Thursday, 13 December 2012

Mahim Police Station

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

19.1 This jurisdictional area is considered to be communally sensitive. Twenty one major temples, five mosques, two churches and two gurudwaras are situated in this jurisdiction. Though the majority of population of this jurisdiction is Hindu, there are several Muslim pockets located in it like Kapad Bazar, Dargah Street, Wanje Wadi, Lohar Chawl, Paach Peerwadi, Mori Road Zopadpatti and the vicinity of Chhota Dargah on L.J. Road. Magdoom Baba Dargah, situated at the junction of Veer Savarkar Marg and Dargah Street, is a big Dargah which attracts large numbers of Muslims every year. Three major arterial roads, viz. L.J. Road, Veer Savarkar Marg and Senapati Bapat Marg, run through this area north–south. The police station itself is located in a predominantly Muslim area, in close vicinity of the Magdoom Baba Dargah. Though the residents around that area are predominantly Muslims, there are also some Hindu pockets in that area. On the southern side of Paradise Cinema, Fishermen Colony and Mahim Causeway Zopadpatti are predominantly Hindu areas.

19.2 According to Senior Police Inspector Shashikant Vasudeo Rane, the manpower, weaponry and equipments possessed by the police station at the time of breaking out of the riots in December 1992 were qualitatively and quantitatively inadequate to handle the situation. The communication and transport equipments were also qualitatively and quantitatively inadequate.

19.3 Surprisingly, though the riots broke out in the city on 6th December 1992, Senior Police Inspector Rane was asked to take charge of the police station on 7th December 1992 when the riots were raging all around the city. Despite Deputy Commissioner of Police Ingale being in-charge of the Zone, Deputy Commissioner of Police Jadhav, CID (Intelligence), was specially posted on 8th December 1992 to supervise the area within the jurisdiction of Mahim and Dharavi police stations, which gives an indication of the problem–prone nature of this area.

19.4 Fifty three cases were registered by this police station during December 1992 and January 1993, out of which eleven pertain to cases of rioting.

19.5 In two cases (C.R.Nos.1050 of 1992 and 1060 of 1992), aggressive Muslim mobs attacked the police and the police took action to disperse them. In another case (C.R.No.38 of 1993) a Muslim mob attacked a Hindu mob. In three cases (C.R.Nos.37 of 1993, 1057 of 1992 and 1061 of 1992), Hindus were the aggressors and indulged in violence and had to be dispersed by police action. In five cases (C.R. Nos.1051, 1052, 1055 and 1062 of 1992 and 26 of 1993), there were violent clashes between Hindu and Muslim mobs with police taking action to disperse the mobs.

19.6 During December 1992 the number of properties damaged/looted/subjected to arson was 748, out of which 413 belonged to Muslims, 268 to Hindus, 48 to Christians, three were government properties and 16 were unidentified. During January 1993, 239 properties were damaged/looted/ subjected to arson, out of which 160 belonged to Muslims, 70 to Hindus and nine Christians.

19.7 During the two riot periods the police resorted to firing of an aggregate of 291 rounds, resulting in nine deaths (three Hindus and six Muslims). During the two riot periods nine persons (four Hindus and five Muslims) died of mob action, 18 (seven Hindus, nine Muslims, one Sikh and one Christian) were injured in police firing and 63 persons (36 Hindus, 24 Muslims and three Christians) were injured in mob action. Fourteen persons are still shown as missing and have not been traced.

19.8 The first incident of communal violence occurred in this area on 7th December 1992 at about 1030 hours. According to the police, when two police personnel, HC Zarande of Crime Branch, CID, and Police Sub–Inspector Salunke of Juhu Police Station, proceeding on a motorcycle were attacked by a Muslim mob of 400–500 with soda–water bottles and stones, resulting in injuries to them. The area around L.J. Road and nearby roads were strewn with shattered glass and stones with riotous Muslim mobs running around shouting "Allah-o- Akbar" and indiscriminately throwing stones in Kapad Bazar. To maintain law and order, police resorted to firing which resulted in injuries to two Muslims. Seven police personnel were injured in the riot and the motorcycle was completely damaged. Prominent among the accused arrested in this case (C.R. No.1050 of 1992) are Mohd. Amin Khandwani, ex–corporator of Congress–I, Izaj Noor Mohd. Khandwani, Abdul Rashid Rafiq Khan, Mohd. Yakub Khandwani, Yakub Gulam Mohd. Kablee, Iqbal Gulam Patel, Haroon Ismail Chunawala, Sheikh Maqsud Mohd. Shabeer Sheikh. Five of them including the Khandwanis were arrested on the spot while the others were arrested later on.

