Thursday, 13 December 2012

L.T. Marg Police Station

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

18.1 The jurisdictional area of L.T. Marg police station is a commercial area which has wholesale markets such as Zaveri Bazar, Dava Bazar, electrical goods and about 18 other wholesale markets. The predominant population in this area is of Hindus. About 80 temples and six mosques are situated in this area.

18.2 During December 1992 this area did not see much of rioting and violence as such, although there were eight cases registered by this police station of breaking open, looting and arson of commercial establishments and hand–carts belonging to seven Muslims and one Hindu. In three such cases (C.R.Nos.571, 572 and 578 of 1992), the accused have been arrested and proceeded against.

18.3 This area is a stronghold of Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena. Bharatiya Janata Party has its offices at Kalbadevi. Shiv Sena has four shakhas located at Jambulwadi, Chandanwadi, Bhai Jeevanjee Lane and Bhuleshwar with its main South Regional office located on Jagannath Shankarsheth Road. There are no Muslim organisations active in this area.

18.4 The January 1993 phase of rioting saw serious incidents taking place in this area. In all there were 16 offences registered in January 1993 including one case of murder of a Muslim and one case of injury caused to another Muslim. Rest are cases of looting and arson of shops belonging to Muslims. There was also a case of big arson in an area called Diamond Jubilee Compound.

18.5 Soon after the murder of one Mathadi worker on 26th December 1992 in Dongri jurisdiction, several boards were put up within this area expressing indignation and outrage at the brutal murder of the Mathadi worker. These boards were put up by Mathadi Unions as well as political parties like Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena. The tension in this area continued to build up from 26th December 1992 to 5th January 1993. On 8th January 1993 one Kadar Badshah was stabbed to death in Tel Gulli, Vithalwadi.

18.6 The first Mahaarti was organized at Kalbadevi Mandir, Kalbadevi Road, under the leadership of Bharatiya Janata Party corporator, Bharat Gurjar, and was attended by about 800 persons. After the Radhabai Chawl incident in Jogeshwari, exaggerated and incendiary rumours spread through this area amongst the Hindus, vitiating the atmosphere in this area. From 9th January 1993 onwards, there were repeated incidents of Hindu mobs roaming on the streets, breaking open Muslim shops, looting and ransacking the shops, throwing of the articles on the streets and setting them on fire. It is the case of the police that, despite best efforts, they were unable to prevent such incidents and whenever they attempted to prevent such incidents they were subjected to attacks by soda–water bottles, brick–bats and stones and they had to resort to lathi charge and firing. Senior Police Inspector Sankpal admits that the lathi charge consisted of only brandishing of lathis without physical contact and no one from the rioting mob was injured in the firing resorted to by the police.

18.7 There were 18 Mahaartis held from 8th January 1993 to 18th January 1993 during which period, according to police, there was no blocking of traffic, because the traffic itself had been diverted. There were seven cases of stabbing resulting in the deaths of one Hindu and eight Muslims.

18.8 This area saw six major cases of arson and looting resulting in loss of property worth about six crores. The police have been able to recover property worth only rupees five lakhs and in all 108 persons, all Hindus, have been arrested.

18.9 As contrasted with police firing in Muslim predominant areas, the firing carried out by the police in this Hindu area appears to be wholly ineffective and did not deter the rioting mobs from continuing to indulge in incidents like arson,ransacking and looting. The Commission wonders whether the police firing was all in the air, since sometimes the firing was done from a distance of a mere 100–200 feet at a mob of 200–300 people without any casualties.

18.10 The investigation of riot–related cases also appears to be sloppy. There was an anonymous letter addressed to the Commissioner of Police (Exh.776-C) giving specific names of the miscreants who had indulged in looting and arson of some establishments as Anil, Bhupendra, Suryakant, Umesh, Raju Vinodbhai, all from the same lane as the shops in Chira Bazar and Shrikant Palekar Marg which had been looted (C.R.No.19 of 1993). No efforts appear to have been made by the police to locate the miscreants named, who were from the same locality. It is difficult to believe the story of the police that they had looked for these culprits, since there is no reference whatsoever to such efforts made in the case diary. In the same case there is a complaint dated 5th February 1993 made by one Manoj Ranjit Gala, resident of 159/4, Valmiki Niwas, Dr.Vegas Lane, Kalbadevi Road, graphically detailing the looting which took place on 9th January 1993. He also has given specific names of the person indulging in looting of shops in front of his eyes. It seems the looting was done systematically with fine division of labour. One person was breaking open the establishment, the second was bringing out the looted articles and the third was transporting the looted articles. The case papers indicate no efforts made to bring the culprits to book. There is also a statement of one Jayesh Thakkar dated 6th February 1993 who admits that he and his associates Manoj Sawant, Manoj Jain, Prakash and others had ransacked some shops, looted cloth from the shop and set on fire some of the articles. Though Manoj Jain was arrested, the other two accused, by name Manoj Jain and Prakash are still free. There is nothing in the case diaries or interrogatory sheets to show that the accused was interrogated with regard to his motive in setting fire to the cloth, nor with regard to his affiliation with any organisation. As a result of the inability of the police of this area to prevent the increasing number of incidents of looting, braking open and arson, the Commissioner of Police was exasperated and remarked adversely in the wireless message sent at 1025 hours on 21st January 1993 to the Senior Police Inspector, "The number of looting incidents in your area is increasing. You are not taking action. You will be held responsible." There is no follow-up action even on this.

