Thursday, 13 December 2012

Pydhonie Police Station

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

23.1 Pydhonie jurisdictional area is a commercial area wherein several wholesale markets, transport companies, steel, grocery, dry fruits, hardware, grain, sugar, oilseeds merchants carry on their business. Though the predominant population of this area comprises Muslims, there are a few pockets, like Cheeky Street, Narayan Dhruv Street, Narsi Natha Street and Keshavji Naik Road where there are pockets of Hindus clustered together. 60% of the business activity in this area are controlled by Hindus. This area has 28 mosques and 39 temples.

23.2 This area has the peculiarity of being communally hypersensitive in that the fall–out of events happening outside is immediately felt here. The communal situation also appears to be volatile and riots break out on petty issues.

23.3 This area saw extensive demolition of unauthorised constructions in October and November 1992. Though it is alleged and suggested that most of the illegal constructions in this area belong to notorious criminals, like Dawood Ibrahim and others, there is no tangible material to suggest this. It would, however, be correct to say that most of these illegal constructions which were demolished by the Bombay Municipal Corporation during October/November 1992 belonged to Muslims.

23.4 On 30th November 1992, the zealous Deputy Municipal Commissioner, R.G. Khairnar, carried out demolition of unauthorised stalls on Ibrahim Rahimtulla Road near Bhendibazar junction within Dongri jurisdiction. It was alleged by some of the Muslim stall–owners that they were selling Muslim religious objects and copies of Holy Quran which were thrown about with scant respect by the demolition squad headed by Khairnar. This gave rise to a call for bandh given by the Muslim League. The Municipal Commissioner ordered an inquiry at the end of which he came to the conclusion that the allegation of desecration of Muslim religious objects and Holy Quran was wholly unfounded. To the same effect is the testimony of the then Assistant Commissioner of Police, Madhukar Zende. The Commission is not really concerned with the factual veracity of the allegations. The incident had its repercussions within this jurisdictional area also.

23.5 During the period July to December 1992, the Hindutvawaadis parties, like the Bharatiya Janata Party, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena stepped up their campaign in support of the construction of a Ram temple at the spot where the Babri Masjid stood. Though the police maintained that peace in the area was very fragile, the police appeared to have moved no muscle to prevent their activities on the facile ground that those were harmless religious activities. In one of such ‘religious activities’ organised on 23rd October 1992, a Shri Ram Paduka procession was taken out by VHP. Dnyaneshwar Thorat of VHP and the local Shiv SenaShakha Pramukh Hemant Koli and others accompanied the procession which wended its way through Madhav Rokade Marg, Saboo Siddique Road, Lokmanya Tilak, Raghunath Street, V.B. Chandan Street and terminated near the Hanuman Mandir on the V.B. Chandan Street. A speech was given there by one Praful Desai during the course of which he emphasised that the procession was not "a shobha yatra" but was intended to bring out the Ram which was concealed in the minds of the people and "Ramdrohis should not be allowed to go alive."

The procession then passed through Garibdas Street, Juni Bardan Galli, Kazi Sayyed Street, Janjikar Street, Raghunath Maharaj Street and terminated at Raghunath Maharaj Mandir where there was an Arti. No action appears to have been taken by the police in respect of the speech delivered by Praful Desai. There cannot be any doubt that the said speech was communally provocative, the implication being that people who obstructed the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya were "Ramdrohis" and, therefore, they should not be allowed to live. The police appear to be either naive, gullible or partisan in ignoring the dangerous implications in this kind of speech. That this kind of propaganda was carried out from July to October 1992 is not in dispute. It is obvious that the atmosphere in the Pydhonie area became communally charged on account of the continuous barrage of propagandist processions, meetings, speeches and other activities of the Hindutvawaadis parties. This resulted in the atmosphere being so charged that it needed but a spark to ignite and explode.

23.6 According to the police, the first major communal incident occurred in this jurisdiction near Minara Masjid on 6th December 1992. If by the expression "communal incident" is meant only an incident of violence, then the perception of the police may be right.

