Thursday, 13 December 2012

Antop Hill Police Station

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

2.1 This police station is spread over an area of about 8 to 12 sq. kms. with a total population around 5 lakhs, the majority being Hindus. There are some Muslim pockets in the area, like Suleman Compound, Sangam Nagar, Pratiksha Nagar, Bangalipura, Vijaynagar, Kokri Agar and Makkawadi. Roughly about 20% of the population consists of Muslims. This area has about 17 temples, 18 Masjids, seven Gurudwaras, three churches and seven Buddha Mandirs. The jurisdictional area of this police station is spread over two Vidhan Sabha constituencies and the two Sitting MLAs at the material time belonged to Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress–I. The three corporators in the area at the material time were two from Congress–I and one from Janata Dal.

2.2 There was no instance of Muslims being instigated to resort to violence or rioting. They had spontaneously reacted on hearing news of the demolition of Babri Masjid. There was no active Muslim organisation within this area, nor any attempt to instigate Muslims by communal speeches or distribution of printed material or by writings on blackboards.

2.3 The first reaction to the demolition of Babri Masjid came on 7th December 1992, during which angry Muslims directed their anger at the police or BEST buses by stoning them (C.R. No.354 of 1992). In another incident (C.R. No. 357 of 1992) which occurred on 8th December 1992 at 1315 hours in Rajiv Gandhi Nagar, a mob of 300 to 500 persons set fire to some of the huts therein. The police are unable to say whether the violent mob which was throwing stones at them consisted of Hindus or Muslims. However, the two huts in Rajiv Gandhi Nagar which were set on fire were occupied by Hindus and, it may be correct to presume that the aggressive mob was one of Muslims. The slogans shouted by the mob also lend support to this assumption.

That there was a Hindu mob which also attacked the huts in the transit camp, Rajiv Gandhi Nagar, and committed acts of arson is evident from the material on record. The police resorted to firing to quell the mobs in which three Muslim residents of Agarwal Compound sustained injuries and subsequently died.

2.4 On 9th December 1992, between 2300 to 2330 hours, a mob of 100–150 Muslims attempted to attack the Hindu settlement at Vijaynagar and was marching towards the local Ganapati Mandir. There was stone throwing by the said mob and slogans shouted that all the huts should be set on fire. The police interdicted them and resorted to lathi charge followed by firing. In this case (C.R. No.358 of 1992), 23 Muslim accused were arrested and one Muslim died in the police firing.

2.5 January 1993 saw thick rumours being floated around in the area that there was an imminent attack by Muslims. The Hindus were being incited and instigated to prepare against such attacks. Feelings were running high.

2.6 By far the most serious incidents took place in January 1993 in Pratiksha Nagar and Kokri Agar. All the action in this area took place on 9th and 10th January 1993. Witness after witness has come and deposed before the Commission that on 3rd January 1993 a bunch of young persons in the age group of 18 to 25 moved around in Pratiksha Nagar area pretending to be Housing Board employees and elicited details of Muslim residents in the chawls therein. It is also said that chalk marks were made on the houses of Muslims.

2.7 On 9th January 1993 a violent mob of Hindus attacked the house of a Muslim in Pratiksha Nagar with stones, ransacked the articles inside and set fire to them. On 10th January 1993, one Mohamad Hanif Quereshi was killed by a mob which attacked him with lathis and swords, in Building A–31, Pratiksha Nagar, near the Saibaba Mandir. The place of offence was hardly 250 to 350 feet from the Pratiksha Nagar Police chowky wherein a police picket consisting of police sub–inspector Patil and four constables was said to be on duty. The investigations into this case were carried out by Police Inspector Kenge, Police Inspector Shinde and police sub–inspector Mane. The case has been classified in "A" summary.

2.8 On 9th January 1993, at about 1200 hours, a Muslim, returning from the open field after answering the call of nature, was assaulted and stabbed (C.R. No.18 of 1993).