19.9 According to the evidence of Mohd. Amin Abbamiya Khandwani (Witness No.278), at about 0830 hours on 7th December 1992, news about violent incidents and communal riots breaking out in other areas charged the atmosphere in this area. By that time the children studying in the three schools in the area, Canossa, St. Michael’s and RC School, had already gone to school. This caused a lot of anxiety to the parents. At about 0845 hours Mohd. Amin Khandwani talked to the police officers, including Assistant Commissioner of Police Korde, about the developing problem and requested Korde to come to the Dargah Junction at about 1000 hours. This he did in order to ensure that there was no reaction from the Muslim community which was seething with anger because of the continuous telecast of the demolition of Babri Masjid on the television the previous day. He also talked to some prominent Muslim residents of the area and requested them to come near Dargah junction so that the people gathering in mobs could be pacified and possible untoward incidents avoided. At 0930 hours when Khandwani went to Dargah Junction there was no police there. At about 1000 hours Assistant Commissioner of Police Korde and Senior Police Inspector Rane came there. Seeing them, about 15–20 people gathered around Khandwani. Khandwani requested Korde to maintain patrolling and assured that he and others would ensure that nothing untoward would happen around the Dargah area. Some parents of the students gathered near the Dargah junction. An ambulance was sent to fetch the children from the school, but it was stopped by police near the junction. This enraged the parents and some of them threw a few stones. Khandwani went ahead to persuade police officers Bhagwat and Desai who were present there to allow the ambulance to fetch the school kids so that the incident could be defused. In the meanwhile a couple of stones were thrown at the police, but fell short of the police mobile. This enraged the officers who immediately roughed up Khandwani, arrested him and took him away to the police station. Mohd. Khandwani’s brother Mohd.Yakub Khandwani and Yakub Gulam Mohd. Kablee, who went to the police station on hearing the news of the arrest of Mohd. Amin Khandwani, were also put in the lock–up. None of them was informed the charges on which he was being held. At about 2100 hours Mohd. Amin Khandwani was called by Assistant Commissioner of Police Korde and Senior Police Inspector Rane. Upon being asked for the reasons for his arrest, Mohd. Amin Khandwani was told that the reasons would be disclosed later on. It was only when advocate Rizwan Merchant came to the police station at 2300 hours that the police informed him that the three persons were arrested under Section 307 of the IPC for an attempt to murder. According to Mohd.Amin Khandwani he was arrested at about 100 feet away from the Dargah Junction. He asserts that till about 1030 hours, when he was present at the junction, there was neither any communal incident, nor an attack on police personnel.

19.10 That there was tension in the area due to apprehension of violence is supported by the evidence of Vilas Gajanan Phadke (Witness No.281). According to him, after learning about trouble, his neighbour Digambar Satam went to the school to bring his child home. He learnt about an impending attack by Muslims on the Sitaladevi temple and Satam went there. Vilas also went to the said area and was part of the Hindu mob. Seeing the bigger Hindu mob, the Muslim mob started running away. The police resorted to lathi charge and firing at both the mobs and Digambar Satam was injured by a bullet. According to Vilas, Hindu and Muslim mobs were confronting each other and possibly ‘one or two bottles’ might have been thrown. Vilas Gajanan Phadke admits to be an activist of Bharatiya Janata Party and recognised leader of the Hindus in his area.

19.11 It appears to the Commission that, though the police version of the attack on the two police personnel riding a motorcycle may be true, the police seem to have exaggerated the incident which took place near the Dargah Junction to justify their knee–jerk reaction of firing. Incensed with the open attack on police personnel and a very minor incident of throwing a couple of stones, probably none of which hit their targets, the police reacted disproportionately, lathi charged and fired. Khandwani, who was pleading with the police to rescue the school children, became their immediate target and was whisked away to the lock–up, soon to be followed by his brother and Yakub Gulam Mohd. Kablee who came there to make enquiries. The charge of attempt to murder under Section 307 of the IPC against Khandwani appears to be ludicrous, as, even according to the police, he is not alleged to have done anything which would warrant a charge under Section 307 of the IPC. It is candidly admitted by Senior Police Inspector Rane that he knew that both Mohd. Khandwani and Yakub Kablee, were connected with Muslim League. To his knowledge, the brothers were concerned in building activities and none of them was a known criminal.

