Thursday, 13 December 2012

Ghatkopar Police Station

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

13.1 The jurisdictional area of this police station is about 12 sq. k.m. with a population of about 6 to 7 lakhs. The majority of the population of this area consists of Hindus, though there are several identified Muslim pockets.

13.2 The period from July to December 1992 saw the Hindutva parties, as well as Muslims, carrying on propaganda, speeches and activities in support of their respective stands on the Ramjanambhoomi–Babri Masjid dispute.

13.3 According to the Senior Police Inspector, Anil Prabhakar Shrouti, the personnel attached to the police station was inadequate by about 30% to handle even day–to–day problems. The difficult nature of the terrain and the spread of the hutments made it difficult to deal with situations which arose during the riots. The arms, ammunition and equipment available with the police station were inadequate by about 30% to meet the situations arising during December 1992 and January 1993. The number of vehicles in good condition was also inadequate to effectively patrol during the two riot periods.

13.4 In December 1992 this police station registered 20 cases of communal violence and during January 1993 there were 62 cases of this nature registered. In eight incidents during December 1992 and 11 incidents during January 1993 the police had to open fire to control the situation.

13.5 This area has 68 Hindu temples and 23 Mosques of which 10 Hindu temples and one Mosque were attacked and damaged during December 1992; four Mosques were attacked and damaged during January 1993.

13.6 There was large–scale damage/destruction of property during both the riot periods and about 1,600 establishments suffered such damage. About 1,100 belonged to Muslims and 500 to Hindus. Because of the hilly terrain in which the hutments are situated and the difficulty to have access to them, the police claim that they were unable to control the damage to the property on such large scale. In addition thereto, the miscreants also used to create road–blocks which made impossible for the police or the fire brigade to reach the spots of incidents immediately.

13.7 Though Senior Police Inspector Shrouti initially asserted that in all the incidents which took place during December 1992 Muslims were the aggressors and Hindus were the victims, under cross–examination he changed his version. He admitted that even during December 1992 Muslims were aggressors in some incidents while Hindus were also aggressors in some others.

13.8 It is the assessment of Senior Police Inspector that the riots in December 1992 and January 1993 appeared to be organized. Though he made bold to say that the December 1992 riots were organized by the Babri Masjid Action Committee, his cross–examination indicates that his conclusion was arrived at only on the basis of newspaper reports and he was not even aware of how the Babri Masjid Action Committee was constituted and what its activities were.

13.9 As far as January 1993 riots were concerned, Shrouti’s answer was that he could not say who had organized them. The police, according to him, did not carry out any investigations for identifying organisations responsible for organizing the riots during both periods, despite specific instructions from the office of the Commissioner of Police. The evidence given by this officer on this issue appears to be contradictory and unreliable. He says that no investigations were carried out to identify the organisations responsible for starting the riots during the two periods, but contradicts himself by saying that their investigations showed that the December 1992 riots were organized by Babri Masjid Action Committee and some Muslim organisations and the January 1993 riots were organized by Shiv Sena, Bharatiya Janata Party and VHP and Bajrang Dal. This witness kept changing his version from time to time under cross–examination, giving testimony in favour of whoever was cross–examining him.

13.10 The sentiments of Hindus appear to have been exploited by interested persons by making propaganda with regard to the Radhabai Chawl incident and the Mathadi murders. Though it is admitted by the Senior Police Inspector that during the communally sensitive periods, when passions were running high, it was essential to identify the mischief mongers, inexplicably it was not done.

13.11 There was a morcha organized on 11th January 1993 to protest against the actions of Additional Commissioner of Police, A.A. Khan, with the protesters shouting slogans, "Khan Murdabad". The morcha consisted of Hindus who, according to Senior Police Inspector Shrouti, were under the erroneous impression that A.A. Khan had come to the area and carried out indiscriminate firing, but after the wrong impression was removed, they went away satisfied.

13.12 The first incident occurred on 6th December 1992 at about 2200 hours near the Gaibanshah Dargah (C.R.No.538 of 1992). During this incident a mob of about 150–200 Muslims armed with swords, choppers etc. attacked the houses of Hindus, vehicles and Hindu temples and pelted stones at the intervening police picket. Three police constables were injured. Police firing resulted in the death of one Muslim, Sayyed Ali Johar Ali Kazi. One Ganesh Mandir and one Shriram Mandir was attacked and damaged by the mob.