2.9 On 10th January 1993, two bodies were found in badly mutilated condition in Pratiksha Nagar. One was discovered near the Tata Power line at about 1800 hours and the other in the night at about 0100 hours. One was identified as the body of a Muslim, Zafar Abdul Karim, and the other was unidentified.

2.10 On 11th January 1993, at about 0600 hours, two Muslims were stabbed in Pratiksha Nagar, resulting in the death of one and injuries to the other. This case (C.R. No.18 of 1993) has been classified in "A" summary. C.R. No.19 of 1993 is another case where one Mohamad Salim was injured in stabbing. This case has also been classified in "A" summary.

2.11 There was an attack on a Masjid known as Markaz–E–Tamir– Millat Masjid by Hindu mob (C.R.No.20 of 1993). The mob threw stones at the masjid and the adjoining huts of Muslims and torched vehicles and handcarts on the road. The resulting fire burnt six Hindu huts also. In this case, the police have arrested 17 Muslims and seven Hindus on the spot.

2.12 A Muslim driving his vehicle in Pratiksha Nagar near the Santosh Hotel was attacked by a violent mob of Hindus on 11th January 1993 at about 1300 hours (C.R.No.22 of 1993).
2.13 A Hindu driving a vehicle was attacked by a violent mob on 12th January 1993 at about 1703 hours opposite the Kokri Agar Church. Surprisingly, in this case, the accused arrested are both Hindus (C.R.No.23 of 1993).

2.14 Three Muslims travelling in a Maruti car in Pratiksha Nagar were pulled out, severely assaulted, put back in the car and the car was set on fire resulting in their being burnt alive. The incident occurred opposite Building No.20, Manohar Kini Memorial Library, Sardar Nagar No.1, Pratiksha Nagar on 14th January 1993 at 1430 hours (C.R. No. 27 of 1993). Three police constables, one of them armed, were present on fixed bandobust duty at Shivaji Chowk in Sardar Nagar No.1 and they were all in uniforms. The place where the incident took place was hardly 150 feet from Shivaji Chowk where this picket was on bandobust duty. No attempt appears to have been made by the police picket to stop the gruesome incident.

An interesting fallout of this incident is that on 15th January 1993 the police arrested two persons in connection with this incident and on the same day a morcha of about 3000 to 4000 men and women led by the local Shiv Sena Shakha Pramukh Prahlad Thombre, Shiv Sena MLA Shri Kalidas Kolamkar, Congress MLA Shri Eknath Gaikwad, Congress corporator Smt. Karuna Mhatre, Shiv Sena corporator Shri Krishna Vishwasrao, Shiv Sena Vibhag Pramukh Sudam Pandit and one Arvind Samant came to the police station demanding release of the arrested accused, one of whom was Bal Thombre.

2.15 There were several cases of systematic attack on and ransacking of Muslim houses in the different chawls in Pratiksha Nagar (C.R. Nos. 39, 40, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 51, 52, and 54 of 1993). The manner in which these cases have been investigated by the police leaves much to be desired. Most of these cases were recommended by the investigating officer for being classified in "A" summary; the recommendations were accepted by Senior Police Inspector Vinayak Raosaheb Patil and the cases were classified in "A" summary under the orders of the assistant Commissioner of police of the division.

In most of these cases, much before the actual date on which the I.O. recommended classification in "A" summary, there were written complaints made by the victims clearly identifying the miscreants and giving particulars of their residential addresses. In most of the cases, the miscreants were residents of the chawl in which the victim lived or of adjacent chawls. The accused were well–known persons and the victims had given their names and addresses. Most of such statements were recorded by the police and the NGOs when the Muslim victims had been temporarily sheltered at the Musafirkhana Relief Camp in South Bombay. These statements were forwarded to the Senior Police Inspector of Antop Police Station sometime in February 1993, and yet the investigating officer and the Senior Police Inspector appear to have recommended closing these cases and classifying them in "A" summary, sometime in June 1993.

