Concerned Citizen's Inquiry Report in to Malegaon Riots
The Malegaon riots, which shook Maharashtra, were the first major riots to have taken place in India after the terrorist attack on World Trade Centre on September 11. Apart from the large number of deaths, 13, these riots had some other peculiarities: they occurred in a Muslim majority town and rapidly spread to a large number of surrounding villages, a phenomenon seen for the first time on such a large scale in Maharashtra. In the light of these specificities, we decided to investigate these events in detail.
Senior police officers
Other police officers
Mr. Nihal Ahmed, President, Janata Dal(S), Maharashtra
Janata Dal councillors
Mr. Sanjay Joshi, Social Activist, Rashtra Seva Dal
Muslim refugees from the villages
1. Shama Dalwai, Professor of Economics, Mithibhai College
2. Jyoti Punwani, Freelance journalist
3. Irfan Engineer, Advocate
4. Sandhya Mhatre, Researcher
5. Shakeel Ahmed, Social Activist
6. Sameena Dalwai, Advocate
Methodology of Investigation:
The team visited Malegaon from Nov 9 to 12, 2001 and met
1. The victims of the riots
2. The police authorities
3. Social activists
4. Political leaders and workers and people's representatives.
The team divided itself into groups to interview various people and to visit different sites in Malegaon city.
The team visited village Karanj Gavan, near Malegaon, which was also affected by violence in Malegaon.
Background of Malegaon 
Malegaon is one of the tahsils of Nasik district of Maharashtra state. Malegaon city is located on the National Highway No. 3, i.e. Mumbai-Agra Road. Manmad is the nearest important railway junction on the Central Railway. The nearest city is Dhuliya, which is 51 km. away.. This tahsil is well connected to the other parts of the state by road..
Malegaon tahsil has 150 villages and 2 towns. Malegaon consists of three distinct parts Viz. The older quarter of the city, the Camp and the Sangameshwar village on the left bank of the Mosam river and connected with the rest of the town by a causeway across the river.
The geographical area of Malegaon is 12.95 sq km. According to the 1991 census, the population of Malegaon city was 3.42 lakh and density of population is 26,455 per sq. km. The current population is over four lakh.
v Socio-Economic Profile
Malegaon’s main source of employment is the power loom industry. According to the 1991 census, Malegaon is classified as an industrial city. 62 per cent of main workers are employed in industries, reflecting the prominence of the power loom industry in the city. Muslims form a large proportion of those employed in weaving units, which produce gray cloths.
In Malegaon city, a considerable proportion of the population lives in slums with lack of basic amenities such as drinking water, toilet facilities and even electric connections. In 1991, the number of hospitals was 3 and dispensaries 5. In addition, there were 6 health clinics and 2 family planning centres. The number of beds in medical institutions was just 64. This shows the poor medical facilities in Malegaon city.
In 1991, the literacy rate in Malegaon was 56%, 62 percent for males and 49 percent for females. For urban Maharashtra, the literacy rates were 79% for the entire population and 86% and 71%, for males and females respectively. Thus comparatively, the literacy rate in Malegaon is much lower.
According to the 1991 census, Muslims formed around three-fourths of the total population of Malegaon. The next major community was Hindu. In 1991, Malegaon had a very small proportion of SC. and ST population, 2.87 and 1.52 per cent respectively.
It is interesting to relate how Malegaon became a Muslim-majority city. The Muslim community in Malegaon historically grew from waves of migration particularly from north India and also partly from Hyderabad. Above 200 years back, Malegaon was a kasba (a small place) and was called Maliwadi (hamlet of gardeners). One of the Sardars of Bajirao Peshwa, Naroshankar, was given 18 villages including Maliwadi as a jagir by a Commander of Mugal forces Badshah Muhammad Aizuddin Gazi. Naroshankar made Maliwadi his residential quarters and started constructing a fort in 1740, the construction of which took around 20 years to be completed.
For building the fort Naroshankar invited a number of engineers, stone cutter an artisan, who were mostly Muslims from the north, especially suburbs of Delhi. This was the first time a sizeable number of Muslims came to settle in Maliwadi. These Muslim artisans also brought their language Urdu for the first time to Maliwadi. Some of the Muslim artisans came from Surat and Broach too. The artisans lived in a basti (settlement) opposite to the fort, across the river, which is today known as Sangmeshwar. After coming to Muslims, Maliwadi became Malegaon.
There were some Egyptian soldiers in the army of Malegaon. Gopalrao also had a few Rohilla Sepoys serving him. Both Egyptian and Rohilla soldiers were Muslims. The first Idgah (where Idd prayers are performed) in Malegaon was built by one of the Rohilla sepoys Dilawar Khan in 1816. Gopalrao was a disciple of Bhikhan Shah, a Muslim saint, whose grave even today exists at the confluence of Mosam and Girna.
When the British captured the Malegaon fort in 1818, they invited Muslims of Hyderabad from Nizam's territory to Malegaon. Some Muslims migrated from Hyderabad to Malegaon, and most of them settled in the cantonment area. After the munity in 1857, many Momins, the largest number of Muslims ever to migrate to Malegaon, came from north India to Malegaon in search of security. In 1862, Muslims from Banaras who were mostly weavers, as there was a famine around this time, too migrated to Malegaon. Thus, it appears that the Muslim community in Malegaon grew from waves of migration particularly from north.
Industry in Malegaon
Malegaon was a traditional handloom-weaving centre in Maharashtra. The era of power looms in Malegaon emerged after 1935. Earlier weaving was on handlooms. Most of the preparatory work before weaving like starching the yarn, transferring it over the tubes, preparing tanabana was done by the women. Even after power looms were introduced, women continued to help their menfolk in the weaving procedure.
With the introduction of power looms, the cloth industry in Malegaon flourished due to increased productivity. Many people bought power looms and very few were left with handlooms. As a result, many more Muslims weavers from U.P., Khandesh and Deccan migrated to Malegaon. These migrants created slums for the first time in Malegaon. Kamalpura, the first and the biggest slum in Malegaon, was established in the 1940s. Later many more slums were created as the political and social turmoil in Hyderabad in the late 1940s and 50s and the riots in 1960s led to massive migration of Muslims into Malegaon. The influx was so large that three new municipal wards came into existence.
Even now for a majority of Muslims, weaving continues to be the main occupation. Women and children work on the loom or undertake associated operations.
The weavers continue to suffer for several reasons- textile policies are unfavourable to them, they cannot afford buying yarn and the marketing of cloth is not in their hands. Middlemen exploit the weavers who are unorganised. Since no other economic opportunities exist, many weavers continue in their traditional occupation even though it provides them only with a subsistence level of livelihood.
Traditionally, the power loom industry has been neatly divided along communal lines: Hindus have a monopoly over the yarn manufacturing units, while Muslims control the weaving units. Trading of the cloth that is woven is again in the hands of the Hindu community. There has always been an element of conflict between yarn manufacturers and weavers in the power loom industry in India. Weavers feel that yarn manufacturers take advantage of their control over the market to hike yarn prices and get an unfair share of the profit, while weavers are left with next to nothing. In Malegaon, since the yarn manufacturers are Hindus and the weavers are Muslims, this tension between the two can easily take a communal form.
Malegaon of late has been diversifying and new industries are rapidly expanding. PVC pipe manufacturing is one such industry. Malegaon is soon becoming a regional centre for PVC pipes. Both communities want to benefit from this new growing industry. This competition is another source of conflict and tension. In the recent riots, it is significant that newly growing industries were particularly targeted.
The Sequence of Events
(A) The immediate incidents that sparked off the riots and police firing are as under:
Ø At about 1.45 p.m. on October 26, which was also Dashera, a Muslim youth was distributing leaflets after the Friday namaz outside the Jama Masjid. The leaflets were in Urdu with an English banner - 'Be Indian and Buy Indian'. The leaflets called for a boycott of goods manufactured in the US and UK, and listed them. They also talked about strengthening the Indian economy and Indian companies rather than buying British and US goods, as these companies amass huge profits and then plough the same into war like the one currently on against Afghanistan.
Ø The State Reserve Police was stationed outside the masjid in view of the fallout of previous Friday's morcha in Malegaon, which had been organised by Janata Dal (S) state president Nihal Ahmed to protest the US bombing of Afghanistan. Some processionsists had carried posters of Osama Bin Laden and the morcha had created communal tension.
Ø While the leaflets were being distributed, an SRP constable snatched them and tore them and put a sheaf of them inside the van. It is alleged that he even beat up the concerned youth, and tried to push him inside the van.
Ø People coming out of the masjid, who had already been told of the contents of the leaflet felt outraged at the way the youth was being handled by the police and began surrounding the SRP party, shouting agitatedly.
Ø Outnumbered, the police released the young man who had been distributing the leaflets. But the restive mob was not satisfied - they wanted the concerned police constable to be arrested or suspended on the spot. They also vent their anger on the van.
Ø As the police floundered, the mob kept swelling on this narrow but busy street - it was Friday, market day.
Ø Mufti Mohammed Ismail, the Imam of the Jama Masjid, then came out and climbing on the police van, asked the mob to sit down. According to him, they obeyed him. He told us he assured them that the matter would be pursued and convinced them to disperse. According to him, as news of this scuffle spread, the local MLA, Sheikh Rashid arrived on the scene with some people. However, the MLA told us that when he went there, the crowd was very much there and though he tried to pacify them, they were in no mood to listen. He was himself manhandled and he left the place.
Ø In the meantime, police reinforcements seemed to have arrived and they conducted a lathi-charge. The mob started running and in the melee, a Navratrostav pandal on the way was damaged - unintentionally, we were told. After the lathi-charge, the Muslims began throwing stones at the police. Some Muslims allege that as soon as the Navratrotsav pandal was damaged, the leaders of the newly-formed organisation Jaanta Raja, who were watching the scene from across the Mosam River in the Hindu-dominated Sangameshwar area, started burning Muslim shops. This was around 3.30 p.m. We visited the area and the Hindus confirmed that the seven shops located on the land owned by a mosque, including the Munna cycle shop owned by a Muslim, were damaged at around 3.30 p.m.
Ø These Muslims further alleged that seeing the Muslim shops burning across the Mosam River, a Muslim mob gathered on this side of the river as well and started burning Hindu shops in retaliation. The Gupta Dairy was the first shop to be set on fire, around 3.30 pm.
However, other Muslims agree with the police and the newspaper Sakal's  version that the Gupta dairy was the first to be burnt in Malegaon on that day. It appears that burning and attacks on shops of the 'other' community began simultaneously in the Muslim area of Mohamed Ali road and the Hindu area of Sangameshwar.