23.7 At about 2325 hours, a crowd of about 500 Muslims gathered near Minara Masjid shouting slogans, "Nara-e-TaqbirAllah-O-Akbar" and "Police Ko Daro Mat". That the anger of the mob was only directed at the police at this point of time is at once apparent. It is admitted by the Senior Police Inspector Kadam that at this point of time the mob was not violent, though restive. The manner in which the crowd was handled by the police displays lack of sensitivity on the part of the police. The entire Muslim community was reeling under a sense of betrayal as a result of the demolition of the Babri Masjid despite categorical assurances given by the Central Government and an undertaking given by the Government of Uttar Pradesh to the Supreme court that no harm would be allowed to fall on Babri Masjid and a similar statement made by the Prime Minister on the Floor of the Lok Sabha. Repeated showing of the news clips on television which clearly portrayed the gleeful dance of the demolishers on the debris of Babri Masjid with the police and para–military forces as passive onlookers, must have deeply hurt the psyche of the Muslim community. It was to give vent to this feeling of hurt and betrayal that a protest march appears to have been organised near Minara Masjid. Two facts are significant : (a) The protest march was within the predominantly Muslim area and that too near a mosque, and (b) the crowd was not carrying any weapons of offence — not even stones or brickbats at that point of time — as admitted by the police. The restive crowd attempted to block the traffic on the Ibrahim Rahimtulla Road. When thwarted, the anger of the crowd was vented on a Municipal van which was passing along Ibrahim Rahimtulla Road. The driver of the van, actually a Muslim, was unhurt, but abandoned the vehicle. The crowd then damaged the van. When police reinforcements came, the mob dispersed into two sections — one section proceeding along Ibrahim Mohamad Merchant Road eastwards to Khadak area and the other proceedings southwards to Mandvi junction. Admittedly, the crowd which proceeded towards Khadak was passive and did not indulge in any violent activity. The crowd which was chased towards south passed along Ibrahim Rahimtulla Road and Chhotani Marg and converged near Nawab Masjid, Masjid Street, a little off of Mandvi Post Office junction. The police chased the crowd here also and according to the police, the crowd became violent here and started throwing stones.

The police also allege that one person fired at the police from a revolver which resulted in the bullet grazing the fibre glass helmet worn by PSI S.S. Rane. This, according to the police, gave them an apprehension that their lives and the lives and properties of other citizens were in imminent danger and, at the direction of Assistant Commissioner of Police Zende, 22 rounds were fired at the mob at Masjid Street. The police produced a helmet supposed to have been worn by Police Sub–Inspector Rane and the ballistic expert’s opinion that the dent on the helmet could have been caused by the impact of a lead projectile on the helmet. The police have registered a case (C.R. No.489 of 1992) in this connection. Curiously, the FIR registered by Police Sub–Inspector Shekhar Asharam Tore on 7th December 1992, one of the officers who handled the situation, does not even make reference to the helmet incident. According to the FIR, while the crowd at Nawab Masjid was being dispersed, it became furious and advanced towards the police damaging handcarts and vehicles parked on the street as well as the other public properties. Tore says, "since the mob could not come under control and to avoid any more further damages to the lives of the police personnel, members of public and the public property, Assistant Commissioner of Police Shri M.B. Zende ordered the policemen to open fire at the riotous crowd ....." The incident of private firing directed at the helmet of Police Sub–Inspector Rane is conspicuously absent. More curiously, Police Sub–Inspector Tore gave supplementary statements on 8th December 1992 and 9th December 1992 adding several other facts and justifying the supplementary statement by saying that because of injury sustained by him on 7th December 1992 causing him severe pain on his arm, some of the facts had slipped from his mind. Even in these statements, the incident of bullet grazing pass the helmet of S.S. Rane is conspicuous by its absence. Sadashiv Hari Salunkhe, police constable attached to Pydhonie Police Station, says that he was hit by a stone and fell down and he heard a shot fired from the mob and seeing that the mob was going out of control, the Assistant Commissioner of Police had ordered to open firing. Arjun Laxman Vakchoure, PC No.3813 Girgaon, who also happened to be on duty at the spot, states that there was a mob of about 100–150 persons throwing stones, brickbats and bottles on the road and on the vehicle carrying the police. According to him, there was one person in the mob who had a revolver which was aimed at the police.

The police got down and started pushing back the mob and while they were slowly advancing, he heard some noise like a bullet hitting the helmet worn by Police Sub–Inspector Rane and therefore he and his companion Surendra Appa Sawant (PN No.7903 V.P.Road) opened fire. Surendra Appa Sawant also says that he heard some noise which he thought to be the impact of a bullet on the helmet of S.S.Rane and, therefore, he had fired at the mob.

23.8 In the opinion of the Commission, the version of the police about private firing which grazed past Police Sub–Inspector’s Rane’s helmet is very much suspect. It is improbable that if in the violent mob someone was carrying a fire–arm aimed at the police party, the police party would have calmly got down from the vehicle and attempted to push back the mob. The story of the police hardly inspires confidence. The Commission feels that this is but an attempt made, post facto, to justify the large number of rounds fired towards the mob on Masjid Street near the Nawab Masjid.

