December 06, 2010

18 years

Today is 18 years since a mob tore down the Babri Masjid. That set off weeks of rioting in Bombay (and elsewhere), killing about a thousand Indians, and eventually the March 12 1993 bomb blasts, killing another 250 Indians.

Through those weeks, I roamed various areas of my city, speaking to people about what had happened. From my notes of the time, some memories are gathered in a guest post I did for Kafila: City in terror.

There are more memories. I'll post them below.



* Met a milk seller on Reay Road. A mob robbed his house and took his clothes and vessels. Later a gang of thugs came and beat him, told him to leave the area.

* An 18 year-old and his younger brother ran a raddi business. A mob broke into the shop and beat the brother. They stole Rs 300 and also the shop board, which read "GAMRA METAL & PAPER MART."

* 36 families in huts on one stretch of Reay Road had been given copies of 1) a police statement about the riots by Police Sub Inspector Atmaram Mane; and 2) a panchnama (witness statement) by a Vasant Raghunath Rokde (these years later, the last name is not clear in my notes, could be Rotide). Nobody in the families knew why.

* A woman in Kalachowkie was away from her hut washing clothes. When she returned, a mob had burned it down. For days afterward, gangs came to assault her family and neighbours.

* Met a man from Uttar Pradesh who had lived in Kalachowkie for 11 yrs. He had two kids. He ran a raddi-paper shop. 300-400 people came and burned it down, looted all his vessels.

* In Nagpada, a 20 year-old woman in her TYBCom at the Akbar Peerbhoy College lost her brother in police firing. Two days later, as she stood on the street, a police bullet hit her in the head. She was not badly hurt, but her vision was affected.

* In Bhendi Bazar, a 29 yr-old woman and her daughter left their home at 3pm one afternoon to get rid of their garbage. Both were hit in the back by bullets.

* One injured victim I met at JJ Hospital could remember only this about his four attackers: two wore long pants, two wore shorts. He also said a hotel owner came to the hospital and distributed Rs 100 each to patients like him, injured in the violence.

* A man I met was buying cigarettes at a paanwala in Byculla at 930am one morning. Forty or fifty men surrounded him suddenly and attacked him with knives. A friend rescued him.

* Another man I met in JJ Hospital was there because he had been surrounded by a dozen men and attacked with swords. He had wounds on his head, arm, chest and back. He had no idea how he had survived.

* From a building terrace, a man pointed to a "bunker" and "firing range" in the neighbouring slum. What he meant was 3 sandbags lying on a broken roof far below us.

* When a mob set Dalal Estate in Bombay Central on fire, an elderly couple, avid stamp collectors, was trapped in their flat. They died.

* Near Reay Road one day, a handcart puller ran to escape from a violent mob. When he returned, his handcart was burned and he had no way left to earn a living.

* In the ash-covered remains of a burned-down set of homes somewhere -- I think near Bombay Central -- I found several half-burned scraps of explicit pornographic photographs.

* Reay Road: a couple with four girls and a boy was saving money in a box for dowry for when they married off the girls. A mob burned their hut and stole the dowry money, Rs 5000.

* A timber merchant had been running his business near Currey Road station since 1951. He lost his entire stock when it was set on fire during the violence. He went to the police station to file a complaint, only to find that a complaint had been registered against him for burning a rival's stock, and for selling liquor.

* The man who delivered milk to my uncle every morning also drove a riksha. There was no milk delivered for several days. Later my uncle found out that the man had been pulled from his riksha and killed.

* At the office one evening, I was waiting for a late meeting. An old family friend called. He urged me to leave and go home right away. "The Muslims are going to attack from the sea!" he said.

* I took the train back from town late another evening. Found no rikshas at the station when I alighted, apparently no buses, nearly nobody around at all. So I began walking home in fear. A man driving a Maruti Omni stopped and offered me a ride home.

* A young journalist I knew called in tears one morning. The family had woken to find a prominent "X" painted outside their front door. They have since emigrated.


Just a few more:

* The residents of slum that I trudged through one morning during the violence told me that they saw the residents of a nearby building throwing bags filled with petrol at them. By the fistful, shoveling them over the side, dozens raining down, followed by bombs to set off fires.

* I asked a man I met in a building: who dropped the bombs on the community toilet in the slum directly below us? How did its roof break? He said the slum residents broke the roof themselves.

* Then I asked him about the pockets in the slum, again more or less below us, where the huts were burned to the ground. How had that happened? He said the slum residents did that too. They do it frequently, he said.


Given the memories I have from that time 18 years ago, I measure claims that December 6 1992 was a "day of honour" by the yardstick of these vignettes above. The claims don't score so well. Nor do the claimants. I mean, I don't think the guy who was thrown off a bridge onto the railway tracks found much honour or redemption in the events of December 6 1992. Nor the fellow who had boarded up his windows in fear for his life. Nor the journalist who found the mark painted outside her door one morning; in fact, probably not the painters either.

How tall does a country stand when it stands on the rubble of a mosque?

December 6 1992: I don't really care if others, or the younger generation, don't remember. Or if they want to move on.

Because I remember.


Anonymous said...

Nice post. Thanks for this. It's hard to forget those days. Of the many memories I have, I remember seeing paramilitary forces going around and curfews declared. The sheer terror of curfews and troops patrolling your neighborhood even for a few days(not underestimating the terror of rioting mobs) makes me empathize for regions that have troops occupying them for years and decades.

Chandru K said...

Why mark this anniversary, and not the 11/26 one, or the partition of 1947, or the commencement of Kashmir terror in 1989-1990( including demolition of temples), the Mumbai train bombing of 2006, or the Delhi parliament attack or Delhi bombing of 1985?

One explanation is that D'Souza thinks all these actions stem from that one causal event, Ayodhya. Which is ridiculous.

The other is to show how the followers of the true Abrahamic religions are victims of injustice by the Indic/pagan religion. adherents.

Anonymous said...

Khush ho gaye DD Boss? now that their is a blast in Varanasi.. claiming to celebrate the 18th..

Anonymous said...

I can bet Rs. 100 that you will never try to visit the parents of the 2 year old who died.. and will never ever write about it

Anonymous said...

I remember too and refuse to move on.

Surya said...

looks like some people had not forgotten what babar did and refused to move on and resulted in demolition of a building.
namaskaram Surya

Anonymous said...

DD, any plans for disaster tourism in Varanasi?

I guess no.. and we all know why..