Ø Mr. Deshpande, who owns a shop of electronic items on Mohammed Ali Road, told us that when he reached his shop at 3.30 p.m., it was already on fire and the metal shelves had half-melted. Haji Ibrahim Seth's National Garage and all the other Muslim-owned garages on Mosam Bridge were burnt at 4.00p.m.
Ø Some Muslims told us that three Muslim mobs gathered that afternoon: the first comprising namazis coming out of the mosque, who were dispersed by the Mufti; the second came there after Rashid Shaikh landed up there and were dispersed by the lath-charge, and the third gathered on the main road as they learnt that Muslim shops were being burnt in Hindu areas. Yet another version was that this last mob assembled below the Janata Dal Office allegedly on the JD's instigation.
Ø We could not verify whether there were in fact three mobs or it was one and the same angry group of Muslims who came out of the masjid and then ran to the main road. According to the police and Sakal reporter, Pradeep Sawant, it was the same mob. Perhaps the police may not have noted the fine distinction - if at all it existed - and perceived the mob as a militant mob, which refused to disperse. This perception might have led the police to use excessive force.
Ø Police reinforcements began assembling at Peri Chowk, the junction of Mohammed Ali Road and Kidwai Road, where looting and burning of Hindu shops had commenced. The police say that they asked the mob to disperse by using the public address system. However, the mob continued throwing stones on the police. Some Muslims said this was because they knew Muslim shops were burning across the flames could be seen from this side.
Here we must comment on the strange notion of bravery that has developed particularly among the youth guided by communal propaganda. It consists not in confronting violent mobs of the other community, but in retaliating by attacking soft targets of the other community - a safe and rather cowardly method.
Ø The first police firing took place between 3.30 and 4.30 at Peri Chowk, and it was directed towards the Muslim mob, which was burning Hindu shops. 21 rounds were fired, three people died and 10 were injured Among those who died was Bilkis Bano, who was drying clothes on the first floor of her house, at least 700 to 800 metres away from Peri Chowk. She was hit in the chest and collapsed on the spot.
Ø Bilkis Bano's brother told us that the firing continued even as the mob was retreating and the two others were hit while they were running away.
Ø As the streets are narrow, people who had come to this busy bazar street to make their weekly purchases after getting their weekly wages were also trapped. After visiting the spot and talking to the victims, we feel that the policemen, some of whom were injured in the stone throwing, might have continued firing on the retreating mob.
Ø One such victim: Rizwan Ahmed Iqbal Ahmed, whom we met in Farhan hospital, had gone to buy cloth on Kidwai Road. Hearing people shout " bhago police aa rahi hai" he started running and was hit on the left foot from the back.
Ø The violence quickly spread all over the city and by evening, the entire vegetable market had been burnt. Peripheral areas such as Dyane, originally a village but now simply an extension of Malegaon, were also caught in the violence by the evening.
Ø At about 6.30 p.m., a Muslim mob of thousands began throwing stones and petrol-soaked rags and bottle bombs in Dyane Mr. Bhimrao Patil the ex-Sarpanch of Dyane's gram panchayat, and a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) member, told us that the Hindus, numbering around 250, threw stones back at the Muslims. One Police Sub Inspector, one Asst. Police Inspector and 6 police constables were on duty in the area, while a police van would come and go. Patil urged the police to station one vehicle there, but they just kept reassuring them, he said. Only at 5 am did they arrange a bandobast.
Ø By then it was too late. Despite the police picket firing directly on the mob - without any lathi-charge - and one person dying in the firing, the police could not prevent Navkiran Sizing Mills, belonging to Nimba Kadam, two PVC pipe factories belonging to Sharad Deshmukh and Praful Gidia and two wakhars owned by Gujaratis, from being burnt.
Ø Dyane had never been affected during previous riots in Malegaon. The two communities have financial dealings, said Mr. Patil. But this time, he said, the Muslims were instigated by the announcement on loudspeakers from the masjid: viz." Allah-ho-Akbar and Jagte Raho", which went on all night. As always, gundas took advantage of the situation. The Hindus complained to the Collector about what they perceived as misuse of mosque loudspeakers.
Ø Shri. Kiran Deshmukh, Pujari of the Datta mandir said that at night, an 8-10,000-strong mob from Ramzanpura came towards Dyane village. They had gathered at the mosque in response to the call from its loudspeakers : "Noujawano Dyane gaon par hamla karo". He saw youngsters on motorbikes carrying petrol bombs. However, the SP told us that no such directions to attack were given from the loudspeakers.
Ø The Datta mandir is on the border of Dyane and Ramzanpura. While Dyane is outside Malegaon's Municipal boundaries, Ramzanpura is a part of the town. The pujari lives next to the temple. As he heard the mob approaching, he ran into the village. Later he found the mob had destroyed the idol, broken the tiles of the temple, and also damaged the trees near it.
Ø On Kusumba Road in Vijaynagar, where the town's boundaries merge into Dyane, Muslim mobs burnt the TV repair shop - cum STD - booth of Baliram Tisge, a former Congress Councillor and senior party member, at about 8.30 p.m. The mob of 2 to 3 thousand people, he said, seemed to belong to the Janata Dal and had stones, bottles and swords in their hands.
Ø On the other side, in Camp, a Hindu majority area, looting and burning started at around 6.00 p.m. A Hindu vegetable vendor told us that identification of Muslim houses and shops had begun as early as 2.00 p.m. (i.e., during the arguments between the police and Muslims). Rumours were systematically spread about Muslim mobs coming to attack and about atrocities on Hindu women. Mr. Sanjay Joshi, a social activist, told us that even while the Muslim shops were being attacked, the police were merely watching and even hid themselves from the view of the rioters. The mobs damaged not only the mosque in the graveyard here, but also tore the Quran and even tried to break and burn the tombstones. A local madarsa was also badly damaged.
Ø In Sangameshwar, attempts to set on fire the Muslim owned Diamond Power loom Complex began at 5 pm. The entire complex was gutted, the spindles and looms burnt to the bone, the outer wall broken. A popular ex-councillor and a Congress member Mr. Khalil Ahmed was done to death here as he was offering namaz in the masjid inside the complex. The masjid too was badly burnt. Khalil's death shocked his Hindu Congress colleagues who remembered him as a gentle person, who was "probably killed only because of his beard''.
Ø A major confrontation took place between both communities around 7.30 P.M. on the ground between Salimnagar, Hira - Panna, Nihalnagar (Hindu Basti) and Kalikutti Masjid and Dargah which is situated on the banks of the Mosam river.
Ø Around 10,000 persons came from the side of Salimnagar, assembled in the ground between Salimnagar, Hira- Panna, Nihalnagar and Kalikutti Masjid and Darga which is situated on the banks of Mosam river. They burnt down seven houses of Hindus in Nihalnagar close to the ground, along with a shop, an animal shed, etc. The Hanuman mandir nearby was attacked too, and the idol bore scratches. An adjacent gymnasium was also looted.
Ø This mob of Muslims had gathered before the Auliya masjid first, from where azaan was going on, and there were continuous calls on the loudspeaker like: “Islam khaare main hai” “ Ai momino, masjid shahid ho gai hai, maidan main jamaa ho jaao.”
Ø The Hindus told us that they had good relations with the Muslims in the surrounding areas till now. “Even on December 6 every year we are fine, but they overdid it this time.” All the affected Hindus were living with their relatives when we visited the area, while keeping a watch on their ruined houses. Only a few of them had received compensation from the government.
Ø The police on duty at Kalikutti Darga gave us an account of that night. “10-20,000 persons gathered together like a storm (Sosatyachi Vavatal). We were 2-3 policemen on duty, we ran to our main office which is not far.’’
Ø We also met the bangi (the man who gives Bang) of the mosque, who took us to the rear of the mosque and showed us the spot where the Hindus had tried to burn it. Not much damage had been done.
Ø This very spot where Mosam river divides the Muslim majority area and the Hindu dominated Shriram Nagar, was the site of the murder of rickshaw driver Bapu Bachav. We heard various accounts of Bachav’s killing. A fight seems to have taken place between the two communities here. Bachav was accompanied by some more Hindu youth. They were overpowered. The rest of his companions ran away but he was caught by the Muslim mob. He was stabbed around 52 times and then thrown in to bonfire. Bachav, thus brutally killed, was the only Hindu victim of the riots.
Ø A Muslim journalist, who reached the site just after Bachav was killed, told us that this former Shiv Sainik upapramukh, had come there with a mob to burn down the Kalikutti masjid. He had a can of kerosene with him. The SP Raj Vardhan corroborated this version. said the police landed up after Bachav was set on fire.
Ø According to this journalist, he himself tried to stop the Muslims from damaging the temple, but the mob had become so out of control that they poured kerosene on him. The police then resorted to a lathi-charge.
Ø The Shiv Sena says Bachav had gone there to rescue Hindu women in his rickshaw. Naya Islampura, Vijay nagar, Hinglaj nagar: all on Kusumba Road in Vijaynagar, where the town's boundaries merge into Dyane The Muslim mob came here around 7.30pm and the attack went on till 10.30 pm. Hindu shops and homes were selectively chosen and attacked, with gas cylinders being used to burn them. A mandir was targeted, but while the courtyard of the house in front of it was badly affected by the fire - the melted twisted tin from their roof had flown up and stuck in the branches of the tree above with the impact of the explosion -the mandir had not been damaged.
Ø The police did not put in an appearance. The fire raged all night and fire engines from Nasik had to put out the fire. The power could only be restored after four days.
Ø The residents here were lower middle class Hindus who had never been affected to this extent in earlier riots. An old woman said she had never been touched even when she lived in Hazaar Kholi, a Muslim area, but this time her house has been damaged though she lived alongside other Hindus.
Ø Some of the residents lost everything in the fire, since they had not thought of evacuating their homes in advance. "It has never happened here!'' they explained. They blamed Nihal Ahmed for the riots - he was also the only politician not to have visited them.
Ø The loss was not only of homes, but also of their means of livelihood: a handcart, a sugarcane machine, a cattle shed. A hairdresser's salon had its mirrors and furniture damaged. Ironically, since it was a Friday, there was a greater rush, said the barber, and he could only take a break for lunch at 4.15 p.m. They closed their shutters at 5 p.m., when they heard of the violence in the heart of the town.