13.13 The next incident occurred during the night of 6th December 1992 at 2200 hours in Maulana Compound, Gamdevi Road, a locality predominantly inhabited by Muslims. Rival mobs of Hindus and Muslims attacked each other with sticks, stones and other weapons. Three rounds were fired by police to disperse the unlawful assemblies, resulting in injury to one Muslim. One Ismail Kadar Sheikh appeared to be the brain behind the attack mounted by the Muslims.

13.14 Out of the different cases registered in December 1992, in at least six cases (C.R. Nos. 540, 541, 542, 543, 547 and 553 of 1992), admittedly the trouble was started by Hindus who were the aggressors. In two incidents (C.R. Nos. 548 and 551), though initially the Senior Police Inspector claimed that the Muslims were the aggressors, he was forced to admit that he could not be sure of that fact in both cases. In another case C.R. No. 537 of 1992), though there was a clash between two mobs, there was no material to indicate as to who were the aggressors.

13.15 There was an attack on a masjid and some Muslim property around it (C.R. No.114 of 1992), which forced the Senior Police Inspector to admit that Hindus were the aggressors in that case. In C.R. No. 537 of 1992 the victim of the attack was a Muslim, leading at least to the inference that the trouble was not created by Muslims. In C.R. No. 537 of 1992 the victim was a Muslim and three Hindus, including one Manji Bhanushali who had previous criminal record, were arrested. In C.R.No.579 of 1992 the property damage was confined only to the property of Muslims.

13.16 Despite the facts being these, the Senior Police Inspector, his Assistant Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police appear to have shared the perception that during all the incidents in December 1992, Muslims were the aggressors. This propensity for biased views on the part of police in this area comes through in evidence. Instead of objectively admitting that even during December 1992 there were several incidents where both Hindus and Muslims were aggressors, the Senior Police Inspector’s obstinate stand that only Muslims were the aggressors, appears to stem from his skewed perception which was apparently shared by his senior officers also.

13.17 During the January 1993 phase of rioting, there were a number of cases in which Muslims were at the receiving end. In 51 cases (C.R.Nos.16, 17, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 43, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 54, 55, 56, 58, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 83, 85 and 86 of 1993), Muslims were either individually victims or extensive damage was caused to their properties. The other 11 cases registered during January 1993 pertain to incidents in which there were clashes between rioting mobs of Hindus and Muslims, or Hindus were individually victims or there was appreciable damage to properties of both Hindus and Muslims. One fact however, stands out, namely, that in a dis–proportionately large number of cases, Muslims were the victims.

13.18 The manner in which the investigations were carried out into the riot–related offences is wholly unsatisfactory. There was unusual alacrity shown in classifying a large number of cases which occurred in January 1993 in "A" summary, despite the complainants having clearly identified the miscreants. Curiously, this appears to have been done in cases where Muslims were the victims and the miscreants identified by the complainants had some connection with Shiv Sena, like Manji Bhanushali, Shivaji Kadam, corporator Mukund Thorat, against whom specific complaints were made by the complainants. The material on record shows that some of the crowds attacking Muslim establishments were shouting "Shiv Sena Zindabad" and also shouting that the shops of all the Muslims should be broken open and looted. In C.R.No.42 of 1993, Ibrahim Bhanu Rahimtulla (Ex. 2745-C) identified Shivaji Kadam, local Shiv Sena leader, as accompanying other miscreants Tanaji, Balu and others who broke open his house under the directions of Shivaji Kadam. Despite the fact that Shivaji Kadam was a locally known Shiv Sena leader, no investigation appears to have been carried out and the case was classified in ‘A’ summary.

13.19 It appears to the Commission that the reluctance of the police to seriously investigate cases registered during January 1993 and the haste with which such cases were classified in "A" summary, did not arise from mere lethargy, but because of the influence of Shiv Sena in the area. The coincidences are too marked to be ignored. No wonder, the police were unable to identify the person, persons or organisations behind the riots of January 1993!!

13.20 There is an incident (C.R.No.25 of 1993) in which an employee of a chicken shop on Netaji Palkar Marg, near Asalfa Fish Market, was stabbed and died due to burn injuries sustained as a result of arson to the chicken shop.

13.21 There is the gruesome case of one Mohd. Ibrahim, whose house was attacked, he was killed and his body was set on fire (C.R.No.36 of 1993). Similar is the case of another Muslim, Abdul Ghani Badru, who was killed with sharp weapons and his body was burnt (C.R.No.37 of 1993).