23.9 In fact, the Commission is inclined to think that the police have raised the bogey of private firing from violent mobs each time to justify excessive firing done by them. Strangely, no material has been produced before the Commission to indicate that there was any injury caused to any of the police personnel or to any of the vehicles or structures in or around the area of confrontation. No weapons have been seized by the police, nor was combing operation carried out to seize fire–arms. The Commission feels that the bogey of private firing is either the result of over–worked imagination of the police caused by sustained propaganda or that it was a convenient excuse put forward in hindsight to justify the large number of rounds fired.

23.10 At this stage it would be convenient to notice that though Senior Police Inspector P.S. Kadam referred to 11 cases of private firing deaths in paragraph 73 of his affidavit, he had to back–track in all but two cases and admit that those were really not cases of deaths on account of fire–arm injuries, but were deaths resulting from stabbing incidents. Even in the remaining two cases, it is probable that they were really cases of deaths on account of police firing being passed off as private firing casualties. No bullets were extracted, preserved and sent for ballistic examination. The conduct of the police in this aspect leaves much to be desired.

23.11 The Commission is of course not prepared to dismiss all incidents of private firing as baseless. The Shiv Sena has justifiably pointed out that there were cases like the murder of Constable Vilas Kadam in which the notorious criminal Salim Talwar is the prime suspect and the cases of private firing indulged in by Aslam Koradia and his associates who moved around the locality on motor bikes and fired indiscriminately at people on the streets.

23.12 The Commission is also not inclined to accept the stand of the Muslim parties that all cases of police firing were unjustified. It is true that there might not have been incidents of private firing as put forward by the police, but on several occasions there were attacks by Muslim mobs on the police, clashes between violent mobs of Muslims and Hindus, both of whom turning their ire at the police attacked the police with stones and bottles. Whether in such circumstances the police is justified in resorting to firing is a matter on which it would be very difficult to make a post facto judgment. It is not possible for the Commission to accept the general view propounded that all Muslim deaths by police firing in this area were unjustified or were due to use of excessive and disproportionate force by the police.

23.13 During the January 1993 phase, the murder of the Mathadi kamgars, one on 26th December 1992 and four others during the night of 5th/6th January 1993, were said to be the causes which ignited the second phase of rioting. The murder of Balu Bhau Bhosale, mathadi worker, on 26th December 1992 does not appear to be a communal incident at all and has now been squarely admitted by the police. It was a case of chronic alcoholic going on rampage for little reason. In fact, the accused in that case admitted in his statement to the police that he was under influence of liquor when he committed the crime. He has subsequently been convicted by the Criminal Court, which takes the view that it was a crime committed under the influence of alcohol, without any specific motive.

23.14 As far as the murders of the four mathadi workers on 5th/6th January 1993 are concerned, though they occurred within Dongri jurisdiction, it is relevant to refer to them here too. It is admitted by Senior Police Inspector Subhash Kadam that the mathadi workers themselves did not consider the murders to be communally motivated and that it was only Vaman Lad, ex–Shiv Sena Corporator and Hemant Koli, Shiv Sena Shakha Pramukh of shakha No.6 who attributed communal motives to the murders of the mathadi workers on 5th/6th January 1993, though he says that he did not consider their speeches as communally provocative. The mathadi workers held a meeting on 6th January 1993, the immediate next day of the murder, during the course of which the speeches given by their leaders [Exh.1033(C)] merely to ventilate the sense of insecurity felt by the mathadi kamgars. Their only demand was that the Government should ensure their security. There is not a whisper of communal motive for the murder. The blame for turning a case of simple murder into a communally motivated murder must squarely fall on Vaman Lad and Hemant Koli of Shiv Sena. As a result of this propaganda, some of the mathadi workers who were sitting on Yusuf Meherali Road in front of the Union office on 6th January 1993 caught hold of one Muslim Mulla and dragged him out of the premises of a Transport Company and stabbed him. This was the first incident in January 1993 to be soon followed by others.

23.15 In January 1993, eight persons died of private firing, out of which four were Hindus and four bodies were not identified. Several cases of stabbing occurred between 6th to 13th January 1993 in which the victims were mostly Hindus.

23.16 Once the riots erupted in January 1993, several known criminals from the area, though undoubtedly Muslims, took advantage of the situation and fanned the fires of communal hatred. Groups led by Salim Rampuri, Abdul Rauf alias Rauf Chacha and others moved around the locality instigating the Muslim youths to come out and help in looting the godowns of Hindus.

