Thursday, 13 December 2012

Agripada Police Station

Unedited excerpt From Volume II, Chapter I of Justice BN Srikrishna Report, dated February 16, 1998, Mumbai

Agripada Police Station
1.1 This is an area in which majority of residents are Hindus, but there are certain known pockets of Muslims. Communally sensitive areas which experienced previous communal trouble are Kalapani Junction, Sakhli Street, Junction of Meghraj Shetty Marg and Baburao Jagtap Marg, Tank Pakhadi Road, Hindustan Masjid, Sunder Galli, Tambit Naka, Paise Street, S–Bridge and Dhobighat.

1.2 On 7th December 1992, at about 1230 hours, trouble started near the Byculla Fire Brigade Station with an attack on the Mhasoba Mandir by a mob of Muslims. The Muslim mob damaged the temple and when this news spread, a Hindu mob collected near the Mhasoba Mandir and started throwing stones and other missiles at the Muslims who had gathered near Meghraj Street. The police intervened and resorted to firing to control the situation. The miscreants damaged not only the temple structure, but also the idol inside and ransacked the belongings of the temple’s priest who lived on the premises. On the same day, a Vithal Mandir situated on Meghraj Street was also damaged and the property of the priest living there was also ransacked. The property damage was estimated to be over a lakh of rupees.

1.3 At 2030 hours, on 7th December 1992, there were clashes between Hindu and Muslim mobs at Sundar Galli and Kalapani Junction. Stones were thrown by the miscreants from Patra Chawl side on B.J. Road.

1.4 On 8th December 1992 there were pitched battles between mobs of Hindus and Muslims in Tank Pakhadi, Transit Camp, Tambit Naka, Hindustan Masjid and Khatau Mill areas. During the melee one police officer, A.S. Sawant, was injured on his thigh by stone throwing and some of the miscreants in the Muslim mob attempted to snatch away the rifle of one of the constables. Police resorted to firing resulting in injuries to two persons.

1.5 During December 1992 the police registered six offences, out of which two pertained to the attack on the Mhasoba and Vithal Mandirs. The other four offences consisted of three attacks on Muslim properties and an attack on a rationing shop on 9th December 1992.

1.6 Trouble started in January 1993 with an incident of stabbing at Mominpura Patra Chawl at about 0100 hours on 7th January 1993 in which a Hindu was stabbed by unknown persons. At the same time, the news about incidents of stabbing, arson, and stone throwing occurring with alarming frequency in the adjoining jurisdictions of Dongri, Pydhonie, Nagpada and in Mahim heightened the communal tension in this area. The police managed to maintain an uneasy peace on 7th January 1993 and upto the evening of 8th January 1993.

1.7 From 2100 hours on 8th January 1993, riots erupted at BIT Chawls, Maulana Azad Road, Sakhli Street and Kalapani Junction. The trouble seems to have first erupted in BIT Chawls No. 12, 11, and 23. Though the police claim that the incident was one of a violent clash between armed mobs of Hindus and Muslims, the true picture seems to be different. According to the evidence of one of the Muslim victims, Mumtaz Rehman, the trouble in the BIT Chawls started at about 7.30 p.m. with the Hindu residents attacking Chawl No. 12 occupied by Muslims with stones, soda–water bottles and petrol bombs, shouting "Landyabhai ko maro", "Pakistan ko bhagao" and "Bara number me ghuso". Sixty–three out of the eighty tenements in Chawl No.12 are occupied by Muslims and the rest by Christians.

In the other BIT Chawls, the preponderant majority is of Hindus, though a few tenements are occupied by Muslims. When the stone throwing started, Mumtaz Rehman telephoned the Agripada Police Station to complain that the Muslim residents of BIT Chawl No.12 were being attacked by Hindus. The telephone was answered by an unidentified person in the police station who, on receiving the request for help, rudely replied, "Landybai Chup baitho, Abhi kuch nahi huva" and banged down the phone. Mumtaz then frantically phoned for help to some Muslim corporators of Janata Dal and some Muslim officers in the military. After about an hour or so, a police mobile came to BIT Chawl No. 2 with three constables and an officer. The main entrance of that chawl has a collapsible iron grill which had been shut and locked by the residents who feared for their lives. The police repeatedly rattled the collapsible iron grill, calling upon the residents of Chawl No.12 to open the lock.

