went away. Afterwards when the people again gathered... to protest against the lathi
charge, they were fired at, straight away, indiscriminately and killed. Even a woman inside a house, one child somewhere inside on a verandah. This is totally indiscriminate.
Leafing through a book with photographs
from the Malegaon riots in Maharashtra in October 2001.
Photograph 2: Faran Hospital
And second thing we noticed was, spontaneous riots in which Hindu property was burnt, took place on the first day, after the police firing. But after that, masked men, with black masks, used to systematically attack and spread rumours. Even the police seemed to have told some people, 'They are attacking there, you attack here!' In the city, Muslims are majority. But outskirts, there are just 15-20 Muslim families. In these places, around 17 mosques were destroyed, totally. It seems they even used a tractor to pull down a wall. They dug up the place, burnt all the systems. These are all concrete structures. Where was the police? The police only came after 2 days. The police and the army were deployed only in Muslim localities. On those three roads - like Qidwai Road, if people ventured out, they were shot. We came across so many patients who just went to get milk or baji
or something. They were shot during the curfew. Whereas during the same curfew time, these people were going around destroying all the Muslims centres systematically for 2-3 days.
Photograph 3: A tree cut down in ??
If you look at this tree, it will take atleast 2 hours to cut it... systematically. But were was the police? That's our question. They were not even giving FIR copies, they were not taking complaints. And they were asking people to sign, "We'll give you a FIR, if you observe that police came and fired in the air and the mob went away.' But actually, police came only after 2-3 days. So in these outskirts, Muslims suffered.
One more thing we noted is one place, ?--- wada? (Camp area). Or something. Only eight houses were burnt on the first day. These are all tin houses. All the eight people had gotten compensation of Rs 7500. Whereas 21 people with bullet injuries that we met in the hospital, they didn't get any compensation. Except two, who were amputated. We got the photo here somewhere. If you want I can show that. So, the same place, the rumour was spread that the mandir was totally destroyed. So we went and saw. Photograph 3: ?Hanuman mandir at Nihalnagar?
Not even scratches. These kinds of rumours were spread and we found that the police and local adminstration totally blocked the Muslims and other so called minorities. They went on systematically attacking places where Muslims are a minority, especially in the villages. All the villages having a maximum of 50 families, were thrown out of villages, looted, burnt. And they are still staying in Malegaon school, which is owned by one Muslim. And... they are not ready to speak. So we could not meet them. But we spoke to the leaders.
About the police mob controlling system in India, being the largest democracy, Human Rights becomes crucial. We have to do something. And it should not be partial. In the sense that when there is a riot in Thane, there's not even a lathi
charge; when VHP people are entering Ayodhya, against Supreme Court ruling, not even an FIR ...?fair file? No action is taken. No action is taken. But when the minorities or Dalits protest, even once... immediately the police fire. This is something to be questioned. And as activists, we have to think, can this kind of police who are communalised (telephone rings), who are not educated, be given a...
Flipping through the stills of the injured.
Photograph 4: Charred Navkiran Powerloom Co-operative
Sonia was taken there... on the 30th.
Shaina: The Powerloom
You can see the photos taken there, you can see all the ladies with the tilak...
Another fear that we have, is that people might be planning revenge. One leader of one ?balthan? masjid
, which was totally destroyed says that 'We are not worried that the masjid
is gone. Allah will build it. But they burnt 100 Qurans. If the police won't take action, we will.'
We were given the list of names of leaders in the neighbouring area. Most were from the Shiv Sena. It seems that 2 months earlier, there was a Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena meeting. And then again on the 19th. The tension was built up for this particular day.
Flipping through the photographs again.
These are all factories, go downs.
Shaina: Has there been an instance in Bombay or Maharashtra state where Gita has been burnt...as yet?
No. In Bombay nothing. In Bombay, Muslims groups had banned all the ?US? products.
Shaina: Not now. Generally. You always hear of one Quran burning happening somewhere...
After Ayodhya, I was with Asghar Ali Engineer for one year. Then I joined here. So, I always noticed in my studies, research, documentation, training, there is a lot of bias in the country. I was a Christian. You can say that I'm an athiest now. Then what?... I am Indian(laughing). The Police, I have noticed, in every situation, are totally communalised...every situation. Communalised, biased, and very often they are not even tenth or eight standard pass. How do you expect them to handle a lawyer? People will fight with the police. Before giving police a 'Know your Rights' pamphlet, the police should know what the law is no? So we would like to train of the police. That is why we want to collaborate with the Human Rights Commission, to check what kind of police training is done. The basic thing is that the police can... like Rebeiro*, they can dialogue with the community leaders. They called a meeting here in Bombay, called all the leaders and told them what was happening. Everything was peaceful in Bombay. Otherwise it would have been worse. So the police can play a role rather than straight away firing and creating more...
Shaina: You think MN Singh* will take that role? (Both laugh)
MN Singh...He's trying, he has done it now, no?
Shaina: He keeps saying he is doing...but...
No, this is what we would like to focus on next. Maybe training or a workshop for the police.
Asghar Ali Engineer is the Director of the Institute for Islamic Studies and the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism. is part of the People's Union for Civil Liberties - (PUCL)
Julio Rebeiro - the Police Commissioner of Mumbai during the.