Ø When we visited the salon, it was full of Muslim and Hindu customers. The barber said work had resumed in a week, with the same customers back. “Some of them do express regrets.” His proprietor had no plans to shift. He said, “Our life is here.” rioting continued all night in Malegaon, with those who were in minority areas dominated by the other community, fleeing to `their own' areas. The police were conspicuous by their absence, said victims of both communities.
Ø Around 2-am eyewitness told us that the police picket on Mohammed Ali Road burnt a Muslim shop. The charge doesn't seem impossible: it seems unlikely that Hindus would dare to burn Muslim shops in this Muslim area.
Ø By the next morning, the surrounding villages witnessed violence, even as it continued in Malegaon. More than 100 villages were affected. The army was called out on Saturday, but could only conduct flag marches in the absence of orders to fire.
Ø A major incident on the next day was the desecration of the Durga idol in the temple in Pawar Gali in the morning. The mob broke the lock outside the temple door. The ceiling and the back door were sooty, indicating that the mob had tried to set fire to the temple. The police quickly repaired the broken grill and replaced the idol with a smaller one. Chhagan Bhujbal had visited the temple after the riots.
Ø This is the third attack on this temple. It was attacked in 92 and again this year in May, when a stray bottle thrown on a mosque resulted in a counter-attack on the temple. Gymnasium nearby was also ransacked and its equipment damaged.
Ø The police firing in Mira Datar Nagar took place on Sunday, 28th October. Mira Datar Nagar is situated on the outskirts of Malegaon on the eastern side of the Bombay-Agra Highway. To reach it, one has to cross a massive expanse of vacant ground. Then comes a power loom unit, a few meters away the mosque, and surrounding these two, the basti. There are roughly 200 houses here, all Muslim. . The basti is almost isolated and cut off from its surroundings, as if it had nothing to do with the rest of the town.
Ø Being on the outskirts and on account of its isolation, one can understand why curfew in the town may not have any impact in this basti. We were told by all those we met there, that on the fateful day, the situation was normal and everyone in the basti was involved in their daily routine, as if oblivious to the riots in the rest of Malegaon.
Ø The residents told us that boys were playing cricket on the ground adjacent to the Highway on Sunday,28th Oct2001at around 4.00 p.m. Seeing two police vans on the Highway, the boys - perhaps aware that they were breaking curfew orders -got scared and ran towards the basti. The police followed them. The mosque here, called Maqdumiya Ashrafiya, has also rented its premises for residential purposes. Suspecting that some of the boys may have hidden themselves in one such residence, the police started banging the door of the house with rifle butts. When no one opened it, the police broke open the door. An old lady, Rashida bi, was hit on her face as she was right behind the door. The police found no one inside. Meanwhile, seeing the police breaking a house, which belonged to the mosque, people started gathering. The police then took up firing position and started firing. The residents said that as they were firing, the police were challenging the mob to come forward if they dared to, saying "aao maidan maein". By that time, from the loudspeaker on the mosque, it was being announced not to go forward towards the police. As people ran for cover from the firing, the police got into their respective vans and continued firing even as the vans were returning.
Ø Three people died in the firing: Ahmed Khan Murad Khan, Mehdi Hasan and Riyaz.
Ø We met the wife and mother of Ahmed Khan Murad Khan, a 22-year-old who used to repair cookers and stoves by going door to door. Due to curfew, he had not been able to go to work for two days. At about 4.00 p.m., he had gone to answer nature's call on the open ground, which is normally used for this purpose. A bullet hit him at that time. Ahmed Khan's mother told us that announcements were being made from the mosque to the effect "Masjid shahid ki ja rahi hai ai momino aao." Hearing this, people ran towards the mosque. Ahmed Khan is survived by his mother, wife and a child delivered just two weeks ago (Before he deid or before we visited him?
Ø Mehdi Hasan resides in Bajrangwada, and had come to visit his brother. Riyaz had come to play cricket from Salamatabad.
Ø Next day, i.e. Monday, 29th October, the police came again to arrest some people, probably to justify and cover up there totally uncalled-for firing. Five people were arrested: - Arif Ali Mohd. and Yaseen Ali Mohd. - both brothers, 25 & 18years old, respectively; Faiyaz Ahmed age-22, Munir Ahmed age-30 and Giasuddin age-30.
The police justified the firing on the ground that a nearby power station would have been burnt by the mob had the police not fired. This reminds us of the tanker-in-danger-of-being-burnt theory propounded by the Mumbai police to justify firing at an agitated crowd of Dalits in July 97, and killing 10 of them in Ramabai Nagar, Ghatkopar. But the Gundewar Commission has rejected the tanker theory in toto and held the policeman who ordered the firing - PSI Kadam - guilty. There is no power station near the spot where the firing took place and where the dead were found. The police justification therefore appears concocted.
Ø Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Dussane told us that arms were found in the mosque after the firing in Datar Nagar. But the police have made no such claim.
Ø Malegaon had to go without water for a few days as rioters breached the main pipeline in 11 places. Tyre marks of heavy vehicles were seen near the spots where the pipeline had been breached. In this riot, residents said they saw for the first time the use of petrol bombs and gas cylinders to set properties on fire.
Ø We heard a few stories of neighbours saving each other: a Jain merchant, despite knowing that his cloth shop was burning on the main road, sheltered a Muslim cloth seller in his home for four days, till curfew was lifted. The Muslim had come to show him some cloth samples, and while they were looking at them, the riot began.
Ø Haji Ibrahim Sheth drove Hindu families in his neighbourhood, while the riots were on, in his own vehicle to a safe location in Soyegaon.
Ø The SP told us that in Malegaon, 8 Muslims died in police firing, and 13 were injured. 5 persons - 4 Muslims and 1 Hindu died in mob violence. Two temples and three mosques were damaged. 102 policemen and 20 officers were injured.
Rioting in Malegaon continued till Sunday, while in the villages it went on till Wednesday. Violence in the villages was mostly one-sided, against Muslims. It began on the night of the 26th, and by the 29th, it had spread as far as Dhule and Jalgaon districts (see Annex B).
It is observed from the Dainik Sakal that violence in the villages particularly against Muslims. Though large numbers of villages were affected by riots, as a team we could visit only two villages near Malegaon:
Karanj Gavan and Lendhane are 20km and 12km away from Malegaon city. In the both villages we found that the houses and shops of muslims were burnt, even masjid was attacked. Persons from both the community told us that the inter community relation are cordial. The outside mob has burnt the houses of muslims where as hindus in the village attempted to save the muslims and their property.
Some of the major incidents in the villages were the killing of a Pesh Imam Hasan Ali in Galne and the attack on its masjid on October 29; the riot which followed a `silent protest march' in Vinchur, for which the Deputy- Sarpanch was arrested; and the hoisting of saffron flag on the mosque at Chandwad.
(B) Effects of the Riots:
v The first major riots after 1992-93 have left Malegaon and its surroundings completely shaken. The suspicion and distrust among the residents is apparent. The riots ruined the biggest festivals of communities, Dashera and Diwali, Shabbe- Baraat and Ramzan. . Though life seems to have returned to normal, the wounds are still raw. So deep is the polarization between the two communities that the peace committee is planning to persuade Marathi-medium Hindu and Urdu-medium Muslim school children to become penfriends, to bring them together.
v The polarization cuts across party lines. Politicians have gone back to there ‘own people’. “Ultimately we have to face our electorate!” said a JD Hindu councillor. The local congress MLA, Mr. Rashid Shaikh, was reported by the press to have proclaimed after the riots that he was first a Muslim and then a Congressman. He did not visit even his party colleagues who had suffered loss of property during the riots. Social activists like Dr. Sugandh Barant, associated with the Narmada Bachav Andolan, who tried to stop the violence in their own areas, were threatened and literally pushed into a corner by the youth.
v Haji Ibrahim Seth’s family is known for their good relations with their Hindu neighbours, yet his National Garage was burnt down on the very first day. He said to us,” We have always saved our neighbours, even if it means risking our lives. Samnevale ye kyon nahi karte? (Why does the opposite party not do so?)’’ We heard everyone, even secular persons speaking the language of “us” and “them” (Like whom?)
v Political: Both Hindus and Muslims blamed the Congress: the former for not preventing the riots, the latter for the police's one-sided firing.
v Though Hindus are in a minority in Malegaon, being economically stronger, they have never felt they are in a minority. Many Hindus said that this riot had made them conscious of this.
v Significantly, as reported in Indian Express (7th November 2001), a Sena-BJP delegation met Minorities Commission Chairman Amin Khandwani to ask him for protection. He replied that protection would be theirs if they guaranteed protection to the Muslims in the villages.
v Though at first glance this argument seems specious, it is related to the pattern in the riots and the mentality that has grown among Hindus in Malegaon: i.e., the guarantee of their safety, specially those who live in Muslim areas, is aggression against Muslims in the surrounding villages.
v This mentality suits the Hindutva parties as it allows them to carry on their constant propaganda that Muslims must always be kept in fear, else they will bully the Hindus. This riot has given the Sena-BJP a handle for their pet argument that Hindus are under threat from Muslims.
v Economic: “Malegaon: the city of weavers, will be known as the City of riots now!” said a young businessman in Malegaon. Apart from the loss of life, the property loss in Malegaon by both communities, as well as the set- back to business is serious.
v Since many factories and workshops were burnt, a large number of people have lost their jobs. Daily wage earners were left with nothing due to the 83-hour long curfew in the city.
v Many lower middle class families are entitled only to compensation for damage to property. But to give them that, the administration has been asking for ration cards. In some cases, these too had been burnt. One such case is that of the Patils in Hinglaj Nagar whose sugarcane machine and cattle shed, located in their courtyard, had been burnt. Officials had told them: ``why do you need rations (given as relief)? Your house is intact.'' ``Are we to eat the bricks of our house?'' asked the old mother, Kamlabai Patil.
The Background: Build Up To The Riots.
To understand why a riot takes place, it is important to study not only the immediate events which precipitated it, but also go back in time to study the background which contributed to it. A study of the backdrop, against which the Malegaon riots took place, reveals how deeply every section of society has become communalised, including the state machinery.
Ø The Karanj Gavan Incident :
There were many indicators of the rising communal temperature in the area. The first was the incident on August 18, 2001 at Karanj Gavan, a village 20 km away. A Muslim teenager - recently come to live in the village - assaulted and stripped an 11-year-old Hindu girl. Both families displayed a high level of civilised behaviour and decided to hand over the boy to the village Police Patil. But the boy's escape from his family's custody provoked the girl’s family to violence. The bad blood generated by the incident, however, remained confined between the two families and neither side saw it as a communal issue.
