Thursday, 13 December 2012

Gamdevi Police Station

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

12.1 This area consists predominantly of Hindus, though there are some pockets in which Muslims reside and carry on commercial activities.

12.2 There were no incidents worth serious notice during December 1992. Only one incident took place on 16th December 1992 in which some unknown miscreant threw a stone on the glass door of the Ambamata Temple, Chandramohan building, Pandita Ramabai Marg, resulting in the glass being broken (CR No.1143/92). The case registered in this connection has been classified in "A" summary as the police were unable to get any clues.

12.3 The January 1993 phase of the communal riots gave rise to 18 cases of attacks on establishments accompanied by ransacking, looting and arson. Out of these 18 establishments, most belong to Muslims and only one house and one tailoring shop which were burnt down belonged to Hindus, though it appears that the fires which was started in the adjacent Muslim shops spread to these establishments.

12.4 Nine Mahaartis were held in this area which were organised by Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party. The Commission noticed utmost reluctance on the part of Senior Police Inspector Madhukar Ramchandra Ghorpade, to even admit that these Mahaartis were organised by Shiv Sena and/or Bharatiya Janata Party. His pretence, that he did not know who the organisers were, indicates either extreme naivete or partisanship. It is only under continued stress of cross–examination, when confronted with the contents of the Mill Diaries, that the officer was prepared to even admit that these Mahaartis were organised by the Shiv Sena. Another noteworthy feature is that, according to this officer, all the Mahaartis were held during operation of an order Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code and no action was taken against any of the organisers of the Mahaartis. The Mahaartis were organised by Ashok Hadkar, Shakha Pramukh of Shiv Sena Shakha No.23, Amol Musalkar, Chandrakant Padwal, Corporator Arvind Nerkar, Madhukar Dhonde of Shakha No.24 and Ashok Sawant and Harishchandra Pote. The excuse for not taking action for committing the offence of breach of an order under Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code, is that the police was afraid that any action initiated against these persons was likely to cause deterioration in the normalcy of the situation. Hence Deputy Commissioner of Police of Zone II, B.N. Raut, had instructed Senior Police Inspector Ghorpade not to take action. Though the Senior Police Inspector denied that incidents of looting, arson and violence had taken place within close vicinity of the spots where theMahaartis were held, when details of each Mahaarti was put to him, he had to admit the said fact. It would appear that the communal incidents took place in close vicinity of the places where Mahaartis were held. May be, a case of sheer coincidence! Although there are only 18 cases registered by the police, the actual number of establishments looted and ransacked is in the vicinity of 80–86. Except in two incidents, there was no firing at all by the police. Some of the incidents took place within close vicinity of the police pickets and the police station itself. Here again, the Senior Police Inspector exhibited his naivete, or partisanship, by blatantly saying that he was not even aware that on 8th January 1993 the victims of the mobs attacks were Muslims or that Muslim houses and shops were attacked selectively, though such a picture which glaringly emerged could not have missed the eyes of any experienced police officer.

12.5 The incident in Jobanputra Compound occurred within 100 feet from the police picket posted at Nana Chowk and the Senior Police Inspector says that the police picket had no notion as to what was going on inside Jobanputra Compound till the incident was over and someone gave information. It would appear that the same group of people was moving around the locality, without let or hindrance, causing damage, ransacking, looting and committing arson of Muslim establishments, which fact too Ghorpade reluctantly admitted under cross–examination.