The details of the statements of the different victims identifying the accused persons and giving their addresses are brought out in the cross–examination of Senior Police Inspector Vinayakrao Raosaheb Patil and also in the copies of the statements which have been taken on record by the Commission. It would appear that the investigating officer, for reasons now fathomable, recommended classification of these cases in "A" summary. Fortunately, in some of the cases, the deputy commissioner of police of the region appeared to have noticed this glaring omission and directed reopening of the cases and investigations upon which only some of the accused were arrested. Ominously, some names are repeated by the victims and some of the persons named as miscreants appear to have been connected with Mitra Mandals of Pratiksha Nagar known as Vishwa Jagrutti Mitra Mandal, Prabhat Mitra Mandal and Jai Maharashtra Mitra Mandal. The witnesses examined before the Commission have asserted that these Mitra Mandals were but fronts of the Shiv Sena and the persons active in these Mitra Mandals were all Shiv Sainiks.

2.16 In most of these cases, the investigating officer was sub–inspector Pawar, whose recommendation for classification in "A" summary appears to have been accepted by the Senior Police Inspector K.E. Nath, who was the Senior Police Inspector at the material time. Senior Police Inspector Nath was examined before the Commission and he clearly stated that none of the documents containing details of the names and addresses of the miscreants was filed in the case papers put up before him together with the recommendation of the investigation officer for classification in "A" summary. He also states that the investigating officer must have surreptitiously inserted the relevant documents in the case papers, subsequent to the classification of the cases in "A" summary.

The evidence of Senior Police Inspector Kisan E. Nath, (Witness No. 308) is very significant and reveals the police modus operandi of scuttling inconvenient investigations. Nath also says that between 22nd October 1993 to 23rd October 1994, no case diary had been written by the investigating officer. Some enquiry appears to have been conducted into the conduct of investigating officer, assistant Police Inspector Pawar which resulted in his being deprived of three years increments. The punishment inflicted upon him appears to be too light considering the manner in which he attempted to scuttle the investigation of cases in which hundreds of Muslim residences in Pratiksha Nagar were systematically ransacked, looted and the articles in the houses were set on fire.

2.17 The Commission had issued notices under Section 8B of the Commissions of Inquiry Act to the following police personnel attached to the Antop Hill Police station at the material time :-
(a) Police Inspector B.B.Shinge,
(b) Police sub–inspector Shivgonda Patil,
(c) Arvind Mahadeo Ghadi
(H.C. No. 1517),
(d) Akram Yeshwant Kamble
(P.C. No. 19044),
(e) Prakash Sitaram Dukare
(P.C. No.4064),
(f) Dhanaji Rajaram Phadtare
(P.C. No. 19044),
(g) Shankar Pandurang Patil
(P.C. No.543)
(h) Bhausaheb Kisan Gaikwad (P.C.No.25702)

2.18 After seeking time for giving their replies to the notice, the following persons stated on 5th December 1994 before the Commission that they did not propose to file any replies to the notices issued to them, nor desired to cross-examine the witnesses already examined before the Commission. They are :
a) Arvind Mahadeo Ghadi
(H.C. No. 1517),
b) Akram Yeshwant Kamble (P.C.No.19044),
c) Prakash Sitaram Dukare (P.C.No.4064),
d) Dhanaji Rajaram Phadtare (P.C.No.22279),
e) Shankar Pandurang Patil (P.C.No.543)
f) Bhausaheb Kisan Gaikwad (P.C.No.25702)

2.19 Inspector B.B Shinge and sub–inspector Shivgonda Patil sought leave to appear through Counsel and they were given permission. They also filed written replies vide Exhibit 2227(P) (Colly.). Smt. Manjula Rao, learned counsel appearing for them, was also given opportunity to cross examine one of the witnesses, Hafiza Kadar Khan, who had made allegations against them. This was done on 23rd February 1994.