But the Sena and Jaanta Raja, a newly-formed organization, supposedly inspired by the late Anand Dighe and said to be pro-BJP, gave the incident a communal colour and brought their cadre from a nearby village to attack Muslims in Karanj Gavan. Those injured included some visiting Tublic Jamaat members.
The issue reverberated in Malegaon, where the girl was brought for treatment. The boy was also traced and arrested there. The injured Tublic members also returned to Malegaon with their story. Interestingly, we learnt that the Congress MLA Shaikh Rashid tried to play it down (he has been elected with the support of the Sena-BJP) but his arch rival Nihal Ahmed held a public meeting of Muslims in Malegaon on the issue, where he highlighted the attack on the mosque in Karanj Gavan, and alleged that Shaikh had sold himself to the Hindus.
Ø The College Incident :
September 11, 2001 first cast its shadow on Malegaon within two days. On September 13, a Muslim College student, in charge of the college `News' Notice Board, displayed a clipping from the Times of India, which had the photo of Osama bin Laden along with some of his quotes. Shiv Sainiks, seeing this as an `anti-national' act, complained to the principal and also punished the boy themselves by slapping him. The principal handed the boy over to the police.
While the student's act may well have been promoted by admiration for Laden an indicator of the latter's growing cult status among Muslim youth - the principal's response defies all logic. Is it a crime to put a clipping of Osama or anybody on the college's News notice board, which has already appeared in the national newspapers? Couldn't the college authorities have dealt with this on their own?
Ø The Forthcoming Elections :
For weeks before the riots, a number of BJP-Shiv Sena leaders were touring Malegaon, in view of the Municipal elections due in December (now postponed). A strong contender for control over the Municipal Council (which is likely to be upgraded to a municipal corporation) is the Janata Dal (secular) state president, Nihal Ahmed. In the 1999 Assembly polls, the Congress' Rashid Shaikh, who was supported by Sena-BJP, defeated him.
This defeat ended Ahmed's 22-year uninterrupted reign over Malegaon as MLA. He has been MLA six times here. Ever since his defeat, say residents; he has lost no opportunity to stir up communal feelings. For instance, while all over India Muslims reacted in a low-key manner to the burning of the Koran in Delhi by Bajrang Dal members, in ultra-sensitive Malegaon, Nihal Ahmed held a public meeting to denounce the act and specifically to expose the claim of Maharashtra's Home Minister that news of the burning was just a rumour.
Ø Communal Forces
In this region, the propaganda of SIMI, Tublic Jamaat, VHP, Bajrang Dal and the new organisation called Jaanta Raja, has been going on in a systematic way.
It must be mentioned here that there are certain implications of the activities undertaken by the Tublic Jamaat, specially in the villages. Since their activities basically amount to spreading awareness of their own religion among Muslims, they seem innocuous. However, their interpretation of religion, if fully practised in letter and spirit, would require Muslims to assert themselves as culturally different, for e.g., wearing a certain type of attire, or growing beards. It would also lead them to distance themselves from and denounce the composite culture found in villages, which involves participation in village festivals such as Urs and jatras. Hindus naturally resent this attitude and this results in alienation of those who practice Tublic teachings. This also contributes to communal tension in the rural areas.
The VHP and Bajrang Dal have been particularly active in nearby villages with their campaign for building of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya. The VHP plans to mobilise thousands of volunteers from all over India to assemble at Ayodhya by March 12, 2002, the date they have announced for the beginning of the reconstruction of the temple. In an interview in MID-DAY (December 6, 2001), the Maharashtra secretary of the Bajrang Dal described the campaign as a ‘Dharmayudh' against 'Islamic and Christian terrorism'. The interview revealed that mosques in particular are being vilified in the campaign as storehouses of arms.
Significantly, villages in Sangli, Jalgaon and Nasik have seen a spate of riots this year.
Ø The October 19th 2001, Morcha
The rally organized by Nihal Ahmed on October 19, to protest against the American bombing of Afghanistan, was joined by a few youngsters who were carrying Osama posters. Some of them raised pro-Osama slogans also. Nihal Ahmad announced at the start of the procession that his morcha had nothing to do with Osama, but those carrying Osama's posters continued in the procession almost flanking him. This image was caught on TV and relayed throughout Malegaon. The anti-America, pro- Osama sentiments of a section of Muslims came across very clearly this time - specially to Malegaon's Hindus.
This morcha reinforced in their mind the growing stereotype of Islam as a terrorism-promoting religion of which Osama Bin laden is a symbol. Since Septemeber 11, anti-Muslim sentiments were strongly prevalent here.
Ø Maha Arti :
Significantly, the Janata Dal rally was followed by a maha arti held by the Shiv Sena and Jaanta Raja. Participants of the morcha and the maha arti were arrested and immediately released - an indication of the importance given to these communally provocative programmes by the police.
Ø The Role of the Police in the Riots :
The effectivity of the police in preventing and controlling the riots is questionable! Despite senior police functionaries of the state as well as Minister of State for Home Manikrao Thakre, camping in Malegaon from the second ?? day itself, the riots kept spreading in nearby villages. Here, much of the violence took place on the main Agra Road, the highway. We heard reports from Muslim refugees about how they were stopped on the main roads by Hindu mobs who were not deterred even by the presence of policemen escorting the Muslims. It remains a mystery why the army was not asked to control the situation in Malegaon on Saturday, October 27, when it seemed clear that the police could not do so.
Given the communal build up in the area and the morcha just a week earlier, it seems strange that the intelligence wing of the police had not informed the police authorities about the mood in the Muslim community and specifically, the contents of the leaflet to be distributed. A similar call to boycott US goods had been issued in Lucknow and much nearer, in Mumbai, already. Urdu papers were full of the news of such boycotts. Knowing that such a leaflet was to be distributed, the police could have been prepared on how to deal with its distribution.
The police point to the posting of the SRP outside the Jama Masjid on October 26 as a precautionary measure. This is adding insult to injury. The SRP is not trained to handle sensitive situations. More importantly, it has shown in riot after riot its anti-Muslim attitude.
Secondly, if indeed the police were taking precautions, how is it that they had not stocked up on tear-gas shells. Had they done so, perhaps so many persons may not have died in police firing. A measure of their " precaution" on that day is the absence from the town of the SP.
Posting an Urdu-knowing policeman outside the masjid on that day would seem the obvious thing to have done. Yet, this was not done, hence the contents of the leaflet remained a mystery to the police – despite the English banner of ``Be Indian Buy Indian’’. One wonders whether any Urdu-knowing policeman can be found in the police force of this Muslim-majority, communally sensitive town.
The police have no excuse for not being able to have prevented this riot. The 92-93 Mumbai riots have surely not been forgotten by the police. The Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry, which investigated the riots, has listed several measures on riot prevention. Had they wanted to, the police in Malegaon and their superiors in Mumbai could have implemented these measures.
The Srikrishna Commission recommends as a riot-prevention measure that police should interact closely with the public and meticulously document & crosscheck intelligence inputs – something, which the police should be doing anyway. The Commission has also recommended that processions in sensitive areas and during periods of communal tension are forbidden; that communal propaganda is immediately curbed and Rapid Action Force units are kept on stand-by.
A document compiled by the Home Department in 1986 lists the guidelines which police must follow while dealing with communal disturbances. This document has been referred to in the Srikrishna Commission report. Significantly, In Chapter II Para 2.4 the guidelines in no uncertain terms identify 13 parties/organizations in Maharashtra as communal. Heading the list are the RSS and the Shiv Sena. These organizations were very active in the villages around Malegaon for many months before the riots, but the police seem to have ignored their activities.
This document also directs the police to keep updated lists of communal goondas who can be rounded up preventively during periods of communal tension and once riots begin. In Malegaon, all the rounding up was done after the riots began.
Once the riot began, the police’s handling of the situation also raises some questions.
a) Though both communities were equally violent in the town, and only Hindu rioters were active in the villages, only Muslims died in police firing.
b) The death of a housewife Bilkis Bano in her first-floor veranda a furlong away from Peri Chowk, during the very first incident of firing, shows the indiscriminate nature of the firing.
c) The bullet injury in the back of his left foot to Rizwan Ahmed Iqbal Ahmed, indicates that in the first firing incident at least, the police were shooting at people who were running away.
d) The firing at Mira Datar Nagar on Oct 28 appears to have been totally unprovoked. The police version that the mob was trying to set fire to the power station seems baseless.
e) The main pipeline was breached in 11 places possibly by the use of heavy implements, by a Hindu mob (according to the SP), but no police firing seems to have taken place there. Similarly, it must have taken time for the Muslim-owned Diamond Power loom Complex to be burnt - again no police firing took place there. So also the damage done to Phaltan Masjid could not have been inflicted as a hit-and-run operation. Again, no firing here. These instances show that the police were unwilling to fire on violent Hindu mobs.
f) 13 Muslims were injured in the police firing. Of the 5 victims of mob violence, 4 were Muslims. 3 masjids and 2 temples were damaged in Malegaon, while many masjids were damaged in the villages. The phenomenon of more loss of life and damage to places of worship of Muslims in a Muslim-majority area needs an explanation.
The explanation probably lies in the police bias against the minority community, evident from the above instances. This bias has been well-documented by Justice B N Srikrishna's Inquiry into the 92-93 Mumbai riots, and has come through in most communal riots all over India. Police, while dealing with minorities, Dalits, industrial workers and tribals, i.e. deprived sections of society, seem to become utterly trigger-happy.
One reason for this bias is the very low percentage of Muslims in the police force. This has serious consequences: in this specific riot, the police’s ignorance of the contents of the leaflet being distributed outside Jam Masjid led to them over-reacting. One reason why the police are so insensitive with minorities in every riot is that minorities have barely any representation in it. Like all other sections of society, policemen too have their biases. Since the police force in our country is largely made up of the majority community, it reflects the biases of that community. Hence the necessity to recruit, as a policy, members of every community in the force.
No attempt has been made by the authorities to counter this anti-minority bias during the police’s training and later. Justice Srikrishna’s recommendation that the police should be de-communalised and his specific suggestions on how this should be done, seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
But while the police have ignored this – and most other – recommendations of the Commission, they are fully aware of the Commission’s recommendation of strict action against policemen who killed innocent persons or shielded rioters or themselves rioted in the Mumbai riots. The government has now appointed a judicial commission to probe the Malegaon riots. It is learnt that the Malegaon police have made it clear to the Home Minister that if this commission indicts them as the Srikrishna Commission and the Gundewar Commission did, and if the government takes legal action against them as it has against ex-CP of Mumbai Ram Deo Tyagi, and SRP Inspector Manohar Kadam, they will never take action against a riotous mob again.
