- Call it what you want -- I'm uninterested in debates about your favoured appellation. But a mob tearing it down should never have been an option.
- The shame and insult of something done half a millennium ago was only heightened and compounded by the same thing done now.
- Regardless of whom you blame for it, the violence and hatred and killing that this event set in motion damages us all, tears at the idea of this country.
- Our inability to deliver justice to the victims of that violence and killing damages us even more, tears gaping holes in the idea of this country.
- For some of us, it's not just an inability, but an unwillingness to see justice delivered. In fact, it's more than that: it's a celebration of crime and terror.
On January 20, 1993, well before rioting ended in Bombay, I went to JJ Hospital to speak to its victims. It was not my first visit to that hospital during the riots; it would not be my last. I met several injured victims that day. Almost more than the pain of their injuries, they wore an air of bewilderment at what had happened to them; at the madness that had settled on the city where they had made lives.
One, in particular, has remained in my mind all these years. I wrote about him some years ago; here's an edited few lines from that essay.
This was a 22-year-old called Pappu, a cable TV operator working in Girgaum. Based on the notes I took while speaking to him, I wrote this paragraph for a report I helped write at the time (Bombay's Shame: A Report on Bombay Riots, Ekta Samiti, 1993):
- Pappu is from Azamgarh in UP. In October 1992, he came to Bombay (his aunt lives in Dahisar) to look for work. He has been working for a cable TV firm since then, installing cables in buildings. He is Hindu. On January 10th, at 8 am, Pappu went to Kamathipura to buy some cigarettes. About 12 Hindu boys surrounded him and asked him his name. When he told them, they began to assault him with knives and choppers. Pappu ran to a private car and asked the driver for help; the driver took him to JJ Hospital.
Most other victims were Muslims attacked by Hindus or Hindus assaulted by Muslims -- horrifying, but at least in line with the twisted logic of those weeks. But Pappu was, on the face of it, a senseless instance of the violence. He was a Hindu attacked by other Hindus.
Why? Because of a little detail I have not told you yet. Pappu had a beard that made him "look like a Muslim" (his own words). Because Pappu wore that beard, Pappu was sliced with swords.
Fifteen years ago, the hair on a young face invited murder. That was how depraved we had become. And it made me wonder: How tall does a country stand when it stands on the rubble of a mosque?