19.12 There was a clash between the Muslim and Hindu mobs near the Kapad Bazar area (C.R.No.1051 of 1992). Some of the BEST buses were also set on fire on L.J. Road. Though, according to the police, the Muslim mobs were shouting "Allah-O-Akbar" and "Has ke liye Pakistan, Chhin ke lenge Hindustan", as usual, apart from the police witnesses, no one else seems to confirm the latter slogan at least. Though the police maintained that slogan, "Has ke liye Pakistan, Chhin ke lenge Hindustan", was being given by a mob confronted by police (C.R.No.1051 of 1992), the record does not indicate as to whether those giving slogan had been identified in this connection, nor does it appear that there was any interrogation of the arrested accused in this connection. That there was open violent confrontation between the Hindu and Muslim mobs needing police action appears to be true.

19.13 On 25th December 1992 a pamphlet in Urdu language (Exh.1808–C Collectively) was distributed around Jama Masjid in Mahim area. This pamphlet, without doubt, is communally provocative and incites Muslims to fight against the atrocities committed on them by Hindus starting with the demolition of Babri Masjid and calls upon the Muslims to resolve that, if the Babri Masjid had to be constructed with blood, they should be prepared to do so. The police have registered a case (C.R.No.12 of 1993) in this connection. Though there was a sizeable Muslim population in this area, the intelligence gathering machinery of police with regard to Muslim activities in this area was totally ineffective. There was only one Muslim police person attached to this police station, even he could not read Urdu and keep tabs on the activities of the Muslims in this area.

19.14 Though the Control Room transmissions (Cassette No. 48A dated 10th January 1993, pages 9 and 10) indicate that Mahim Static gave a message to Control Room, "Slogans are being given from the Masjid that people should come on the roads with swords. People have come on the roads with swords. Immediately send help as requested by the Duty Officer". The message of Control room to Assistant Commissioner of Police Mahim and Senior Police Inspector is, "Go to the place of the incident immediately. Slogans are being shouted that people should come on roads with swords and people have come on roads with swords", and the extension Control Room saying, "send the Assistant Commissioner of Police Mahim and Senior Police Inspector and Zonal Mobile there and if the situation is like that resort to firing disperse them and also disconnect the loudspeakers and shut it down". There is also a message of Control Room to Deputy Commissioner of Police Dharavi, "Slogans are being shouted from the masjid. Some people with arms ... come near the masjid". Senior Police Inspector however states that though he saw people gathered, they were not armed with swords, nor were any slogans being shouted. He was not prepared to assert that message given to the Control Room was incorrect. His explanation is that such fact might have come to the notice of the duty officer as the police station which is just near to Dargah Street and Jama Masjid is situated at about 1000–1500 feet away from the police station. He claims that he did not disconnect the loud speakers since he felt that had he done so, the feelings of Muslims might further have been hurt. More surprisingly, if the Duty Officer had heard the slogans from the masjid, he ought to have registered a cognizable offence, which has not been done. There appears to be some justification in the criticism of the Shiv Sena that this was an attempt to underplay the role played by the Muslims in the riots in this area. In the face of the circulation of provocative material at and around the masjid, and the inciting slogans given from the masjid calling upon the people to come with swords, Senior Police Inspector’s assertion that there was no organised effort at fomenting trouble in the area, can hardly be accepted. Particularly, in view of the fact that he was a seasoned officer who had handled communal riots in his earlier posting at Kherwadi, Pydhonie and Dharavi police stations and had also worked in the Mahim Police Station earlier.

19.15 There were two instances of private firing, one at the Mahim Fort and the other at the Dargah Junction. The Control Room wireless messages bear out this fact. No investigations have been carried out to ascertain whether these private firings were done by Hindus or Muslims, though it is not in dispute that the localities where these two incidents took place were predominantly Muslim localities. No offences have been registered with regard to private firing, nor is the Senior Police Inspector in a position to give any explanation for not doing so despite the fact that it was a cognizable offence and the person who got this information ought to have registered the offence.