13.22 An incident of private firing has been alleged by Shiv Sena (C.R.No.30 of 1993). It is alleged that one Gokul Baokar died due to bullet injuries sustained when fired upon by Muslims. It is also alleged that the actual private firing was carried out by one Noor Jehan residing within the jurisdiction of Park Site Police station. Four Muslims Abdul Jabbar, Parvez, Sattar and Safdar were arrested by police, but no fire arms were seized from any one of them. There is only the statement of one witness that he had heard the sound of private firing. The Senior Police Inspector conceded that, because there was no other trace of private firing, and because at the material time there was also police firing at the same time, the witness was perhaps confused and was referring only to the police firing. The arrested accused were arrested for rioting and other offences, but not for private firing. Despite long cross–examination by Shiv Sena, the Senior Police Inspector stood his ground and maintained that the incident was not one of private firing. The Commission, however, noticed that the investigations into this case were not carried out with the seriousness which the incident deserved. There was anonymous information made available to the police that the alleged private firing which occurred in this incident was instigated by a Muslim, Moiddin Javrawalla, residing on Gamdevi Road, behind Damodar Park. The police appear to have ignored this clue on the ground that the information was anonymous and the return address of the informant was not on the post–card.

13.23 There is another alleged case of private firing (C.R.No.44 of 1993) in which one Mehboob Hyder Ali Ansari is said to have been injured in the incident near Fish Market, Chirag Nagar, on 12th January 1993 at about 0730 hours. The police managed to recover pellets lodged in the body of the victim and sent to the ballistic expert. Despite a pointed query from the police to the ballistic expert whether Ex. A (bottle containing the pellet) was a fire–arm bullet capable of being fired from a revolver, a .410 musket, a .303 rifle or a SLR, the ballistic expert by his report dated 10.8.1993 opined that the bottle contained, "a pellet weighing .5 grams", which fact was hardly unknown to the police!

13.24 The cases of systematic breaking open, looting, ransacking and arson of Muslim properties in Altaf Nagar, Gangawadi and Asalfa indicate that the systematic destruction of the property could not have occurred on the spur of the moment, but must have been going on over a period of time spread over days. The police could not have been unaware of what was happening around there. These incidents took place during the curfew periods and when there was intensive police bandobast. The explanation that the patrolling took place only on the main roads and the incidents occurred in the hutments in gullies, is, to say the least, ludicrously naive.

13.25 Despite the availability of a military column in Zone VI in January 1993, there was no operational use of the column by the police and the explanation is that the Senior Police Inspector considered that the men and material available with him were adequate to deal with the situation and ‘asking for military help was not my job’, it being upto the superiors to take a decision in the matter.

13.26 The evidence of the Muslim witnesses uniformly suggests that the attack on the Muslim houses and on the Muslims were spearheaded by the Shiv Sainiks and intended to drive away the "landyas" (a derogatory term denigrating the Muslims). Witnesses have given specific names of the local hoodlums who were in the forefront of the attack. They have also blamed the local leaders of Shiv Sena, like corporator Mukund Thorat, for directing attacks against them and for pressurizing the police not to register cases against local goondas connected with Shiv Sena. An analysis of the evidence of the Muslim witnesses would lead to the conclusion that the attack on Muslims, particularly during January 1993, was a well–planned attack mounted by Shiv Sainiks under the active direction of the local Shiv Sena leaders, one of whom was corporator Mukund Thorat.

13.27 There are very few Hindu witnesses from this area. Some Hindu witnesses were the local jewellers owning jewellery shops near about the police station area. All of them appear to be members of the Bombay Central Jewellers Association which took the decision in a meeting held by the association that an affidavit should be filed with regard to problems or absence of problems faced by its members. It was decided that the effective role played by police in the area should be highlighted before this Commission. It would, however, appear that the jewellers were unaware of what was happening in areas other than their own vicinity, though witness Fatehlal Dalchand Mehta (Witness No.450) admitted that, as a businessman, he had to keep good relations with every one including police. Though these witnesses vehemently deny having paid "hafta" to police for protecting their jewellery shops, the glowing tributes paid to the police suggest that there was some inducement for them to come forward and highlight the good work done by police with respect to their establishments.

13.28 This police station had a lock–up which was being used by several adjoining police stations like Chembur, Parksite, Deonar and others, for lodging arrested criminals. Central minister, Shri Jaffer Shariff, and the then State Minister, Shri Javed Khan, appear to have actively interfered with police working. They used to make unscheduled visits to the lock–up, browbeat the police officers and rudely threaten them against arresting their henchmen. Senior Police Inspector Shrouti had occasion to complain to the Commissioner of Police against such conduct of the ministers, which appears to have been motivated more by communal motives, than for procuring justice. The complaint made by the Senior Police Inspector appears to have fallen on deaf ears at the political level.

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