23.17 This area saw the circulation of pamphlets containing incendiary communal material urging Muslims to communal violence and also calls given on loudspeakers fixed on masjids urging Muslims to come out in large numbers with arms and attack ‘Kafirs’.

23.18 The police has been remiss in not keeping tabs of the activities of known Muslim organistions —Jamait–E–Islam–E–Hind, Muslim League and SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India), who were known to have participated in some of the previous protests. Similarly, no watch appears to have been kept nor intelligence gathered about the activity of Raza Academy. The slogans shouted by the mobs invariably indicated their anger at the police.

23.19 During the first week of January 1993 there were several cases of stabbing incidents in which Hindus were stabbed after ascertaining their Hindu identity. Most of them have remained unsolved and classified in "A" summary by the police. The Commission is inclined to think that these were deliberate attempts by professional killers with a view to whip up communal passions.

23.20 There has been criticism of the police by the Shiv Sena that the police deliberately refrained from carrying out combing operations, immediately after reported incidents of private firing, under political pressure to avoid annoying the Muslims. The police have of course maintained that the failure to carry out prompt combing operation was on account of the then prevalent situation and the inability to muster sufficient force at several places to carry out combing. There is no material from which political motives can be attributed to the police for their failure. Considering the situation which was prevalent during the riots and the chronic shortage of police manpower, the police, perhaps, were justified in saying that they could not have organised combing or searching parties on each and every complaint.

23.21 The Commission is of the view that there were contradictory instructions given to the police with regard to the handling of communal riots which were responsible for the inadequate responses of the police to the situations confronting them.

23.22 That the fury of the Muslim mobs was mainly directed against the police is also borne out by the vicious attacks on the Null Bazar Police Chowky and the extensive damage caused to it.

23.23 Though, there is no material to justify the conclusion that combing operations commenced by the police were abandoned because of political pressure or interference, there is material on record to show that on occasions large mobs did interfere with attempts of the police to carry out combing. The interference came by way of throwing of stones, fire–balls and other missiles. Another case of interference in police work was the large morcha which was brought by several Muslim political leaders to the police station demanding release of Aslam Koradia and his associates who were the accused in one case (C.R. No.25/93). As a result of the pressure brought by the morcha, Aslam Khan Koradia and his four associates were released by the police.

23.24 A peculiar feature of the communal riots of December 1992 was that it consisted mostly of violent attacks by Muslims on the police. In contrast, in January 1993, Hindu mobs also were involved in the incidents and there were a number of clashes between Hindu and Muslim mobs. An examination of the transcripts of the Police Control Room Wireless Messages shows that there were frequent calls given by the Control Room, presumably based on the reports made to it, of attacks on Hindu temples and attempted arson of Hindu temples which ultimately turned out to be false. The Senior Police Inspector Kadam has, with reference to the transcripts of wireless messages and other record, convincingly demonstrated that a large number of calls were false calls which only further strained the resources of the police who were already stretched.

23.25 The police admit that they did not come across a single instance of sophisticated weapons like AK–47 being used, despite the repeated cries set up by the Shiv Sena that such weapons were being freely used during the riots.

23.26 There is demonstrable attempts by the police to suppress the role played by the Hindu mobs in the riots, particularly during January 1993. In fact, the relevant facts had to be painfully extracted from Senior Police Inspector Kadam during his cross–examination. Another peculiar feature is that even when mobs of Hindus and Muslims were clashing, all the firing appears to have been directed only at the Muslim mobs, with resulting casualties of only Muslims.

23.27 The police firing resulted in the death of two Muslims in December 1992 incidents and 14 Muslims during the January 1993 incidents. The number of injured in December 1992 in police firing were 12 Muslims and three Hindus. During 1993 riots, the number of injured in police firing were six Hindus, one Christian and 32 Muslims.

23.28 Though Kadam maintained that the January 1993 riots were also started by the Muslims, the evidence on record does not support this stand. As admitted by Kadam, the first incident which occurred in this jurisdiction was on 6th January 1993 when a Mulla was dragged out of the office of a Transport Company and stabbed to death by the mathadi workers sitting in front of their Union office. The fact that the mathadi workers did not initially ascribe communal motives for the murders of fourmathadis during the night of 5th/6th January 1993, together with the assertion of Kadam that the Shiv Sena local leaders were responsible for giving a communal colour to the death of mathadi workers, would belie the stand of the police. The Commission is inclined to think that the murder of the mathadi workers probably had nothing to do with communal motives. But a communal colour was given to it by the local leaders of Shiv Sena for whipping up communal frenzy which resulted in the murder of an innocent Muslim, Mulla, in January 1993 and snow–balled into large–scale rioting.

No comments:

Post a Comment