Here it must be pointed out that the theory of police demoralisation by the Tyagi and Kadam episodes is used only to justify police inaction. Thus when the Sena ran amok after Anand Dighe's death in Thane, the police attributed their own inactivity to the FIR against Tyagi and his so-called arrest. But when just two months after the Thane episode, the police were confronted by a violent mob of Muslims in Malegaon, they lost no time in swinging their lathis and reaching for their guns. No demoralization was evident then.
After the firing too, the police showed insensitivity to the victims’ families. The families of those who died and who were injured in the firing told us that the police neither took the injured to the hospital nor did they help the relatives to do so. These families did not even get curfew passes to take the injured to the hospital.
Ø The Government’s Role
The government’s failure to prevent the riot is unforgivable because one of the planks on which it came to power was that of secularism, security of the minorities, as well as implementation of the Srikrishna Commission Report. It was on the question of secularism that the Congress and the NCP came together and were supported by the entire non-Sena-BJP opposition.
As soon as it came to power, the government should have instructed the Home Department to study the Srikrishna Commission Report and initiate implementation of short-term and long-term measures of riot prevention and control, to which the Commission has devoted a long chapter.
This should have at least become necessary after the spate of minor communal incidents which took place almost immediately after this government came to power, in different parts of Maharashtra, including Aurangabad, where one person died in a police lathi-charge on December 6, 1999.
This year again, interior Maharashtra has seen a series of communal disturbances. The State Minorities Commission has filed reports with the government based on its observations on the way the police have handled these disturbances. But the government seems to have issued no guidelines to the police on this matter. Nor has it done anything about strengthening its intelligence machinery. Witness the saffron flags planted overnight on an idgah in Jalgaon in the last week of November, leading to violence there. This incident, coming in the wake of the Malegaon riots and an aborted VHP rally in Jalgaon, must squarely be ascribed to failure of intelligence and sheer carelessness of the Jalgaon police.
In Malegaon, on the day the riot broke out, all the officials occupying the top decision-making posts in the town were away: the DM, the SDM and the SP. Given the steady build up in communal tension since August, how was this allowed to happen?
The government has now appointed a one-man commission comprising retired High Court Judge, Justice K.N. Patil to investigate the riots. We hope this is not made an excuse, as the Srikrishna Commission was, for inaction against riot accused, including policemen who indulged in unprovoked, excessive or indiscriminate firing. Mumbai's riot victims are already asking: " When the government does not have the will to implement the Srikrishna Commission Report, why appoint another commission? Just to fool people?'
Ø Power Politics:
The dynamics of power, the struggle for political clout in the forthcoming Municipal elections between the JD (S) president Nihal Ahmed, the Congress MLA Rashid Sheikh and the Shiv Sena-BJP emerges as a backdrop to this riot. The extent to which political parties and politicians can stoop to grab power, irrespective of the human and social costs, is painfully obvious here. The Sena used Bachav’s death to win sympathy from Hindus by immediately announcing in Saamna an Rs 2 lakh donation to his family, with a promise of looking after his dependants.
However, while communal parties may be expected to act communally, the Congress, and the NCP, despite professing to be secular parties, seem unwilling to prevent the activities of the communal forces, specially the gradual and systematic spread of communal poison in all sections of civil society, even those previously left untouched by it, e.g., the rural areas. At best the ruling parties in Maharashtra act as spectators to this process; at worst, they take electoral advantage of the situation.
Meanwhile, when a riot erupts taking them by surprise, they look upon it merely as a law-and-order problem, and even fail to control it as such.
As for the other 'secular’ parties, which support this government -the Janata Dal, the PWP, the CPI and the CPI (M) -, they give no priority to countering the continuous communal propaganda of the Shiv Sena–BJP. Their cadre, in the absence of any ideological direction from their leadership, act on communal lines whenever a communal situation arises.
When LK Advani’s rath yatra was leaving a rail of blood across the country of Hindus and Muslims, Zoya Hasan, a renowned sociologist wrote, "Clearly secular consciousness in India is only skin-deep. This is largely the consequence of policies and strategies pursued by the Congress for three decades and the Janata in its regime. It continues to view communal violence as a law and order problem it has not been able to recognize the fact that the part of the antagonism stems from outright ignorance and distortion of information. In spite of living together for centuries most of Hindus and Muslims don’t know about each other’s values, traditions and customs. Each has a stereotyped and distorted image of the other. Such images must be counteracted because the communal problem in our view, has as much to do with ingrained prejudice as with political rivalry and economic competition.” Her observations unfortunately still hold true.
The ideological bankruptcy of the Congress and the NCP was particularly evident in Malegaon in the unseemly public wrangling over the issue of paying Rs 2 lakh as compensation to the families of those killed in the riots. Deputy CM Chhagan Bhujbal went on record as saying that such payment amounted to judging the police firing as wrong, whereas CM Vilasrao Deshmukh had no argument to counter this line of thought, which tallied exactly with the Shiv Sena-BJP-police’s attitude. The CM’s silence made it obvious that the decision was taken at the behest of his party president, Sonia Gandhi. It came to be seen as yet another example of 'Muslim appeasement’ by the Congress.
Ø The Use of Women in these Riots
The fate of women in communal riots has been well commented by different sociologists. The events of this riot are no different from the pattern already analysed. Here too, men rioted and women suffered. The riot widows, most of them very young, hardly spoke to us, as their in-laws did all the talking. They seemed to have no control over their future.
In Malegaon, we saw the concept of women's izzat being used to arouse communal feelings and to justify communal violence. Rumours of Hindu women being raped, their breasts cut, and Osama Bin laden's name being inscribed on their chest began doing the rounds from the very beginning of the riots.
These rumours travelled to the villages surrounding Malegaon and provided an immediate provocation for violence against Muslims there. Neither the administration, nor the media, did anything to counter these rumours.
On November 4, i.e., eight days after the riots began, Shiv Sena leader Narayan Rane, Leader of the Opposition, and ex-CM of Maharashtra, alleged at a press conference that 20 Hindu women had been molested. When he was asked by a female reporter of The Asian Age to take her to meet these women, Rane declined. But his allegation was reported on the front page of the Sena mouthpiece Saamna. Its effect on Saamna's readers all over Maharashtra can be well imagined.
This allegation was also made to our team. We asked all those who said so to take us to those women, but no one could. When we asked them whether they had personal knowledge of any such woman, they replied in the negative. We nevertheless visited the areas in which such incidents were said to have taken place. But responsible local social workers and leaders - Hindus themselves - either made it clear that no such incident had taken place in their area, or said that they too had heard about them but could not direct us to anyone who knew for sure about any such incident. The Sena told us that the women had been shifted to Nasik and from there to Jalgaon, but admitted that their own inquiries there had yielded nothing. But to them, this itself was a confirmation that such incidents had taken place, as it was proof that the government had successfully hidden these women to protect the Muslim culprits!
The SP told us no such complaint had been filed, nor had they come across any such incident. The rumour therefore, seems to have been just that. Yet, it was the talk of the town among the Hindus, who did not care, about finding out whether it was true or not. In the villages where they had lived with Muslims in peace for generations, this rumour allowed them to support the violence against the latter by outsiders.
Yet we did meet a Muslim woman who had been raped in the nearby village of Umrane. Those raping her had taunted her that they were doing to her what her men folk had done to their women. She, and Bilkis Bano, were the only two women we met, who had been directly affected by the riot.
A similar use of the ideals of women's chastity and 'honour' was made in the Karanj Gavan incident referred to above. In that incident, the girl's parents confirmed to us that no rape took place, though the girl was stripped. In our visit, we did not find that the parents or anybody else in the family perceived the incident as communally motivated. Though the sexually-motivated assault was undoubtedly ghastly, the Hindutva organizations misused the incident by trying to give a communal colour and propagated that a Muslim boy had raped a Hindu girl and that the Muslim community needed to be taught a lesson for this.
This phenomenon reminds one of the attitudes towards women of his own, and women of the 'other' community, by the ideologue of Hindutva, V.D. Savarkar. In his book ‘Saha Soneri Pane’ (Six Golden Pages) from Indian History, he writes, "Shivaji is praised for sending the daughter in law of Nawab of Kalyan with honour. But did he (Shivaji) or Chimaji Appa forget the rape of Hindu women by Muslim invaders? Those women raped by Muslim invaders must have shouted in anguish 'Shivaji, Chimaji Appa don't forget the rape committed on us by the Muslim Lords. You should terrorise them in such a way that they should shiver with terror as to what will happen to 'their' women' when Hindus will come to power. When they will realise that 'their women will also be subjected to such atrocities, then only they will stop doing these atrocities on Hindu women" (see Annex C)
One must say the Hindutva politicians are following their ideologue in this matter in letter and in spirit! And the 'secular' Democratic Front government of the state is doing nothing to counter this. On the contrary, when Malegaon has barely recovered from the first major riot in the State after 92-93, and when interior Maharashtra is continuously witnessing one communal incident after another the DF government has decided to grant tax exemption to a film glorifying Veer Savarkar, and allowed a procession to be taken out in one of Mumbai's main areas to mark the release of the film!
Ø The Role of the Media:
While we could not get much information on the role of the Urdu press, the Marathi press in Malegaon followed the usual practice of newspapers in all communal riots: mostly reporting the police version of events. This practice seems to have remained unchanged for the last 30 years, as evident from veteran journalist S.B. Kolpe's comments in the wake of the first major communal riot in India, in Jabalpur, "The facts were collected from the local police who were not free from communal bias, and no reporter ever bothered to verify the 'facts' doled out to him."
Few took the trouble of finding out, for example, if the rumours of rapes of Hindu women were right. The English press, specially Indian Express, did go out of its way to actually meet the riot victims and ordinary residents of both communities, and giving quite a comprehensive picture of the riots. The Asian Age reporter who asked Narayan Rane to take her to the raped Hindu women also need to be complimented. Had she not asked this question and exposed his lie, the entire press may have printed his allegation.
The local press certainly did not perform its duty of nailing dangerous rumours and verifying facts. Even a newspaper like Sakal wrote on Oct. 27, 2001 that the Muslims resorted to private firing, which was not mentioned even by the SP.