According to Mumtaz, the Hindu miscreants in the surrounding chawls were standing around with swords and choppers in their hands. But instead of dealing with them, the police threatened the residents of Chawl No.12 that if they did not open the collapsible door they would be shot. By this time, some of the miscreants had cut off the telephone line, electricity line and water connection of Chawl No.12. There was also an attempt to set fire to Chawl No.12, which, according to Mumtaz, occurred in the presence of the police without the police taking any action. The miscreants set fire to two taxis and two motorcycles of Muslims, looted four gas cylinders from Muslim houses in Block No.11, kept them in front of Chawl No.12 and attempted to set fire to them. Major catastrophe was, however, avoided since the police took charge of and removed the gas cylinders.

The water, electricity and telephone lines were restored only on 9th January 1993 at about 1230 hrs, after the arrival of military personnel accompanied by plumbers. The police claim that the collapsible iron door had been connected to live electric wires as a result of which the police constable who attempted to open the collapsible door got an electric shock. The story appears apocryphal. Mumtaz says that the police were repeatedly rattling the collapsible door. The Senior Police Inspector’s evidence shows that no attempt was made to discover if the theory of electric current was true. As a matter of fact, at the material time the electric connection itself had been disrupted. Senior Police Inspector Tikam, says that he did not notice any electric wires connected to the collapsible iron shutter, nor did the police attempt to force open the said door.

A police picket was posted in front of Chawl No.12 and in the morning at about 6 a.m. the police managed to enter the building from a side entrance. This time the police were armed with electric testers and when they tested the iron grill of the shutter, it was not found electrified. There is also no mention of any of this story in the Station Diary of the police station, though Tikam admitted that this was a very serious incident and gall serious incidents must be noted in the Station Diary.

Sarwaribegum, resident of BIT Chawl No. 8, says that, at about 2200 hours on 8th January 1993, the miscreants repeatedly banged on her door and broke open the door to her tenement. She along with her two daughters–in–law and children was inside. One of the miscreants, Santosh Nagaonkar, started damaging the articles in the house and another placed a chopper on her neck and asked about the whereabouts of menfolk. The women pleaded for their lives, managed to run away and seek shelter in Prabhat Building. Sarwaribegam says that, when all this was happening, she saw the police standing 15 feet away from the building, doing nothing.

When she complained to the police about the attack on her chawl and requested action against the miscreants, the police asked her to go away. She made a complaint to the police station on 16th January 1993 narrating what transpired during the night of 8th January 1993. She denies the correctness of what is alleged to be her statement (Exhibit 550 (P)) and maintains that she had specifically given the name of Santosh to the police officer who took down the complaint. So much, for the reliability of the police records.

1.8 The Senior Police Inspector claimed that there were several instances of private firing upon the residents of Pathan Chawl (now known as Bhagwa Mahal) resulting in injuries to three Hindus, Chandrashekhar Bhiva Sawant, Sanjay Ramchandra Sawant and Prakash Keshav More. These three persons gave identical evidence that, because of fireballs thrown at Pathan Chawl by the Muslim residents of the adjoining building known as "80 tenements", the Pathan Chawl caught fire. And when the residents of Pathan Chawl were running around to extinguish the fire, they were shot at from the 80 tenements Chawl. They also claimed to have identified the person firing at them as one Nasir Bakerywala.

1.9 That these three persons were injured by bullets is certain; it is doubtful whether they were injured in an incident of private firing. The material on record seems to suggest that probably they were injured in police firing, while participating in the riots, which they are now passing off as the result of private firing. Though each one of them claims to have seen Nasir Bakerywala firing at them, one says that the firing was from a pistol and another that it was from a big gun. None of them named Nasir Bakerywala in the police statements. The police have also submitted a supplementary report to the Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) (Exh.569(C) giving full particulars of the incident in CR No.33/93. In that supplementary report these three are shown to have been injured in police firing.

