Thursday, 13 December 2012

D.B. Marg Police Station

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

8.1 This jurisdictional area has a majority of Hindu residents, but there are several Muslim residences and commercial establishments in the areas close to the border of V.P. Road, Nagpada and Tardeo Police Stations.

8.2 During December 1992, the police station registered four communal incidents, out of which one (C.R. No.592 of 1992) pertains to an incident in which one Muslim male died of injuries in a stone throwing incident at Dreamland Cinema.

8.3 One Hindu was injured in communal violence by mob and died as a consequences of the injuries sustained (C.R.No.31 of 1993). Two police officers were injured in stone throwing incidents. Three other cases were registered in respect of ransacking and looting of establishments. It is admitted by Senior Police Inspector Ramchandra Namdeo Bhakare, that in all the incidents of ransacking, looting and arson of establishments which took place between the period 13th December 1992 to 31st January 1993, the establishments belonged to Muslims. All establishments which were looted, ransacked and subjected to arson, even during December 1992 belonged to Muslims.

8.4 On 7th December 1992 there was stone throwing by Muslim residents of Kalyan Building at Nago Sayaji Chawl and Maharaja Chawl which are predominantly inhabited by Hindus. Surprisingly, in the connected case (C.R.No.562 of 1992), though the case diary records that one Hindu Pratap Chavan had been injured in stone throwing and had complained to the police, there was no such statement recorded in the case papers produced before the Commission. This incident occurred at the junction of Patthe Bapurao Marg and Parshuram Tukaram Marg which is the border area of Nagpada and D.B. Marg Police Stations and has mixed populations of Hindus and Muslims. The police resorted to firing of sixty rounds and the estimated damage to property was about Rs.2 lakhs. The firing resulted in the death of two Muslims. The Investigating Officer, Police Inspector Patil, had not even visited the residences of the two Muslim victims and recorded any one’s statement. The explanation given was that because of the tenseness of the situation he was afraid that his visit might cause re-eruption of riots. More surprisingly the Senior Police Inspector Madhavrao Shankarrao Jadhav was blissfully unaware of this fact.

8.5 During January 1993, the police station registered thirty one offences, most of which pertained to looting, ransacking and arson of Muslim establishments. In three cases (C.R. Nos. 24, 25 and 26 of 1993) in all twenty Hindu accused were apprehended, some, while committing the offence, and others, later on.

8.6 Eleven Mahaartis were held in this jurisdiction during December 1992 and January 1993, but the one held on 9th January 1993 at Kabirwadi Hanuman Mandir deserves special mention because soon after this Mahaarti there was widespread looting, damaging of Muslim shops in the immediate vicinity. According to Senior Police Inspector Bhakare, he was present throughout the Mahaarti which had been organized by the activists of Shiv Sena. At the instance of the SB–I, CID, a video recording of the Mahaarti was made by a professional Video Photographer, Sudhir Naginlal Shah. Though the Mill Diary clearly states that the people in the Mahaartihad become agitated, turned violent and had to be controlled by use of appropriate force, the Senior Police Inspector Bhakare, maintained that the record was wrong and that it would be incorrect to describe the congregation in such words. According to him, while the Mahaarti was going on, Azaan was heard from the nearby Grant Road Masjid, which agitated the devotees attending the Mahaarti. As a result of the Azaan, a section of the crowd in the Mahaarti became angry and started spreading out towards the Masjid. They had to be dispersed by use of force in the form of lathi charge which lasted for about fifteen to twenty minutes. A part of the dispersing crowd damaged shops and stalls along this road, though, interestingly, all commercial establishments in the area had been closed on that day. The photographer Shah (Witness No.53) who video recorded the entire Mahaarti for about fifty minutes, maintains that the Arti was continuing when the Azaan was heard, the crowd in the Mahaarti was reciting the Arti, clapping their hands and also beating cymbals and drums and that there was a loudspeaker on which the Arti was being sung. According to him, the sound of Azaan was not so loud as to disturb the people in the Mahaarti and could not have attracted the attention of the people at all. He also says that the Azaan was heard only for about fifteen to twenty minutes prior to the end of the Mahaarti and he did not observe the crowd becoming angry, as the people in the crowd were enjoying the Arti.