Summary and Conclusions:
The immediate provocation for the Malegaon riots was the scuffle between the police and the Muslims over the innocuous distribution of the swadeshi leaflet. If the police had placed more faith and confidence in Muslims and not doubted what was just a normal activity, i.e. distribution of leaflets outside a mosque after Friday namaz, no riot would have ensued then. As Imtiaz Ahmad points out, “Such violence is usually sparked off by fairly superficial and trivial causes though underlying them are deeper considerations of political representation, control of and access to resources and power etc. These trivial causes come to occupy a symbolic significance for the group and conflicts arise from any interference with the group's autonomy, security and identity.’’
Before the riots, tension was being built up to consolidate the two communities behind political parties in the light of the forthcoming Municipal elections. The communal politicians (BJP-Shiv Sena) have been trying to organise Hindus, as can be seen in the spate of communal incidents in Maharashtra, some in villages near Malegaon, mostly targeting Muslims. Witness the campaign amongst Hindus by the Shiv Sena-Jaanta Raja using the Karanj Gavan incident of sexually motivated assault on a girl child on August 18 and giving a communal colour to the incident in the villages around Malegaon.
The activities of the Tublic Jamaat had also created resentment among Hindus in many villages, specially where the outcome of the activities had been an assertion by the Muslims of their separate cultural identity, their renovation of old and construction of new mosques, and their withdrawal from the village tradition of celebrating festivals jointly.
In Malegaon itself, Nihal Ahmad’s attempt to win back his base has been evident at least from March this year. Nihal Ahmed also visited Karanj Gavan and blew up the incident of attack on its mosque by holding a public meeting in Malegaon. His orchestrated campaign to whip up Muslim sentiments over various issues culminated in the anti-US morcha in which pro-Osama posters were carried by some youth.
The State Goverment and the police proved ineffective in preventing and controlling the riot. During the riots, the anti-minority attitude of the police resulted in more loss of life to Muslims. In the very first firing incident, a bullet hit Bilkis Banu, who was drying clothes in the first floor balcony of her house. Considering the location of the balcony and the spot where the firing took place, one can conclude that the bullet which hit her was not a stray bullet. The police used excessive force and fired haphazardly on the retreating mob.
The apathy of police towards the Muslims was also evident from the fact that police totally ignored the injured and left them on the roads to die. The bias of police is also evident from the fact that they did not fire on mobs vandalising Muslim properties.
The role of the police officer who gave the shooting orders at Mira Datar Nagar must be investigated as the firing there was totally uncalled for.
The Shiv Sena used rumours about rape of Hindu women to build up insecurity and hatred among Hindus all over Maharashtra, whereas the only case of rape, which we could personally verify, was that of a Muslim woman. Police made no attempt to counter these rumours. No steps were taken to book those communal leaders who spread rumours knowing them to be false.
The outcome of the riot has been alienation of Hindus, and to an extent, of the Muslims from the Congress. Growing support to the Hindutva ideology was also evident leading to political and social polarisation of the communities. Nihal Ahmed on one hand and Shiv Sena-Janata Raja on the other hand stand to benefit from such a polarisation. As it always does, the Sena used its mouthpiece Saamna to spread its version of the riots.
Ignoring the communal build up over a period of time, the State woke up only when the tension proved to be threat to law and order problem. However, in the rural areas, even the meagre law and order machinery is absent. Those who strive to whip up communal sentiments in rural areas will always have a free hand. The only way out is mutual understanding and co-operation between members of both the communities, which is a long-term, ongoing process which can only be undertaken by committed activists.
Note: The team would like to express immense gratitude towards Prof. Ram Puniyani for his help in writing the report. Discussions with Prof. Puniyani helped a great in compiling this Report
1. Gundewar, (1998), ' Report on
2. Imtiaz Ahmed ( 1991), " Perspective on The Communal Problem in Communal Riots in Post-Independence India", edited by A.A.Engineer , Sangam Books, Hyderabad, Second Edition, p. 140.
3. Indian Express, 7 th November 2001. Kolpe S.B, (1991)," Caste and Communal Violance and the Role of the Press", in Communal Riots in Post-Independence India", edited by A.A.Engineer , Sangam Books, Hyderabad, Second Edition, p.340.
4. Malika Babasaheb Mistry(2001), "Muslim Fertility in India: A Micro-Study (Malegaon City),Institute of Objective Studies, and New Delhi.
5. Sakal Marathi News Paper, 27 th October to 4 th November 2001
6. Savarkar V.D.(1997 ), ‘Saha Soneri Pane’ Veer Savarkar Prakashan,Mumbai. Savarkar.
7. Zoya Khaliq Hasan (1991)."Communalism and Communal Violence in India", in Communal Riots in Post Independence India, (edited) by A.A. Engineer, Sangam, p. 85, Hydrabad, Second Ediion, p. 85.
Annex - 1
q The POLICE
We met the SP as well as other officers. While the SP Raj Vardhan spoke on record, the others spoke off the record. Perceived by both communities as a strong and impartial officer, Raj Vardhan was called in only on the second day of the riots, and took formal charge on October 28. He was SP in Malegaon from 1999 to May 2001, when he was transferred. Nihal Ahmed had been telling the government to get him back.
Reason for the riot: "The area outside Jama Masjid is the main market. The SRP constable only told the youth to stand on one side and distribute, not to stand in the middle of the road. The youth got angry. A verbal duel ensued. The constable may have torn a pamphlet or two. He caught hold of the youth and told him to get inside the van. Taking advantage of the crowd, the youth started shouting, `Parcha phaad dala.’ A crowd started assembling, demanding that the youth be released and the constable be prosecuted.
The Maulana climbed on the SRP vehicle and told them to go home but they wouldn’t listen. The crowd swelled and began damaging the police vehicle, they even tried to burn it. The fuel tank has been dented; they tried to open its lock. It has been preserved as it was; you can go and see it.
By that time more policemen arrived. There was a Durga statue installed nearby and there was a possibility that it would be damaged. To disperse the crowd, the police conducted a mild lathi-charge. But the crowd kept swelling and reached Peri Chowk.
It was an angry crowd unwilling to listen to the police. It was throwing stones at the police and some miscreants burnt Gupta Dairy. The police then lobbed tear gas shells, but these had no effect. By then the crowd had begun burning more shops and the police had to resort to firing.
By then rumours had begun flying in the town, which is thickly and densely populated. The existing strength of the police was no match for the numbers involved. Hence they couldn’t control the situation till midnight when curfew was imposed. October 26 was Dashera and police had been deployed all over. They couldn’t immediately be withdrawn. By morning, the army and additional SRP began coming in.
That gap – till reinforcements came in – proved crucial. The police present here could control only in the main areas. In the periphery, arson went on, specially because of the rumours that Hindus had been severely affected and Hindu women been raped and paraded naked. This aroused a strong reaction in the surrounding villages, which took one or two days to control. Police did fire there too, but there the force is much less. Those villages have no history of communal riots. How could we deploy forces there in advance?’’
On the firing: " There’s no rule of firing in the air. Fire to kill is not only the motto of the army. Firing should be to deter; hence it should be below the waist. But that doesn’t mean we should fire in the air.
The police fired 94 rounds during the riots, result in eight deaths. Five persons died in mob violence. 13 persons were injured in police firing. Where have the remaining 74 bullets gone? If the police were a ruthless as made out, all 94 bullets would have hit a target.
The first firing took police between 3.30 and 4.30, at Peri Chowk and Mohammed Ali road. 21 rounds were fired, three people died and 10 were injured. 51 policemen were injured in stone throwing. 99.9 % of those who died in the firing are direct hits. This means the police exercised caution while firing, they didn’t fire indiscriminately.
When there’s a huge crowd, the mob is indulging in arson and stone throwing, how do we take aim and fire below the waist? There’s no bunker where we can sit and take aim. It’s but natural that the bullets will hit vital areas. All those who died were rioters; the injured are also accused in rioting. They were all members of the crowd, which was looting, killing; it was an unlawful assembly.
We are very sorry about the death of Bilkis Bano who was hit by a stray bullet – it could have hit anyone. That kind of thing happens by chance.
It’s natural for the victims’ families to now say their children were not rioting. The community is angry with us, we know that, but why were those people at the spot at that time? The firing took place almost one-and-a-half hours after the incident outside the Masjid. By that time all shops had closed. So if they say they were just out shopping or closing their shops, they cannot be believed.
This crowd was violent towards the police from the very beginning. My ASP was hurt by a bottle and then by stone in the very beginning – outside the Jama Masjid. The IG had to have stitches on his nose. Five to seven policemen were hurt in the stone throwing, some on their heads. The MLA tried to pacify the crowd outside the Masjid, but they wouldn’t listen. 102 policemen and 20 officers were injured.’’
On different firing incidents: Bachav’s death. ``From what I understand, he was probably drunk. He went to Kalikutti Masjid with a can full of kerosene, probably wanting to set it on fire. The rest of his people ran away after the police landed up and he remained in the hands of the mob. The police had a lathi-charge and did fire, but there were no casualties.
Datar Nagar firing: There was a mob in a truck, they could have burnt the power station and half of Malegaon would have been in darkness. Two persons died there in police firing.’’
Why no Hindu died in police firing: ``We fire when we feel there’s going to be loss of property and loss of life. Our objective is to disperse the crowd. We don’t see the religion of the crowd before firing.’’
On the composition of the rioters: ``On both sides they were below 20 years. Violent, agitated and wanting to take advantage of the situation. They don’t know a line of religion – and they talk of their religious feelings being hurt. They go into the Masjid after drinking liquor. It’s not religion which agitates them, they were just drunk. They are directionless, they have no ideals, this generation doesn’t know where to go, and they have no opportunities. It’s a social issue. You can’t expect the police to solve it. I can’t bring peace by lathis.’’
Who breached the water pipeline? “Hindus did.”
On the absence of key officials on that day: ``The SDM couldn’t be located. The DM was not present. The District SP was at Chandwad and reached Malegaon in one-and-a-half hours. The additional SP was there.’’
On the police’s lack of preparation: ``Nothing had happened to make us believe there would be a communal riot. In Malegaon a riot can happen any moment. Why Malegaon, all over India the way communal propaganda is going on, anytime a riot can take place.
I don’t consider Nihal Ahmed’s morcha as a cause of the riot. I know the processionsists carried Laden's pictures – which are an anti-national act, Our government has branded him a terrorist. Every genuine Indian would feel offended by his glorification; it’s not a question of religion. A case has been filed against Ahmed him and the processionists.
At any rate, the SRP had been stationed as a precaution.’’