12.6 The Commission feels that the records maintained by the police station are wholly unbelievable. There is the evidence of an advocate, Shri Girish Desai, residing in Jariwala Mansion, lst Floor, 60–A Hughes Road, which substantiates this. An establishment by name Royal Cycles and Motors belonging to a Muslim is situated on the ground floor just below the apartment of Shri Desai. At about 0030 hours on 11th January 1993, he heard noises indicating trouble and he ran down to the compound of the building. The building Jariwala Mansion has two entrances, one from Hughes Road and other from K.N. Munshi Road. When he ran down to the compound he noticed a group of young boys in the age range of 20–25 attempting to break open the rear door of Royal Cycles & Motor Works using iron rods and crow–bars. Shri Desai challenged them and started shouting. Two from the group ran away on to K.N. Munshi Marg and the others surrounded Shri Desai, overpowered him and assaulted him on the head with an iron rod, causing bleeding injury. Hearing Shri Desai’s shout, residents of the building came running and the miscreants made good their escape. Some of the younger residents of the building chased the miscreants and succeeded in apprehending one of the miscreant boys.

A telephonic message to the Gamdevi Police Station brought forth a jeep full of police officers and men. The miscreant caught by the residents was handed over to the police and Shri Desai along with some of his neighbours travelled in the police jeep to the police station. The police officer took down whatever Shri Desai narrated including his name, occupation, address and telephone number, details of the incident and asked him whether he needed medical attention. Upon Desai declining, since he had been attended to by a qualified medical practitioner, he was sent back in the police jeep. Sometime later during the day, Shri Desai went back to the Gamdevi Police Station, met the Duty Officer and gave a written representation made by all the residents of his building. The police promised security to them. Shri Desai stated that the person who had hit him with an iron rod was a person seen hanging around in the locality sometimes.

12.7 The Senior Police Inspector admitted that on the basis of what was narrated by Shri Desai, a cognizable offence ought to have been registered by the police station. Surprisingly, there is not even a non–cognizable offence registered by the police station. On the other hand, Shantaram Jayram Patole, Inspector, in–charge of law & order, states that he had learnt about the incident of house breaking in Jariwala Mansion and according to the records of the police station, the shop broken open was one by name ‘Sophomore’. According to him, he had no knowledge whether Shri Girish Desai had come to the police station or whether any miscreant apprehended by the members of the police had been handed over to the police. Under cross–examination, Patole admitted that the shop known as Sophomore is situated in the building known as Rasik Nivas and not in Jariwala Mansion and that the said incident had nothing to do with the one complained of by Shri Girish Desai. The Duty Officer at the material time was one Police Sub–Inspector Wadhankar and he had not made any inquiries with Police Sub–Inspector Wadhankar, despite coming to know about the incident from Senior Police Inspector Ghorpade.

12.8 The documents on record, however, tell a different story. Pursuant to the complaint made by the residents of Jariwala Mansion on 11.1.1993 [Exh.119(P)], there is a report made by Police Inspector Patole to the Assistant Commissioner of Police [Exh.120(P)], in which he refers to the incident at Jariwala Mansion. In this report, Patole states that Police Sub–Inspector Wadhankar had registered a case vide C.R. No.37/93 in which one person was arrested by the officer on patrol duty in the vicinity of Jariwala Mansion. He also states in this report that the advocate Shri Desai did not turn up at the police station and, if he turns up, his complaint would be recorded. When confronted with the document in cross–examination, Patole gave the explanation that he had taken the name of Police Sub–Inspector Wadhankar only because he was the Duty Officer and had recorded C.R. No.37/93, that he had no talk with Wadhankar with regard to the incident which is the subject matter of C.R. No.37/93 or with regard to the incident connected with Shri Girish Desai. Admittedly, C.R.No.37/93 was not in respect of the incident of attack on Royal Cycle and Motor Works or the attack on Shri Girish Desai. The Senior Police Inspector when confronted with the said report of Patole, admitted that it was a misleading report and that if the incident had been reported to him, he would have taken action in connection with the complaint of Shri Desai.

12.9 The Commission feels that the police were either hand in glove with the miscreants, or utterly negligent in the performance of their duties. The Commission has no hesitation in accepting the evidence of Shri Girish Desai, advocate, as against the palpably unreliable evidence of the police officers. That a miscreant apprehended inflagrante delicto and handed over to the police, managed to vanish without trace, and without any record being made by the police station, speaks volumes about the manner in which riot–related offences were handled by the police.

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