PUCL November, 2001

Concerned Citizen's Inquiry Report in to Malegaon Riots

Full report
Police blamed for Malegaon violence, The Hindu Nov 11, 2001

Recently EKTA (Committee for Commual Amity) and Nirbhaya Bano Andolan sponsored a team to investigate the Malegaon riots. The Summary and conclusions of the report are attached.

Concerned Citizen's Inquiry Report in to Malegaon Riots

The Malegaon riots, which shook Maharashtra, were the first major riots to have taken place in India after the terrorist attack on World Trade Centre on September 11. Apart from the large number of deaths, 13, these riots had some other peculiarities: they occurred in a Muslim majority town and rapidly spread to a large number of surrounding villages, a phenomenon seen for the first time on such a large scale in Maharashtra. In the light of these specificities, we decided to investigate these events in detail.

The Team
1. Shama Dalwai, Professor of Economics, Mithibhai College
2. Jyoti Punwani, Freelance journalist
3. Irfan Engineer, Advocate
4. Sandhya Mhatre, Researcher
5. Shakeel Ahmed, Social Activist
6. Sameena Dalwai, Advocate

Summary and Conclusions:
The immediate provocation for the Malegaon riots was the scuffle between the police and the Muslims over the innocuous distribution of the swadeshi leaflet. If the police had placed more faith and confidence in Muslims and not doubted what was just a normal activity, i.e. distribution of leaflets outside a mosque after Friday namaz, no riot would have ensued then. As Imtiaz Ahmad points out, "Such violence is usually sparked off by fairly superficial and trivial causes though underlying them are deeper considerations of political representation, control of and access to resources and power etc. These trivial causes come to occupy a symbolic significance for the group and conflicts arise from any interference with the group's autonomy, security and identity.''

Before the riots, tension was being built up to consolidate the two
communities behind political parties in the light of the forthcoming
Municipal elections. The communal politicians (BJP-Shiv Sena) have been trying to organise Hindus, as can be seen in the spate of communal incidents in Maharashtra, some in villages near Malegaon, mostly targeting Muslims. Witness the campaign amongst Hindus by the Shiv Sena-Jaanta Raja using the Karanj Gavan incident of sexually motivated assault on a girl child on August 18 and giving a communal colour to the incident in the villages around Malegaon.

The activities of the Tublic Jamaat had also created resentment among Hindus in many villages, specially where the outcome of the activities had been an assertion by the Muslims of their separate cultural identity, their renovation of old and construction of new mosques, and their withdrawal from the village tradition of celebrating festivals jointly.

In Malegaon itself, Nihal Ahmad's attempt to win back his base has been evident at least from March this year. Nihal Ahmed also visited Karanj Gavan and blew up the incident of attack on its mosque by holding a public meeting in Malegaon. His orchestrated campaign to whip up Muslim sentiments over various issues culminated in the anti-US morcha in which pro-Osama posters were carried by some youth. The State Goverment and the police proved ineffective in preventing and controlling the riot. During the riots, the anti-minority attitude of the police resulted in more loss of life to Muslims. In the very first firing incident, a bullet hit Bilkis Banu, who was drying clothes in the first floor balcony of her house. Considering the location of the balcony and the spot where the firing took place, one can conclude that the bullet
which hit her was not a stray bullet. The police used excessive force and fired haphazardly on the retreating mob.

The apathy of police towards the Muslims was also evident from the fact that police totally ignored the injured and left them on the roads to die. The bias of police is also evident from the fact that they did not fire on mobs vandalising Muslim properties.
The role of the police officer who gave the shooting orders at Mira Datar Nagar must be investigated as the firing there was totally uncalled for.

The Shiv Sena used rumours about rape of Hindu women to build up
insecurity and hatred among Hindus all over Maharashtra, whereas the only case of rape, which we could personally verify, was that of a Muslim woman. Police made no attempt to counter these rumours. No steps were taken to book those communal leaders who spread rumours knowing them to be false.

The outcome of the riot has been alienation of Hindus, and to an extent, of the Muslims from the Congress. Growing support to the Hindutva ideology was also evident leading to political and social polarisation of the communities. Nihal Ahmed on one hand and Shiv Sena-Janata Raja on the other hand stand to benefit from such a polarisation. As it always does, the Sena used its mouthpiece Saamna to spread its version of the riots.

Ignoring the communal build up over a period of time, the State woke up only when the tension proved to be threat to law and order problem. However, in the rural areas, even the meagre law and order machinery is absent. Those who strive to whip up communal sentiments in rural areas will always have a free hand. The only way out is mutual understanding and co-operation between members of both the communities, which is a
long-term, ongoing process which can only be undertaken by committed