Whether the police overreacted to the distribution of the leaflet, and whether they could have behaved more sensitively. : "Why couldn’t the Muslims have brought out the leaflet in Marathi also, so as to include the other community?
The SRP is not trained to handle mobs sensitively.
And what of the reaction of the crowd? This kind of mentality should not be encouraged. They should know they can't play with the law. They have no right to react violently if the police stop them from doing something. Suppose the police had allowed the leaflets to be distributed among only one community in a crowded market place, and a Hindu-Muslim riot had erupted? We would then have been blamed for not stopping it.’’
On the night-long azaan: It’s wrong to say they were calling upon their community to fight. I asked the ulema and they told me it’s a practice to call out the azaan when Muslims are in distress. I told them, why should it be done on the loudspeaker?’’
On ex-CM Narayan Rane’s provocative statements about the alleged rape of Hindu women: ``He said this on November 4; the riot was over. He said he had learnt that such a thing had happened, and the newspapers reported what he had said. What action can we take against either of them?
As far as the press is concerned, my experience is – the more you restrain it, the more rumours fly. Law can’t stop everything. In this riot, we’ve tried to be as transparent as possible.’’
On Nihal Ahmed’s role: ``I’m not defending him, but I think all you journalists have been taken in by his rivals who blame him for the riot. His morcha had nothing to do with it.
Similarly, everyone’s asking why he went to Karanj Gavan on November 7, after the riots. The whole world is descending ion those villages, then why are questions being asked only about him?’’
On policemen being denied entry into Faraan Hospital: ``R. M. Kedare, SP, Nasik, tried to go to the hospital to see how many had been injured in the police firing. It was in the heat of the firing, the hospital was full of relatives, and he was told to come back when things were cooler. Nobody told him `You can’t enter the hospital.’ He did go back, the police have taken the statements of the injured.’’
On the Tublic-Jamaat’s activities: `Their activities are increasingly being looked upon with suspicion. Especially now, after the Afghan crisis, a stereotype of the Muslim has been created by the world media which is the very antithesis of Indian nationhood. In the Kargil war, many soldiers from here were killed. The villagers here feel they were killed by Muslims. The Tublic members become the object of the sum of all this suspicion.’’
q Other police officers.
In an informal discussion with senior police officers we learnt their perception of the Malegaon situation. They ascribed the riots to economic insecurity. They pointed out that this time; the property loss was greater than the number of lives lost. In predominantly Muslim areas, Hindus could have been massacred, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the symbols of the community – temples, mosques as well as the symbols of economic power—power looms, factories, were burnt.
According to them, both communities were breaking out of their traditional fields of business - which was power looms for Muslims and trading for Hindus. Thus pipe factories belonging to Muslims and power looms belonging to Hindus were targeted. It was a warning to them not to extend their influence in other areas.
Secondly, the message sent by these riots was that if the Hindus are not allowed to live in peace here, Muslims won’t be allowed to do so in the villages.
The importance of the upgradation of Malegaon from a municipality to a municipal corporation is in the economic growth this would unleash. In Malegaon, there’s no scope for the Malis and Marathas in the town’s traditional occupation of weaving and trading in yarn. Muslims and Marwaris control those two fields. Therefore the Marathas and Malis want to start small factories, for which an MIDC zone is needed. They see a potential here for industries such as food processing, But the infrastructure for these can only come when Malegaon becomes a corporation.
On the other hand are the Muslims, the majority of whom are migrants from UP. They have no roots in the area, they aren’t interested nor can they buy land in the villages. Their stake is in Malegaon itself. But they are not seen as sons of the soil.
They are Nihal Ahmed’s constituency. His fear is that once Malegaon becomes a corporation, the Hindus from the surrounding villages will dominate the economy and the Muslims will be pushed into a walled city ghetto, as has happened elsewhere. Their clout will diminish. According to them, Ahmed’s attempt is to create a political space for himself, and to see to it that no one else encroaches on it. That space is as the leader of Malegaon’s Muslims.) (corrected)
These officers said Nihal Ahmed did not have the muscle power to plan a riot. One reason he had picked up Rashid Shaikh in the 90s was because the latter, with 43 cases against him ranging from extortion to women trafficking, had the required musclepower.
But they said, he had the capacity to control the crowd outside the Jama masjid or even later when the riot was on in full swing. They felt he had not done so because he knew this riot would damaged the standing of his rival, Congress MLA Rashid Shaikh.
Significantly, the officers admitted that the police should have fired on the Hindu mobs too. They mentioned that the destruction at Phaltan mosque by Hindus merited two rounds at least. It was not done because " The force is communal, we all know that.’’
q Mr. Nihal Ahmed, President, Janata Dal(S), Maharashtra
The 75-year-old Socialist has been universally blamed for the riots. Undoubtedly, he further vitiated the communally charged atmosphere by taking out what ultimately became a pro-Laden morcha. The rivalry between him and his one-time protégé, Rashid Shaikh, who defeated him in the 99 assembly elections, ending a 22-year-unbroken hold over the constituency, is what spurs him on to hold on to and expand his base – the predominantly migrant and poor Muslims. Every action of his is geared towards arousing religious feelings among the Muslims, even at the cost of alienating Hindus.
This trend began after 1972, when he first tasted electoral defeat at the hands of a Congress candidate Ayesha Hakim. Till then, recall Malegaon’s Hindus, he even participated with them in major festivals. He was elected as MLA in 1977, after the emergency, and remained MLA till 1999.
About five years ago, he had kicked a Ganpati pandal because it blocked the way of a Moharram procession, sparking off a minor riot.
One of the reasons he lost in 1999 was his failure to do anything for Malegaon in his 22 years as its MLA. Though he has helped regularise unauthorised slums, residents of those slums were also fed up of him. One Muslim rickshaw driver told us that they decided to vote him out only because he had become inaccessible and he never did their work at one go. ``He would openly say: "If I do all your work at once, you won’t come back to me.” This driver said that on the other hand, anyone could walk into Rashid Shaikh’s office with their problem. He would listen to you and ask you to get all those affected by the problem to his office. He would even arrange to take the affected group to Mantralaya.
In a long interview with two members of the team, Ahmed defended himself. He ascribed his defeat in 99 to the ganging up of the Shiv Sena, BJP, Hindu Ekta behind the Congress’ Dakhni Muslim candidate, and the use of goonda elements. ``The Congress had tried to dislodge me for six terms, and failed. So this time they got together with the Sena and BJP to defeat me.’’
Asked why he could not get the support of Hindus, he said that Hindus from his party voted for him. ``Traditionally, Hindus have opted for the Congress – in Malegaon, they even used to put up boards saying ‘No non-Congress candidate should come here to campaign’. Then the BJP began gaining ground among them. Today, communal propaganda has a greater influence on people. Realising this, the Sena-BJP has tried to use it to get power.’’
The only time Hindus outside his party voted for him was after the emergency, when he was the Janata Party candidate and the BJP was part of the JP.
He denied that his morcha had contributed to the riots, pointing out instead to the Karanj Gavan incident on August 18, in which the Sena-BJP-Jaanta Raja descended on the village to attack the Muslims who had to flee from there and come to Malegaon. ``The Tublic Jamaat people were beaten badly there and they came here and told everybody about it. Even Muslim women were beaten in that attack. Didn’t that heat up the atmosphere?’’
About his morcha, Ahmed said he knew from the beginning he would be able to control it, and he did, despite stone throwing from the Congress. ``I prevented the people from retaliating, and had those people arrested. But no action was taken against them.’’
Ahmed described his mocha as a satyagraha by 7-8000 people, It was to oppose the US bombardment and to tell people that force can never crush terrorism. The Indian experience was that movements like JP’s and Sarvodaya have brought so-called terrorist groups in Nagaland to the negotiating table, and won over dacoits in the Chambal.
``My morcha had nothing to do with Laden, I said as much there. I said those who don’t understand this can go home.’’
Why did he feel the need to take out the morcha at all? ``Who would do it then? It was in the air. Someone else would have taken it out and raised hell in the city. Those who wanted to do so were scared, but I knew my line was correct.’’
Why then didn’t he take out a joint Hindu-Muslim morcha? “Which Hindus would come with me?’’
Wasn’t the morcha a ploy to get the Muslims behind him for the forthcoming elections? `Who prevented the Congress from taking out a morcha? In politics, whoever’s clever, uses whatever opportunity is available to him.’’
Ahmed ascribed the riots to the administration’s failure, specially the police. ``All the gamblers, goondas are with the current MLA. The additional SP here was himself too busy drinking and gambling to control these activities. Malegaon is a sensitive town, the kind of officers posted here is important. I’ve written four times to Bhujbal on this: post an impartial, non-corrupt officer. But they feel there are better people than me who they should listen to.’’
According to Ahmed, Rashid Shaikh played a part in inciting the police against the Muslims. ``He was sitting with the police outside the mosque and whispering God knows what to them.’’
Ahmed also alleged that within 10 minutes of the lathi-charge at the mosque and the crowd running away, the Shiv Sena burnt a Bohra Muslim’s rexene shop behind the mosque, and after that the Muslims burnt Gupta Dairy. But he added, ``The Sena-BJP will do their work – else how will it survive? But what about the police? It’s their job to control.’’
Nihal Ahmed blamed the police for firing on people who were simply standing, in an area where no Hindu shops were burnt.
Why didn’t he use his clout over the Muslims to control them outside the Masjid?
``Why should I? It was not my programme. I am responsible for my programmes and I proved it with my morcha. If they didn’t have the power to control their followers, why did they have the distribution of pamphlets?’’
But so many lives would have been saved had he pacified the crowd. So many young people wouldn’t have died. ``Everyone has to die some day. They are fools, nasamajh log, hawa chalti hai, woh kood padte hain.’’ (ignorant people, the wind flows in a certain direction and they jump into it.)
Why hadn’t he visited Hindu riot victims? “Why should I? Do they vote for me?”
Asked about why he has acquired the image of a communal Muslim leader, Ahmed replied, ``I work among the poor, not the rich. I help them regularise their slums, make them owners of their land, seeing that those living below poverty line get their ration cards – I’ve helped issue 40,000 cards. ‘’
What about amenities for them? ``There’s no corporation here. Till 71, the government didn’t even recognise that slumdwellers had a right to exist. Besides, the population’s been increasing because of two reasons: a job was guaranteed here, and also a safe refuge from riots. 50 % of the total 4 lakh 8000 residents of Malegaon live in slums.
