October 03, 2007

life in general: excerpts (part 1) from a citizen panel's report on bombay's communal violence of 1992-93

I have been born and brought up in Bombay. In 1992, at 22 years of age, I was working as an executive in a financial services company in Bombay. At the end of that year, in the aftermath of planned demolition of a mosque in Ayodhya (in Uttar Pradesh state in north India) by Hindutva parties (BJP, VHP, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal & RSS), my city was rocked by crimes against humanity in the name of religion. I clearly recollect how utterly shocked and deeply hurt I was by what I saw and read at that time. Similar violence also took place in some other parts of the country like Surat in Gujarat.

Sometime soon after the communal violence against minorities subsided a citizens' group headed by former high court judges S.M.Daud and H.Suresh came out with a report titled 'The People's Verdict: An enquiry into the Dec '92 & Jan '93 riots in Bombay' and commissioned by the Indian People's Human Rights Tribunal. I present below excerpts from this report:



Having taken an overall view of the two bouts of rioting in different areas of Bombay, we have to now address ourselves to various questions listed in the terms of reference.


A Century Old Precedent

The December 1992 and the January 1993 riots came almost a century after the Bombay riots of 1893, An account of the last century's riots is found in the "Economic and Political Weekly" dated January 1993, pp. 182-187. On that occasion also, rumours and incendiary writings had excited passions on both sides. This followed from a pamphlet entitled "The Dreadful Bombay Riots" ("Mumbai ma thaelum bhayankar hoolad") published for the "Cow-Protection Society", which could well compare with the outpourings of the 'Saamna' (the Shiv Sena mouthpiece), the 'Navakal' (a Marathi daily), not to speak of the 'Organiser' (the mouthpiece of the RSS). Published on August 24 1893, only 13 days after the first outbreak of the riots, the Gujarati pamphlet contained verses "praising the actions of rioters for what they had done; the rioters were not riots but brave fights undertaken by Shivaji's warriors; the participants not rioters but soldiers who had fought like men.”

Incidents had taken place all over the city then, as they had in our present limes. As in those days, there were numerous instances when members of one religion protected members of the other...

Historical Background : A Survey

Even prior to the departure of the British from India, communal polarisation had been used by individuals and groups as a means to attain a following amongst the masses… and through such a route, attempt to gain power. The British policy of divide and rule enabled such groups to legitimise their aspirations and actions. In course of time, there arose political formations brazenly parading their parochial platforms. The Hindu Mahasabha, the Muslim League, the Akalis – all these and many more splinters made no secret of their striving for the advancement of a section of the people to the exclusion of others. Thus the Hindu communalists advocated the supremacy of the Hindu faith, traditions and aspirations. The Muslim was seen as a polluting element in the polity and his subjugation if not elimination was openly advocated. In the same way the Muslim communalist spoke of a mythical past when Islam and its adherents had brought glory to various lands including India.

...Thus began a contest between the communalists of different faiths and even within the same faith. ...

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