18.11 There appear to be some cases of private firing by Hindu accused and a crude attempt made by the police to underplay it by scoring out the words "Golibar kela (I had fired)" originally recorded in the interrogatory statements of the accused in one case (C.R.No.32 of 1993, Ex.753–C). On the Senior Police Inspector’s own showing, there was a case of private firing at the police from the Hindu mob gathered near one building in Kinjara Street. Since it was admitted that the majority of the persons in Kinjara Street are Muslims, presumably, the private firing was done at some Muslims. There is no follow–up action taken, nor is anyone arrested in this connection.

18.12 Though the army column was carrying out flag marches in the area during the entire period, the police did not handover a single situation to the army to be handled. It is admitted that victims of seven stabbing incidents in January 1993 were all Muslims and that the nine deaths which occurred in January 1993 were all on account of mob action. The nine deaths included two partially burnt bodies recovered from a garbage bin in Phanaswadi and a body recovered from Jagannath Shankarsheth Road.

18.13 Out of the 108 persons arrested in connection with different offences, one was Muslim and others were all Hindus. The one arrested Muslim was a 12–year–old boy who had sustained a bullet injury.

18.14 One major incident which needs particular mention is the incident of arson in the Diamond Jubilee Compound at 0045 hours on 10th January 1993. Though it was such a major incident, it appears to have been treated as one of the several incidents in a case registered (C.R.No.25 of 1993) compositely in respect of several incidents.

18.15 About 200–300 miscreants gathered in the bye–lanes of S.K.Patil Marg and indulged in stone throwing and throwing other missiles at the houses and garages located in Diamond Jubilee Compound and set fire to them. This Diamond Jubilee Compound housed a few residential premises and certain open area and premises used as motor garages. One Haroon Rashid, editor of Urdu Blitz, resided in this Diamond Jubilee Compound. He made a written complaint of arson and the loss caused to him. No effort at recording his detailed statement was made, nor was the statement of any resident of Diamond Jubilee Compound recorded, though the Senior Police Inspector admitted that it was a serious incident and that he had no explanation for not recording statement of any witness. It appears that the Assistant Commissioner of Police or Deputy Commissioner of Police had never raised any questions about this incident or the serious lapses in investigating the related case. He also did not seek any explanation from Assistant Police Inspector Kamat, the investigating officer. The end result of this inaction is that no accused has been identified in this serious case and the case stands disposed off in "A" summary.

18.16 According to Haroon Rashid, who has been examined before the Commission, the attack on the Diamond Jubilee Compound was a pre–planned attack carried out at the instance of Shiv Sainiks who were known to the boys living in the Diamond Jubilee Compound. Those boys were scared to identify themselves on account of the atmosphere prevailing then.

18.17 The chawls in Diamond Jubilee Compound housed about 18 tenements which accommodated about 200 Muslim residents. In the night of 8th January 1993 cries of "Jai Shriram" were heard from mobs out side the Compound. Haroon made a complaint to the Police Station and sought protection. Two policemen were posted to keep watch in front of the Compound. However, when the attack actually came, the police on duty were nowhere to be seen. The mob came with a handcart loaded with soda–water bottles, brick–bats and stones which were freely used against the Muslim tenements. Frantic attempts to contact Police Control Room No.100 brought the reply that the police were too stretched for resources and could not comply with every such request. Consequently, the mob had a free hand and went around systematically smashing up the vehicles parked on the two sides of road and also inside the compound. When a police jeep arrived, Haroon pointed out to the police that the miscreant mob had taken refuge in Mehta Estate, a building directly opposite their Compound. At about 1000 hours on 9th January 1993 there was a fresh attack by Hindus from the backside of the Diamond Jubilee Compound. After pelting stones and other missiles, the mob threw petrol–soaked cloth balls which were ignited. The policemen on duty in front of the gate under supervision of Police Inspector Kamat did nothing in the matter and stood by as silent spectators, despite the devastation being caused. The mob then moved to the terrace of two buildings, Mehta Estate and Hemraj Wadi, in front of the Diamond Jubilee Compound. Hemraj Wadi houses Vilas Avchat, Corporator of Shiv Sena. Haroon says that his attempt to elicit help of the corporator Avchat in maintaining peace produced no result. The continued attack on the Diamond Jubilee Compound with burning articles, at intervals of 10–15 minutes, forced the Muslim residents to move out of their tenements and shift to the single storied Diamond Manzil Bungalow, also situated in the Diamond Jubilee Compound, at about 1400 hours.