2.20 Witness after witness has come before the Commission from Pratiksha Nagar area to give in graphic details the manner in which the Muslims were driven out from their houses at the point of swords, knives and under threats. In some of the cases their property was damaged, destroyed and set on fire in their very presence. In several cases the Muslims of Pratiksha Nagar ran away to seek shelter elsewhere and their locked houses were broken open, ransacked and their articles looted or set on fire. The witnesses have said that the attacking miscreants were Hindus, that they were mostly youths shouting slogans like, ‘Jai Shri Ram’, ‘Jai Bhavani’, ‘Jai Bhim’, ‘Jai Maharashtra’ and ‘Shiv Sena Zindabad’. Some of them have also stated that they were wearing bhagwa (Saffron) coloured headbands. One of the witnesses states that some of the miscreants were wearing Tee-shirts with the words "Shiv Sena" in Marathi printed on them. There appears to be unanimity in the deposition of the witnesses of Pratiksha Nagar that the survey carried out on 3rd January 1993 was unauthorized and definitely intended to target the Muslim houses for violent attacks, though at the point of time when it was done, the victims did not suspect foul play. The victims also clearly maintained that they were targeted and subjected to violent action in the very presence of policemen and officers, some of whom were armed, and that the police did not even lift a little finger to help them.

2.21 The evidence of Reshma Umar Makki, young lady of 27 years, who was herself a Hindu Maharashtrian, Dalvi, before she fell in love with Umar Makki and converted to Islam, is very revealing. Her house was also surveyed on 3rd January 1993 and an indelible mark was put on her door by the surveying party. On 9th January 1993 there was an attack on her house by Shiv Sainiks who made enquiries about her "Landya" husband. Reshma hid her husband inside a box type mattress before opening the door and informed the mob of attackers that her husband was not in the house and invited them to search the house.

The attackers were armed with swords, choppers, knives and lathis. Another attack took place on 11th January 1993 by an armed mob of Shiv Sainiks. They abused her as to why she got married to a "landya" and whether all Hindus were dead. She identified the mob as comprising inmates of Andhra Chawl, out of whom she clearly recognized one Umesh, a Shiv Sainik living near Sundar Hotel. He and three to four other boys entered her house, placed a chopper on her head and threatened her that, if she spoke up, she would be stripped, raped and killed. She says that when she contacted Senior Police Inspector Vinayak Patil of the police station for help, he refused to come and retorted, "If a Muslim dies, there would be one Muslim less".

Reshma maintained that the facts that the Shiv Sena boys coming every now and then and giving trouble to her, taunting and filthily abusing her for marrying a Muslim, openly moving around wearing white Tee-shirts with the name of Shiv Sena printed upon them, without the police in any way interfering with them, made her believe that the police had deliberately adopted a policy of non-interference and helping the Shiv Sena. She spiritedly retorted to the Senior Police Inspector that she had marked his words and his words would cost him dearly one day. Prophetically, she was proved right, because Senior Police Inspector Vinayak R. Patil was summarily sacked by the government on serious allegations, one of which was his close association with "communal organisations".

Under cross–examination by the learned councel for the Shiv Sena, Reshma Umar Makki, admitted that she did not know whether the miscreants were actually Shiv Sainiks or not, but they were at least claiming to be Shiv Sainiks. She was even honest enough to point out that whoever wrote her complaint in the Musafirkhana had made a mistake and that she had never stated that the miscreants had robbed her of her jewellery. There is no reason to discount the evidence of this and other witnesses from Pratiksha Nagar.