According to the Senior Police Inspector the crowd in the Mahaarti was shouting slogans of ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Mandir Wahi Banayenge’ and ‘Bolo Shri Ram ki Jai’ and no inflammatory speeches were given at the Mahaarti. It is admitted by the police that this Mahaarti resulted in total blockage of traffic on the road, but no cases appear to have been filed against the Shiv Sena leaders including MLA Shri Chandrakant Padwal and Corporator Shri Arvind Nerkar who had organized this Mahaarti. A case appears to have been filed against Arvind Nerkar, Amod Usapkar, Joglekar, Pravin Bhosale, Arun Chaphekar and Arun Gawand in respect of a Mahaarti held on 11th February 1993 near Dutt Mandir, though nothing untoward happened on that day. The video cassette of the Kabir Mandir Mahaarti was played before the Commission and in the video recording the Azaan is not heard at any time during the Mahaarti. The video recording also shows that there was very high decibel level making it impossible for the crowd to have heard the Azaan. There is an interesting fact observed in the video recording. At the commencement of the Mahaarti, certain pamphlets are seen being distributed. Though the Senior Police Inspector maintains that the pamphlets only contained the text of the song sung at the Arti, the police failed to procure a pamphlet and produce it before the Commission. We have only the words of Senior Police Inspector Bhakre as to the contents of the pamphlets. Considering the manner in which the apparently peaceful and devoted crowd turned into a looting and rampaging mob at the end of the Mahaarti, it seems probable that something more serious than the unheard Azaan must have transpired, which the police are either totally unaware of, or are suppressing from the Commission. This, in the face of Source Report dated 7th January 1993 on the subject of the Mahaartis cautioning that the Shiv Sainiks dispersing from the Mahaarti were likely to attack Muslim shops. The Senior Police Inspector maintained that, in spite of such a Source Report, he permitted the Mahaarti on 9th January 1993 and all the Mahaartis held subsequently. It would appear that the police were unwilling to become wiser, before the event or even after the event.

8.7 The investigation of C.R.No.562 of 1992 is wholly unsatisfactory and obviously required things like recording statements of relevant witnesses has not been done without any satisfactory explanation. The explanation given for not registering a case against the organizers of the Mahaarti on 9th January 1993 is ridiculous, since it is claimed that there was no law and order problem as a result of the Mahaarti. A case of turning Nelson’s eye.

8.8 In the several offences of looting, ransacking and arson of commercial establishments, most of them appear to have taken place within close vicinity of police pickets and the police, as usual, appeared to be the last to arrive on the scene. At least in one case, (C.R.No.15 of 1993) the miscreant mob was heard shouting slogans like ‘Shiv Sena Zindabad’.

8.9 In C.R.No.28 of 1993, one Police Hawaldar was assaulted by the miscreant mob, presumably of Muslims, as a result of which he fractured his left wrist.

8.10 During the rioting in December 1992, while three shops of Muslims were damaged, in the January 1993 rioting, ninety five shops of Muslims and ten of Hindus were damaged. Of the thirty accused arrested during January 1993, twenty one were arrested in connection with looting, breaking and damaging of properties and all of them were Hindus.

8.11 In C.R.No.91 of 1993, there appears to be a case of mistaken identity. Three Hindu accused are alleged to have chased a Tamilian Hindu boy under the impression that he was a Muslim and, being unable to understand his shouts in Tamil, killed him.

8.12 All three accused in C.R.No.46 of 1993 were Hindus and belong to Shiv Sena. The investigation done in this C.R. appears to be somewhat strange. Though the Senior Police Inspector claims that he made inquiries with Amod Usapkar, the Shakha Pramukh of Shakha No.21, by calling him to the police station and also questioned corporator Nerkar of Shiv Sena, there are no statements of these persons recorded.

8.13 After the incidents of looting and rioting which took place on 9th and 10th January 1993, the police carried out searches in buildings and isolated places in Chunam Lane and Tara Temple Lane. These searches were carried out to recover looted properties and, in fact, a part of the looted properties was recovered from some of the premises. The Hindus organized a Mahaarti on 14th January 1993 at Dutt Mandir on R.R. Road spear–headed by the leaders of Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party, during which it was announced that a morcha would be taken out to the police station to protest against the searches carried out in Chunam Lane and Tara Temple Lane. Actually, a morcha was taken out to the D.B.Marg Police Station and the curious demand of the people in the morcha was that a similar search of the Grand Masjid should be carried out to unearth illegal arms.

