PUCL Bulletin, May 1993

Bombay Riots
By Asghar Ali Engineer

As soon as the news of the demolition of Babri Masjid spread, Muslims in many areas of Bombay came out on the streets and expressed their anger by attacking buses and other public property. Even some temples were attacked and partially damaged. If the police had acted with tact and imagination, this violence could have been contained and the miscreants arrested. Instead in many cases the police opened fire indiscriminately and many innocent people were killed. On Dec 7, 92 morning Muslims extensively damaged the Suleman police chowkie. The way people were killed showed that the firing was less for dispersing the mob and more with the intention of killing people. In situations where Hindus and Muslims were throwing stones and bottles at each other, eyewitnesses told us that the police was firing only at the Muslims. This was a common complaint.

Some Muslims from Nongri areas told us that Assistant Commissioner of Police Mr. Zende was an impartial officer and helped restore control over the situation in Ghoghari Mohalla in Char Null.

Null Bazar market - out of 512 shops, only 90 belong to Hindus - was set ablaze on Dec 7 after the shops were looted. Behind Gol Deval there were a few Muslim shops and all of them were looted and gutted. The police opened fire in which, according to the police, 10 persons were killed, including some Hindus. A board put up by the local Shiv Sena displayed the names of four Hindus killed.

Interviews with a large number of affected people in Govandi, one of the largest slum areas of Bombay with a considerable Muslim population, show that the police went on a rampage here and made the Muslims their special target.

The Imam of Masjid Nur-e-Ilahi Maulana Hannan Ashrafi told us that Muslims were guarding the mosque when some Shiv Sainiks came along with the police. When they came face to face with the Muslims, the police opened fire, shot dead a number of Muslims and injured many. At Shivajinagar, where there had been no trouble the police opened fire killing one Muslim. The police broke open the doors of a toilet and shot dead two Muslims. Another Muslim boy was shot and taken away by the police and he has not yet been traced. One Hindu was shot dead here. In Subhash Chandra Nagar, a number of Muslims were shot dead. The police set fire to a house belonging to Mansur Khan and the nearby house of Bhika Raoji Bhalerao was also burnt. The police shouted 'Jay Shri Ram' while shooting Farouque Sheikh who was pulled out from his house, taken some distance and then shot dead. Some miscreants came from outside and burnt a temple in Chikkalwadi area. The police came, broke open the doors of many houses, pulled out people and beat them up, killed one and destroyed houses. On Dec 8 the police opened fire at 10 a.m. as a result of which five Muslims died and six injured. The temple in the area was damaged, presumably by Muslims, after the firing had begun. Houses were burnt by the police after curfew was imposed.

On Dec 8 police came to Kamla Ramnad Nagar, opened fire and then set fire to the huts without any provocation (out of 46 huts, 44 belonged to Muslims).

According to police, in all 58 persons died in the Govandi area, mainly in police firing. According to the Govandi Relief Committee, 92 persons had died in police firing and 210 injured. Almost all the persons killed were Muslims.

In Jogeshwari West and East Muslims indulged in brickbatting on Dec 8 to express their anger over the demolition of Babri Masjid. The police came, entered one of the houses (a house-cum-carpentry-shop occupied by six carpenters), opened fire at them killing four and injuring the other two. Curfew was imposed in the area on Dec 9 at 2 p.m., and 21 persons were arrested - 19 Muslims and 2 Hindus.

Hindus and Muslims came together and saved the Islamapura mosque in Mala East. Shankar Bhattacharya and Zuber Malik gave the lead to their respective communities in forging this unity. According to Abdul Rashid, the role of the police in this area was praiseworthy.

In Squatters' Colony in Malad East, Muslim youth brickbatted at about 11 p.m. on Dec11. The Hindus retaliated and set fire to the Al-Fatah school and a mosque. Muslims attacked a temple and badly damaged it. Sub-Inspector Nadaf, a Muslim, lathicharged a Hindu mob to disperse it. Some 800 Hindus marched to the police station demanding his transfer. The morcha was led by Shiv Sena leaders. Curfew was imposed and thereafter a Muslim boy was burnt alive. It has been alleged that a builder had a hand in the disturbances.

What is significant (in Dhariavi) is that there was complete polarisation between Hindus and Muslims. All Hindus-Tamil, Maharashtrian, Gujrati, and others - were on one side, and all Muslims, whatever their origin, were on the other. The police came (Dec 8), fired in which three Muslims were killed and four injured in Chamba Bazar. The police arrested 27 Muslims. In Social Nagar police opened fire in which 6 Muslims died. In Mukund Nagar, five persons, all Muslims, were killed in police firing.

There were several other incidents throughout Bombay. The death toll seems to have crossed 400 and most of them died in police firing. Barring a few places, it was a confrontation between the Muslims and the police rather than a Hindu-Muslim riot. The Bombay police clearly displayed an anti-Muslim bias; though there were some impartial officers as well. It was a very different story in the second phase when it was the Shiv Sainiks versus Muslims. (This summary account is based on an investigative enquiry carried out on behalf of Ekta).

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