1.10 The metamorphosis of ‘Pathan Chawl’ into ‘Bhagwa Mahal’ is also interesting. Though all others claimed that there was no connection between Shiv Sena and Pathan Chawl, Mohan Kadam Bahadur Lama, a resident of Pathan Chawl from 1969, who knew Prakash Keshav More, Sanjay Dattaram Sawant, Chandrashekar Bhiwa Sawant and Dattaram Vasant Narvekar, gives a different version. According to him, the name of Pathan Chawl was changed to Bhagwa Mahal when the Shiv Sena started moving about frequently. Someone from the Shiv Sena had come and said that Pathan Chawl should henceforth be called Bhagwa Mahal and, "since they said so, it is also called Bhagwa Mahal". This obviously indicates that the residents of Pathan Chawl or Bhagwa Mahal were very much protagonists, if not activists, of Shiv Sena.

Lama’s affidavit was filed at the instance of one Tukaram Amre and another "fat police officer" was accompanying him. This Tukaram Amre was the person instructing the Shiv Sena’s counsel when the cross–examination was going on before the Commission and was identified by the witness Lama. Lama also said that, apart from him, Tukaram Amre had brought four or five persons to file affidavits and was accompanied by one fat police officer. This evidence leads the Commission to think that the story about private firing is a contrived one, put forward at the instance of the activists of Shiv Sena and the police, though the identity of the "fat police officer" is unascertainable.

1.11 Meherunnissa Mohammed Yakub Ansari (Exh.577) also says that from about 1930 hours on 8th January 1993, till about 1330 hours on 9th January 1993, there were continuous attacks on their chawl No.12. The attackers were all Hindus from BIT Chawls who kept shouting, "Landyabai ka ghar kidar hai" and knocking on her door. They were carrying choppers and other weapons. She is emphatic about what the police told her when she complained to them. Says, the witness, "I cannot forget during my entire life the words used by the police — ‘Pakistan chale jao; yahan kyon ate ho marne ke liye’". After the Muslim residents had moved away to safety locking their houses, their houses were systematically ransacked and looted.

1.12 On 10th January 1993 riots erupted simultaneously at about 1030 hours near Fancy Market, Moreland Road, Hirve Chawl on Maulana Azad Road, Pathan Chawl on B.J. Road and Dhobighat. There was extensive arson and looting of property. In fact, the vicious nature of the riots can be gauged from the statistics given by the police themselves. About 200 Muslim families from Dhobighat area had abandoned their houses and fled to safety. Their houses were systematically ransacked, damaged, looted and subjected to arson. According to the police, in all about 200 incidents of arson and looting took place on 10th January 1993; in almost all cases the victims were Muslims.

1.13 There were crude attempts by the police to cover up the role of the Shiv Sena in the incidents of January 1993 :
(a) Though the Senior Police Inspector had filed particulars of the Mahaartis organised (Exhibit 514(P)), in which the number of Mahaartis were shown as having been organised by the Shiv Sena, he later on claimed that there was a mistake in it and filed another sanitized version in which it was sought to be maintained that the differentMahaartis were organised by different organisations, though the leaders of the Shiv Sena happened to remain present at the Mahaartis.

b) There was another attempt to underplay the role of four accused arrested in C.R. No.17 of 1993, who were reported to be Shiv Sainiks. Senior Police Inspector Tikam had made an endorsement in the case papers of C.R. No.17 of 1993 that the four accused persons arrested from BIT were Shiv Sainiks and that a report to that effect has been given to Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mehta of S.B.–I CID. When closely questioned about this endorsement, Tikam feigned lapse of memory. Daljitsingh Parmar, the investigating officer stated that the Senior Police Inspector Tikam must have got the information that the four accused were Shiv Sainiks and, though he made inquiries from public and interrogated the accused, he could not get confirmation of the said fact. He had even questioned the Shakha Pramukh of Shakha No.37 who stated that the four accused arrested in C.R. No.17 of 1993 were working along with Shiv Sainiks, but were not "authorised members" of Shiv Sena. No attempts appear to have been made to look into the records of membership or to cross–check the information given by the Shakha Pramukh. Daljitsingh Parmar conceded that if he had done such exercise he would have been able to ascertain whether the four accused were members of Shiv Sena and that it was a mistake on his part not to have done so.