2.22 From the evidence brought on record, it would appear that there was a systematic attack for terrorizing the Muslims in Pratiksha Nagar. The Muslim houses were subjected to a selective unauthorized survey by the Hindus on 3rd January 1993. There was a vicious rumour floated around that there was an imminent attack by Muslims on Hindu houses and thereby Hindu communal passions were whipped up. On 9th, 10th and 11th January 1993 the Muslim houses in Pratiksha Nagar were systematically broken open, ransacked, some of the articles looted and some others deliberately set on fire. One of the witnesses said that on 9th January 1993 about seven truckloads of miscreants had come, most of whom were from Lalbaug area and some were from the Andhra Chawl. This fortifies the conclusion that there was a planned, systematic attempt to attack the Muslim houses in Pratiksha Nagar.

2.23 One 18–year–old girl, Shamim Bano, was kidnapped and, in spite of the names of the culprits being disclosed to police, the police took little action in the matter and the girl was not traced thereafter (C.R. No. 27 of 1993).

2.24 One handicapped person, Abdul Mannan, was brutally murdered by the miscreants and, though their names were given to police, no action seems to have been taken (C.R. No.114 of 1993).

2.25 Between 9th January 1993 to 12th January 1993 a large number of Muslims, numbering about 3,000–5,000, who had left their houses for fear of attack had congregated near Sunder Vihar Hotel. They were surrounded by 40,000–50,000 Hindus and had to spend almost three days under constant fear of attack till they were rescued from there with the help of army column on 12th January 1993. The intensity of communal hatred which had gripped even the ordinary citizens during the riot periods is demonstrated by this incident. Police were unable to help the Muslims because of overwhelmingly large mobs of Hindus which prevented the police from rescuing the Muslims. When an attempt was made to supply food to the marooned Muslims, the vehicles carrying the food were chased away. Finally, when the army column was transporting the marooned Muslim families, it was also attacked by the Hindu mobs which had to be dispersed by firing resorted to by army personnel.

2.26 The role of the police during this incident has been distressing. On occasions, they acted passively and permitted the pillaging mobs to carry on their nefarious activities; sometimes, they even encouraged them and joined them. In these circumstances, the lapses in the investigations into the offences registered were probably not cases of negligence, but deliberate attempts to suppress material evidence and sabotage investigations. The evidence on record clearly points out that the police were communally biased against the Muslims. In short, the conduct of the police during the incidents was such as to cause loss of faith in the law and order machinery.

2.27 To top it all, there is the order dated 30th April 1993 by which senior police inspector Vinayakrao Raosaheb Patel of Antop Hill Police Station, was removed from service with effect from 30th April 1993 for reasons, inter alia, of developing relationship with ‘criminals’ and ‘communal elements’ in Antop Hill police station area, thereby shielding them from legal action. The conduct of the officers, Police Inspector B.B. Shinge, police sub–inspector Shivgonda Patil, investigating officer, sub–inspector Pawar and the police constables, namely, Arvind Mahadeo Ghadi (H.C.No.1517), Akram Yeshwant Kamble (P.C.No.19044), Prakash Sitaram Dukare (P.C.No.4064), Dhanaji Rajaram Phadtare (P.C.No.22279), Shankar Pandurang Patil (P.C.No.543) and Bhausaheb Kisan Gaikwad (P.C.No.25702) is not at all above board.

The Commission is satisfied that it was because of such conduct on the part of police personnel that incidents of such serious nature took place in Pratiksha Nagar. It was a massive operation launched by the Hindu miscreants in Pratiksha Nagar, some of whom openly professed that they were connected with the Shiv Sena, and some identified to be local Shiv Sena activists, actively and passively supported by the local police, to terrorize and cripple the Muslim residents of Pratiksha Nagar. That this massive operation succeeded is testimony to the ineffectiveness of the police machinery which was paralysed into inaction as it was infected with the virus of communalism.

2.28 That the Shiv Sena was spearheading the attack on the Muslims in this area comes through from the evidence of witness after witness before the Commission. The big morcha taken out by the local Shiv Sena leaders to demand unconditional release of the accused arrested in C.R. No. 27/93 indirectly supports what has been directly suggested by the witnesses.

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