The police, very compliantly, obliged those people and searched the Grant Road Masjid but drew a blank. The Senior Police Inspector, without the least hesitation, admitted that the search at Grant Road Masjid was done only because of the pressure of the organizers of the Mahaarti (read Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party) and that the police did not have any information about concealment of illegal arms therein. He also admitted that at the Mahaarti on 6th January 1993 at Kabirwadi, the organizers had announced that if there was resumption of Azaan during the Mahaarti, they would retaliate ‘by any means’. That, all the accumulated experience and inputs in the confidential Source Reports did not make the Senior Police Inspector wiser, suggests incurable obtuseness or bias towards organizers of the Mahaarti, to wit, the Shiv Sena.

8.14 The evidence of Assistant Commissioner of Police, Trimbak Dattatraya Moghe (Witness No.49), brought some surprising facts to light. Though it has been asserted by the State Government and police that the first communal incident occurred on 6th December 1992, near Minara Masjid in Pydhonie jurisdiction, the Control Room Log Book shows that the D.B. Marg I–Mobile had given a message at 0021 hours on 7th December 1992 that there was trouble at the police chowky near the J.S.S. Road and that 50 persons of Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party were present and were doing rasta roko. Moghe, the divisional Assistant Commissioner of Police surprisingly showed total ignorance about this incident, though he felt that against the backdrop of the events happening at that time, such an incident would be seriously capable of creating communal violence. Nor did the Mill Diary and Station Diary of V.P. Road Police station, within whose jurisdiction the incident occurred, make any mention of the incident. There is no explanation as to why such an important happening is not reflected in the records of V.P. Road Police Station. He stated that nobody had brought such an incident to his notice and that it was the first time that he had heard of it. The police chowky at Kandewadi is located on J.S.S. Road in close proximity of Bharatiya Janata Party office and the record of V.P. Road Police Station shows that two constables were deputed near the Bharatiya Janata Party office on the J.S.S. Road. Moghe candidly admitted that as the Assistant Commissioner of Police of the division he thought that the incident which happened on J.S.S. Road was a serious one and should have been mentioned in the Station Diary and Mill Diary of the concerned Police Station.

8.15 The Commission finds itself in a situation where it cannot implicitly rely on the police records. It is difficult to believe that the Assistant Commissioner of Police of the division was completely in the dark, when an admittedly serious incident with explosive potential occurs during the midnight of 6th/7th December 1992, when the entire police force presumably was on tenterhooks.

8.16 On 9th, 13th and 20th December 1992, Navaakal, a Marathi daily, had published inflammatory and inciting writings against Muslims. Offences were registered vide (C.R.Nos.57, 58 and 59 of 1992) and sanctions for prosecution under Section 153A were sought from the Government. The Government dithered and did not sanction the permission till 17th August 1993 on which date the witness was examined.

8.17 According to Moghe, the decision to exempt Mahaarti from Section 37 of the Bombay Police Act, on the ground of it being a religious activity, was taken by the Commissioner of Police prior to commencement of riots on 6th December 1992. Even after the riots had started, during a discussion in the monthly meeting called by the Commissioner of Police, the officers were of the view that the exemption to Mahaartis was causing problems in law enforcement. Though this issue was pointedly brought to the notice of Commissioner of Police, it was decided that the problem should be resolved by appealing to the good sense of Hindus and Muslims.

8.18 In fact, this officer candidly admitted that what was anticipated by SB–I, CID, while issuing the circular cautioning attacks on Muslim establishments by Shiv Sainiks returning from Mahaartis turned out to be correct.

8.19 Talking about the intelligence gathering activities in his division, Moghe pointed out that, once the riot commenced on 6th December 1992 intelligence gathering was given up, but intelligence gathering activities were resumed after 15th December 1992. There was no intelligence gathered till the end of December 1992 about the likelihood of a second round of riots in January 1993. According to Moghe the second round of riots in January 1993, at least in Girgaum area, was a total surprise to him.

8.20 Another surprising fact which emerges from the evidence of Moghe is that during January 1993, though there was curfew, entire Girgaum area was excluded from the curfew order. The consequence — 40 shops and establishments were looted/set on fire within Girgaum area during January 1993. There was no curfew order at all within the jurisdiction of D.B. Marg Police Station during December 1992 or January 1993.

8.21 Moghe drew a distinction between the pattern of rioting in December 1992 and January 1993. According to him, while during the December 1992 riots the miscreants would come out in the open and create trouble, during the January 1993 riots, miscreants were doing it covertly. He admitted that January 1993 phase of the riots had all the hallmarks of ‘organized property crime’ as referred to in Standing Order 131. The same was true about December 1992, but there were also several offences against human body.

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