19.16 There are instances where the political leaders appear to have interfered with the police machinery. On 13th December 1992 Central Ministers, Shri Gulam Nabi Azad, State Minister Shri Javed Khan, Shri Ahluwalia, MP, and Shri Kripashankar and other politicians went to the police station and behaved in a very rough and rude manner with Police Inspector Jadhav, raising the issue about arresting Khandwani and other connected issues. On 7th January 1993 Sajida Contractor, a local corporator, also behaved impolitely with the officers with regard to the arrest of one Aslam Mohd. On 8th January 1993 Manohar Joshi of Shiv Sena telephoned to the police station to make enquiries about the arrest of Shiv Sena corporator Milind Vaidya (C.R.No.26 of 1993) alleging that he was falsely charged and if he was not released he would declare a fast before the police station. On 8th December 1992 Saleem Zakaria shouted at an officer on phone: "Police janata ke liye nahin hai. Khali goli marne ke liye hain. Police Station ko tala lagao".

19.17 Two Hindus, Sakharam Sathe and Gupta, were brutally killed near Paradise cinema and were thrown into a bakery (C.R.No.1054 of 1992). No progress appears to have been made in the investigation of this double murder case till the brother of Sakharam Sathe wrote a letter (Exh. 1819–SS) giving information about names and addresses of the suspects to police. It is only thereafter that some of the accused were arrested. In fact, the manner in which the investigation in such a serious crime was carried out by the investigating officer, Police Inspector Thorat, was adversely commented upon by Assistant Commissioner of Police Korde by his remarks made on 2nd March 1994 in the Case Diary No.21. Though a list of suspects was given by the brother of the deceased, Sakharam Sathe, no worthwhile investigation was done to ascertain whether there was any truth in the information supplied.

19.18 Though it is clear from the material on record that the first mob violence occurred on 7th December 1992 in which the aggressors were Muslims, there is no direct material from which it could be seen as to who the aggressors were in the first communal incident which took place during January 1993. The fact that the shops damaged belonged to Hindus suggests that presumably the violent mob must have been of Muslims.

19.19 Another significant fact which has come on record is that 25 accused in the serial bomb blasts case were residents of this area. Saleem Dandekar, one of the accused in the bomb blasts case, was arrested in a riot–related offence (C.R.No.1054 of 1992).

19.20 The special report made by the police station to the zonal Deputy Commissioner of Police on 11th July 1993 shows that, on 7th January 1993 in the early hours police arrested a number of Hindu accused including Shiv Sena corporator Milind Dattaram Vaidya and a police constable Sanjay Laxman Gawade while they were indulging in riotous acts near Mori Road. According to the statement of Ambadas Babanrao Khote (Exh. 1815–SS), Milind Vaidya was instigating and inciting the mob to loot, burn and set fire to the Muslim shops, while a sword was recovered from Mohan Akre and Sanjay Laxman Gawade, a police constable, who was also part of the violent mob. The accused were arrested on the spot by the police party led by Additional Commissioner of Police, A.A. Khan. Though the said police constable Gawade was placed under suspension and the sanction of the government was sought for his prosecution, the government appears to have dragged its feet. At least till Senior Police Inspector Rane gave his evidence, there was no sanction received.

19.21 Another significant incident is the torching of the timber godowns on the sands at the Mahim Beach known as Reti Bunder. Though the police are unable to say as to whether the mob which set fire to the timber godowns was a Hindu mob or a Muslim mob, the fact that most of the godowns were owned by Muslims is suggestive that the mob could have been a Hindu mob. Extensive loss was caused because of the fire.

19.22 In this area also the curfew appears to have been for name’s sake. In fact a wireless message was given (Cassette No.6A dated 7th January 1993) "curfew inter alia in this area was not enforced properly" and it calls upon the concerned police officer to take note of the action and take strict action. Senior Police Inspector Rane maintained that he was unable to say as to why this police station was singled out for this type of a message.

19.23 Though an army column was given to the police station on 7th January 1993 at 1550 hours and continued to be in the area up to 21st January 1993, on no occasion was the army used effectively. Senior Police Inspector says that perhaps the Assistant Commissioner of Police in–charge of the column did not think any situation was serious enough to take such a step. He points out that the police officer in charge should have announced publicly about the presence of the army column and the fact that the army would take action if the mobs did not disperse. He also says that, if he had been given charge of the army column, he would have used the column more effectively in certain areas where the situations were serious.