1.14 There was a report of private firing from a building known as Al Madina on Motlibai Street. Though Senior Police Inspector denied that there was any such private firing, under cross–examination he was forced to admit that information to this effect was received by him, not only from public but also from the officers of the military column located near YMCA, that the military officers also claimed that they had heard the noise of firing from the direction of Al Madina and thought that it was directed at them. The military officers came near Al Madina Mansion and wanted to search Al Madina building to flush out the miscreants, but were unable to do so without a written requisition from the Senior Police Inspector. Tikam says that he refused to give such a written requisition because according to him the situation was not so serious as to justify the area being handed over to the military authorities. This, despite his believing the information about private firing from Al Madina mansion. After a lapse of time, Tikam himself carried out a search of Al Madina mansion, but predictably did not recover any fire–arms, though some petrol bombs were recovered.

1.15 That Shri Babanrao Pachpute, then Minister of State (Home), was possibly interfering with police work, is brought out in the cross–examination of Tikam. Tikam had picked up 21 persons from Al Madina building for questioning. By a strange coincidence, Mr. Pachpute visited the police station in the wee hours on 11th January 1993 and was shown the offensive materials seized during the search of Al Madina mansion. Soon thereafter, Tikam says that he was satisfied that there was no material against the 21 persons and they were allowed to go! Tikam, of course, denied that Shri Pachpute had anything to do to the release of those 21 persons. Tikam’s lapse of memory under cross–examination was so acute that, at one stage, in his anxiety to deny that there was private firing from the building behind YMCA Hostel, he point blank denied that there was any such incident. Confronted with the Agripada Mobile Log Book entries of 10th January 1993 showing that the police party was subjected to such private firing and that the constables in the Agripada mobile had replied the firing (Exh. 531(SS)), Tikam admitted the fact but had no explanation as to why there was no reference to it in his affidavit.

When the police searched Al Madina Mansion, not only did they recover petrol bombs, but they also seized certain quantity of materials useful for making crude bombs from the terrace of the building. It is admitted by Tikam that this might have been stored on the terrace of Al Madina as a plan to attack the Hindus and the police and that such an act would be an offence. Strangely, no offence has been registered, nor is the officer able to give any explanation as to why none was registered. Though the Shiv Sena had often cried wolf with regard to incidents of private firing, in this instance at least, its grievance appears justified.

1.16 The strange manner in which the police moved against the suspects is highlighted by another incident. Though a written complaint dated 5th February 1993 [Exhibit 534(SS)] was made that the persons responsible for the private firings upon Bhagwa Mahal on 10th January 1993 were Nasir Mastan Bakerywala, Aziz, Vakil and Shakil, the police were not able to nab any of them as they were said to be absconding. Interestingly, on 3rd April 1993 a public function appears to be organised for Id Milad in which the fathers of the three suspects, Mastan Bakerywala, Haji Vakil and Shakil were part of the organising committee. Tikam also maintained that none of his staff reported to him if any of the four absconding suspects had attended the function.

1.17 From the evidence of Yashwant Dattatraya Puntambekar [Exhibit 468(P)] it appears that on 8th and 10th January 1993, Hindus and Muslims were both on the offensive, though he would not be able to say as to which of these two mobs was acting in self–defence. During December 1992 and January 1993, 41 offences were registered, of which eight pertained to rioting, seven pertained to rioting with murder, 19 were cases of stabbing and the remaining were cases of house–breaking and looting. During December 1992 and January 1993, in the stabbing cases, 11 Hindus and 10 Muslims were stabbed. Out of the 15 cases of murder by stabbing, three victims were Hindus and 12 Muslims.

1.18 One constable, Ashok Naik (P.C.No.23960, L.A.IV) was arrested in connection with an offence of rioting and causing damage to Muslim property (C.R. No.28/93). Another police constable, Rajaram K. Bhoir, was arrested by N.M.Joshi Marg Police Station while indulging in a similar offence.

1.19 Some Urdu pamphlets [(Exh.538(SS)] containing inciting material were distributed near Hindustan Masjid, but there appears to be little follow–up action by the police.

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