This resulted in an attack on Diamond Manzil. A bomb was thrown on the terrace of the Diamond Manzil and exploded loudly. Women and children were evacuated from Diamond Manzil and shifted to 6th floor of Roghe Apartments. The police and SRP jawans were just silent spectators. Some of the SRP jawans had deliberately removed their name tags. A jeep full of police came there but they were interested in only talking to the Shiv Sainiks; their leaders and were seen joking with them. The mob kept shouting "Apne Allah Miyan ko Bulavo" and "landyabhai aaj hum sab ko mar dalenge". By about 1800 hours the attacks became unbearable and the residents vacated the Diamond Jubilee Compound as the police said they were helpless and could not do anything. All but only one Muslim, Bassit Baughiza, vacated the tenements. On the next morning at 0600 hours, Haroon learned that search–lights had been focussed on the Diamond Jubilee Compound to facilitate attacks which went on throughout the night as a result of which the entire six room chawl and part of Diamond Manzil were gutted. According to Haroon, the incident witnessed by him led him to believe that the attack was planned by Shiv Sena since the persons leading the mob were known faces who used to play cricket with the boys from the Diamond Jubilee Compound. He also asserts that there was clear collusion by police, who were seen hobnobbing and gossiping with Shiv Sainiks ignoring the cries for help from the residents of Diamond Jubilee Compound.

18.18 In his capacity as a journalist, Haroon had taken interviews of the then Chief Minister, Shri Sudhakar Naik, and the then Commissioner of Police, S.K.Bapat, during which he asked them a point blank question as to whether the police were colluding with the Shiv Sainiks. In reply, Shri Naik said that he admitted the blame to some extent, the fact could not be completely discarded and that there was alliance formed with police for using force, by collecting hafta. He also assured Haroon that action would be taken against the erring police personnel after enquiry. He also said that he had a word with Thackeray only once on phone and the reply was absolutely negative. The text of this interview has been produced at Exh.838–C (Colly). The then Chief Minister, Shri Sudhakar Naik in his evidence did not deny that he had given such an interview to Urdu Blitz or that in that he had admitted that Shiv Sena and police were colluding with each other. Understandably, Haroon has been cross–examined severely by the Shiv Sena and the police. Despite the length of cross–examination, in the Commission’s view the evidentiary value of Haroon’s testimony is in no way diminished. The Commission is inclined to accept the assessment of Haroon Rashid that in this area there was both passive and active collaboration between the police and Shiv Sainiks during the January 1993 phase of riots. The role played by Assistant Police Inspector Kamat is condemnable. It is unfortunate that the Senior Police Inspector was not able to name the two constables who were posted on bandobust duty in front of the Diamond Jubilee Compound who managed to vanish at the nick of time.

18.19 The Muslim shops appeared to have been selectively marked out for attack. There is a complaint of Abdul Aziz Hussain Girach, owner of Girach Paints, in C.R.No.18 of 1993, in which he said that somebody had put a cross mark on the outer door of his shop. But when he went on 16th December 1992 to the police station to lodge his complaint, police simply recorded a NC Complaint No.3081 and did nothing further. His shop was broken open and looted once on 9th January 1993 and again on 10th January 1993. His complaints are at Exh.789–C and Exh.790–C.

18.20 Some of the Muslims from this area who had taken refuge in Musafirkhana had given complaints (Exh. 791-C) to the Commissioner of Police. These complaints were sent to Joint Commissioner of Police under cover dated 8th January 1993 (Exh.792–C). No statements of these complainants were recorded despite their complaints in writing and their referral by the Joint Commissioner of Police. The investigations were closed on 4th June 1993 and the case was classified in "A" summary.

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