MN Singh* Mumbai Police Commissioner in
And media also. The media should play a more responsible role. They just, you know... (gestures). I always read the papers. Suppose militants kill some people, the media will label those victims along religious lines and make it - 12 Hindus killed. Immediately the Bajrang Dal will say, kill Muslims. This kind of ---thing is done and Nobody bothers. So responsibility is needed for the media and police. That is what we found. And we are giving some suggestions.
And particularly ?Malim? has become a kind of Muslim ghetto. We have noticed that Hindu lanes and the flats are so nice. You see majority of the Muslims in chawls and ghettos. There's not much job opportunity. That's another thing. No education, no hospitals. And, I have a feeling there are some foreign nationals among them... I have a feeling. I met one person from some other embassy... muslim countries... I don't want to say. You could see immediately, lots of new things were being supplied.
They are also polarising the people on communal lines... Even yesterday's Midday has a big interview of a Bajrang Dal leader.
He openly says, 'Each Hindu has to keep one weapon in the house. If they don't do it legally, then we'll do it in our way. We'll see what happens.'
Shaina: Keep a what? ...Ah they've been giving those trishuls and all also.
Everything they are doing. Openly they are propagating violence. First, they should be banned under POTA. Instead of catching only one fellow, some pilot* and making big headlines out of it. Otherwise they can make it a Hindu state. So we Christian minorities, Dalits, everybody will accept it. (laughing) There is no problem. But saying you are a secular state, you should do something about it. These Hindu groups are having what is called ?house-to-house contact programmes? in the villages. And we went to Nashik* for investigation last year when the Christians were attacked. We always notice, whenever there is a Bajrang Dal or Shiv Sena meeting, after a month or 2 there is a riot. In ?Bhuvana?, Nashik it happened. ?Awada?, Gujarat. They always follow a kind of convention. After that riots follow. They instigate people and then go away from there. Usually the attacks are done very systematically. At night they come with masks and weapons and do it. Police are usually spectators or they go away before the crowd comes. They know when they are going to come. This is what we've found in all the 3 - 4 investigations that we did over the last two years.
Pilot: Mohammad Afroz, Mumbai resident arrested in Nov 01 and jailed for suspected involvement in the Sept 11 bombings. He was released in April 2001.
Nashik: There was an incident in Abhona where VHP and Bajrang Dal activists allegedly stormed a girls tribal ashramalaya
and a tribal boys hostel, burnt the Jesus Christ film there were watching and burnt 4 vehicles...
6th December 1992: Mob rips apart mosque in Ayodhya
Then last elections, the Congress was defeated. ?Rashiq? is also Muslim. The whole of Malegaon - majority Muslim votes. This issue of Afghanistan was a rallying point for the Muslim leaders. Openly on the 26th there were loudpeakers being used by the Muslims and mosques (that) were saying that 'We are being destroyed. So immediately people get the idea of 6th December. The spontaneous reactions. They are guilty of that. The leaders are guilty, politically as well as religiously. But who suffers? The poor innocents and all these minorities. And in villages it is really bad. For example, you'll be surprised... one taluka is Yeola. There is no police station there. It is the Headquarters of that taluka. We met the tehsildar. He gave us a handwritten copy of damages. And he's telling me, 'no police station, only an outpost.' So no police came for three days. That was the worst affected taluka around 13 kms from Malegaon.
Another thing is that the local
?administration? should cut off telephone lines. Like in Bombay they sometimes do. They should. There they didn't. So the message spread like anything to all the villages. And all the Muslim houses were destroyed or looted. So again they'll have a one man enquiry. In 6 months a report (gestures). By the time, the next election will come (laughing). And we don't expect much out of the report. It will be like another Sri Krishna*.
The Srikrishna Commission investigated the causes for the Bombay riots in 92- 93 and indicted the Shiv Sena as the responsible party for the blood shed. Under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, the report of an inquiry is no binding on a government and so till date the Commission's recommendations have neither been accepted or acted upon by the Maharashtra Government. - Wikipedia.
...whether it's a tribal group or minority group, usually it's not a Hindu group that goes in for a riot. If they do also, nothing happens. But when minority, tribal or dalit groups do it, immediately there is police firing.
With the experience of 92-93 riots in Bombay, the initial reaction is by the affected victims, whether it is the minority or any other group. But the second phase of riots is usually done systematically by the majority community, with a list of names, places to be systematically attacked and destroyed. And the sole aim is to cripple the financial, economic status of the particular community. And third observation is that the police are always biased. When the second stage of the riot is taking place, either they become spectators or they become a part of the mob that is looting and killing. We've seen it in Nashik, Malvani, now in Malegaon... and in Bombay also, all of which we have investigated. Our suggestion to the government, as well as the inquiry Committee, will be first to do something about the training of the police. And in a place like Malegaon, which has majority Muslims, there should at least be a good number of police from all the communities... Christian, Hindu, Muslim. There should be a mixed group. Not only Hindu officers. And thirdly, the training of the police, not only to deal with communal issues, but also mob control. There has to be clear-cut thinking on the part of the government. If this is not done, no matter how many POTOs or whatever laws we bring in, will not be effective in the country. This is my observation.