19.24 The ineffectiveness of police investigation is amply seen by the fact that the case of looting of a jewellery shop along L.J. Road (C.R.No.26 of 1993), out of the looted property worth about Rs. 48 lakh and more, the police have recovered property worth only about Rs. one lakh.

19.25 Through B.C. Message No.436 dated 9th January 1993, instructions were given by the Commissioner of Police to Senior Police Inspectors of several police stations, including Mahim Police Station, to impose curfew from 2000 hours on 9th January 1993 (Exh.1825–C). However, on the same day, at about 1800 hours, aMahaarti was organised by Shiv Sena at Darya Sagar Zopadpatti. There is no doubt that this Mahaarti totally disrupted the traffic on the Mahim Causeway. Assistant Commissioner of Police (Traffic), petulantly queries, "why did you allow it at Mahim Causeway, why did you not inform me. I was at the police station and also on wireless" (Control Room Wireless Message transcript of Cassette No.35A dated 9th January 1993 page 7). The jejune explanation given by the Senior Police Inspector is, "Sorry, I had told them but they did not listen to me." Angry retort by Assistant Commissioner of Police to this is, "it is not proper for you to do so. I am taking a serious view. I must... Everybody frankly...". The police station knew well that Magdoomiya Nagar, Janata Sevak Society Zopadpatti and Hari Zandi Zopadpatti had serious communal riots and the incidents of looting and arson occurred in close proximity of Darya Sarang Zopadpatti where the Mahaarti was held at the height of communal tension. Despite this Mahaarti resulting in total blockage of traffic, no action was taken against the organizers of Mahaarti, for which Senior Police Inspector had no explanation. Prakash Ayare, local corporator of Shiv Sena, gave a speech after this Mahaarti and said that the programme of Mahaarti was being held under the directions of Balasaheb Thackeray and that, because the Government was partial to one particular community, Mahaartis would be continued to draw the attention of the Government. Surprisingly, even against the background of acute communal tension prevalent on 9th January 1993, this type of speech making by Prakash Ayare was not considered to be communally provocative by the police.

19.26 On 10th December 1992 the Binny Textile shop was attacked and ransacked on L.J. Road, though situated at about 150 feet away from where the police picket was. Though the constable present there appears to have been armed, he did not take any steps to prevent the incident nor does his statement appear to have been recorded in the concerned case (C.R.No.1061 of 1992) for which there appears to be no explanation.

19.27 One Mohd. Hussain Majidulla, was murdered after ascertaining that he was a Muslim, on L.J. Road near Kalu Bhavan (C.R.No.29 of 1993). The place of this incident was at a distance of 150 feet away from Raja Badhe Chowk where an armed police picket was posted. No one is arrested in this case and the case has been classified as "A" summary.

19.28 Another incident which took place in Raja Bhade Chowk itself was the stabbing of a Muslim cleaner, Rajab Ali, on a tempo. So much, for the effective bandobast at that chowk.

19.29 The manner of imposition of curfew can be judged from the fact that though there was curfew from 0800 hours to 2400 hours on 10th January 1993 a large number of Muslim establishments along L.J. Road situated in a Hindu dominated area were systematically ransacked, looted and subjected to arson between 1600 to 1630 hours.

19.30 The Senior Police Inspector states that his superiors and he anticipated that the Mathadi murders in Dongri area might give a backlash, but he had not received any information as to who were to organize such a backlash and when.

19.31 That the ire of the Muslims was directed only against police and not against Hindus as such, till the misguided Hindus jumped into the fray is seen from the fact that Vinayakwadi, a colony of Hindus, situated opposite the Magdoomshah Dargah was totally unharmed during both the phases of riots. Similarly, Avenue and Velkar Buildings, which are occupied by Hindus, were also totally unharmed during December 1992 and January 1993 phases of the riots.

19.32 The brutal manner in which the miscreants went about their job, is seen from the murder of Mehrunnissa Dandekar, whose throat was slit and body thrown in front of Sulabh Niwas Building on Pandit Jagannathbuwa Marg on 11th January 1993.

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