``Things are changing now—because of mechanisation, one weaver does the work of six. Unemployment is increasing. ‘’
We asked him whether his election plank would be `Vote for me if you want an end to riots’. ``Why not? I can challenge anyone – if I am made Home Minister, I’ll put an end to riots.’’
The same way as the Sena-BJP did when they were in power?
``Who says they did it? There was one riot during that time when three-four Hindus died. They transferred the policemen immediately. They could prevent riots only by converting the entire state into a jail. They filled terror into everyone’s minds. That’s no way. Where there’s no freedom, people won’t be with you.
``The only solution to riots is to establish contact with the masses. For that you have to have a strong organisation. No politics is possible without a base. I’ve worked with SM Joshi, Nanasaheb Gore. I respect them, but the had no base. I lost because I couldn’t build up an organization. I have to build it now. I openly say—I’m a gandedar Muslim, mujhe jannat nahin chahiye, mujhe party chahiye.’’ I donot want Heaven, I want a political party.)’’
According to Nihal Ahmed, he would do away with riots by carrying the people with him, doing their work and thereby building up their faith.
q Janata Dal councillors
The gulf between Nihal Ahmed and his Hindu councillors came through in a talk we had with the latter. The Hindu Janata Dal councillors had advised Ahmed not to take out the October 19 morcha, but he had refused to listen. During and after the riots, there had been no contact between Ahmed and his Hindu councillors. They alleged that he had not called them for the meeting of his party councillors after the riots. They were thinking of leaving the party, as they were sure they could not face their Hindu voters.
Like other Hindus, these councillors resented the two-lakh compensation to the victims of police firing and the award to Farhan Hospital.
``It’s true these riots wouldn’t have taken place if Nihal Ahmed hadn’t taken out his morcha,’’ said one of them, Deepak Bhosale. ``We had told him we have nothing to do with Laden or Afghanistan, he should not go ahead with it. But his reply had been: `You run the party.’’
Interestingly, like Ahmed, Bhosale also blamed Rashid Shaikh for the riot: ``He was outside the mosque. We don’t know what he told the crowd, what he told the police. And during the riots, he was using the official car to rescue Muslims only.
But we have to admit we could not save the Muslims in our areas. They all fled.’’
Significantly, despite their criticism of their party president’s actions, these councillors felt that he was not communal as an individual. ``Only he could have made a Hindu the Municipal Council President, and he’s done it many times. The Congress could do it only once,’’ said Bhosale.
``Whatever he does is for votes. He’ll do anything for votes,’’ said the others. ``He has even taken the help of Bal Thackeray when it has suited him, when both were fighting against a common enemy. That was when Bhujbal had just left the Sena to join the Congress.’’
These councillors were glad that Raj Vardhan had come as SP. ``He can control anyone, specially the ‘do number dhandhe walen’. Had he remained here, this riot may not have taken place.’’
With all this, the councillors felt that if Nihal Ahmed were to be voted to power in the next elections, ``There’ll be no more riots. After he lost one election, he used to give the power loom owners a hard time, organising the workers, having strikes. The next time, the loom owners decided to vote him to power. He gave them no more trouble. ‘’
Bhosale felt that in the forthcoming elections, because of the ``appeasement of Muslims’’ by the Congress in the riots (compensation to firing victims, award to Farhan Hospital) no Hindu would vote for Rashid, unlike the last time, when everyone, including Sena and BJP members, had voted for him.
q Congress Hindus:
The most obvious fallout of the riots on the Congress party was the alienation of its Hindu local level leaders. This became dramatically evident in the resignation of its local president, Sakharam Bhodke from his post, reportedly for two reasons: a) Rashid Shaikh had named his brother as having been involved in the riots, and b) he disagreed with the grant of compensation to those who had died in the police firing.
``The Congress here had both Hindu ad Muslim support, but by paying Rs 2 lakh compensation to those who did in the riots, the party has alienated Hindus,’’ he said. ``They should have taken the same stand as Indira Gandhi did after the 1983 riots here - we shall first find out if those who died were rioters, and accordingly decide on compensation.’’
This was the stand of all Hindus – Congress or otherwise.
The Congress Hindus shared other perceptions of the riots with non-Congress Hindus:
All of them gave the same version of the cause of the riots: Nihal Ahmed’s morcha and police laxity following it.
1. They justified the police firing as the only way to control the Muslims who had begun attacking the police, and had turned a fight between them and the police into a communal riot, by burning Hindu shops.
2. They maintained that no Hindutva organization could be held responsible for the violence in the villages since ``all Hindus had come out’’. ``The Hindus, specially the youth, got organized as a reaction. No party did it,’` said Bodke.
3. ``If at all the Jaanta Raja played any part,’’ said Suresh Pawar, petrol pump owner, considered close to MLA Shaikh Rashid, ``it was to lead the mob. Not more than a dozen members of the mob would have been members of Jaanta Raja.’’
4. They were angry at the ``mass indiscriminate arrests’’ of Hindus, which they saw as another step to appease Muslims and ``maintain a balance with the deaths of Muslims in police firing’’.
5. They tried to explain the violence by the Hindus. Pawar said the villagers’ violence was an expression of anger at what they saw as Muslim support for Osama Bin Laden, evident in Nihal Ahmed's morcha. Significantly, he added, ``their retaliation was more of a deterrence, to prevent further attacks by Muslims in Malegaon.’’ His explanation was similar to that given by Bhimrao Patil of the NCP, ex-Sarpanch of Dyane, ``Jaanta Raja's role was to protect the Hindus ad stop the Muslims.’’
6. They did not find it strange that the police did not fire on the Hindus. ``The Hindus didn't attack them. Also, the Hindus burnt properties at night in areas were no police was there. They didn't gather in big mobs and confront the police,’’ said Sakharam Bhodke.
7. They were angry at the Rs 2 lakh compensation, and the special grant to Farhan hospital. The former they described as a `reward for rioting’, and the latter, `a reward for breaking the law by not allowing SP Kedare to enter the hospital premises after the firing’’. They also asked why no grant was given to the decrepit government hospital. They felt if the Congress really cared for Muslims, it should compensate the Muslims in the villages.
One disturbing factor was the suspicion and bitterness within the Congress between its Hindu and Muslim members. Though the murder of former Councillor Khalil Ahmed had shocked them, they did not mention it until specifically asked about it. Khalil was said to be Bhodke’s right-hand man. But while Khalil’s family was bitter that he had not come to the pay his last respects, others told us that he had been turned back by Khalil’s supporters when he went to Khalil’s house.
We heard the accusation from Nihal Ahmed’s daughter that Suresh Pawar had supplied petrol to the Hindu rioters to burn Muslim properties. Pawar told us he too had heard the accusation. But what pained him was that Rashid Shaikh, for whom he had campaigned, had believed it. ``I suppose if he argues in my defence, he will lose the support of his followers,’’ he said.
Though Pawar had campaigned for Rashid Shaikh, when we mentioned to him that we wanted to meet the families of the firing victims, he said he would have to arrange for a Muslim to accompany us. “They all live in Muslim areas,’’ he explained.
The Congress members however, did regret the distance that had come about between the communities. Said Bhodke, “Nihal Ahmed has been trying to foul up the atmosphere for the last one year. Now he's finally succeeded. We can't enter each other's areas. This is a town where the Hindu traders and Muslim weavers deal with each other on trust. They write own their transactions on chits of paper, very few use banks. Today that trust has evaporated.
``And Nihal Ahmed was the man who used to do the Ganpati arti during Ganeshotsav - till he first tasted electoral defeat in 1972.’’
Suresh Pawar was one of the few Hindus who mentioned names of Muslims who had been badly affected in Malegaon, such as Ibrahim Seth. He felt the riots were also a symptom of a deeper illness: no one had inculcated in Malegaon’s poor Muslims the culture of respect for the law. Admitting that as a political worker, he interacted mostly with ordinary Muslims, not the educated ones, he described the latter as an elite to whom no one listened.
Among the Congress Hindus we met, the one man on whom the riots seemed to have made the deepest impact was Baliram Thisgay, former Congress councillor, senior party member, and riot victim. His STD-cum-TV repair shop was burnt on the night of Oct 26 around 8.30 pm. He seemed totally shattered and isolated by what had happened. However, he had not turned communal or vengeful.
The riots were the second tragedy in less than six months - he had lost his five-year-old grandson recently and the family had not yet recovered from the boy's sudden death.
We reproduce his remarks in full:
``The mob was about 2-3000, shouting their usual slogans: Nara-e-takbeer, Allah-o-Akbar. They seemed like Janata Dal people – some were even middle-aged. They had stones, bottles, and talwars. We had nothing. This is the first riot in which we’ve seen burning balls of cloth being used.
One police van kept patrolling from 8.30 to 10 pm. But it didn’t remain here. Bandobast was arranged only around 7.30 the next morning.
The atmosphere had worsened after Nihal’s morcha. Hindus were very angry at the processionists’ support for Laden.
My loss must be about Rs 8 lakhs. The shop wasn’t insured. My other shop was insured, but nothing happened to it because they couldn’t break the second lock on its door.
It’s a good thing the 15-16 gas cylinders kept near my shop didn’t explode. We stopped PSI Patil’s van and he brought the cylinders here. He saved the town.
Though I’ve lived opposite Muslims since we shifted here from my village in 1980, I’ve never faced any problems. My relationship with some Muslims is more than that of a blood brother. Many of them came and told me how sorry they feel about what happened to me.
But the Congress MLA for whose election I had worked (Rashid Shaikh) hasn’t yet come to meet me. Before this happened, whenever he would come this side, he wouldn’t leave without visiting me. In the 92-93 riots, we Congress Hindus and Muslims roamed together, trying to calm down people.
It’s doubtful that the Congress will come back to power in Malegaon – at least not in the Hindu areas. The CM whizzed by in his car from this area. He didn’t get down.
The answer is not tit-for-tat. Then we too will become Rakshasas like them. We have to think what should be done. I’m on the Peace Committee, but I could not go for its meeting because of high BP. After that they haven’t called me.
We never ever felt we were in a minority, but now I’ve begun to think about it. I’m even contemplating selling off this house and moving to a Hindu area. We saw Hindu women running away from here on Friday night around 2.30 am. They were going to Hindu areas.’’
His wife : So many Muslim women tie rakhi to him. Not one of them came to inquire.
His son: Just before this happened, we had gone a Muslim neighbour’s wedding. Now when he sees us, he looks away. Our neighbours could have saved our shop had they wanted to. Had they told the mob not to touch it, had they just said, `Yeh apna hai’, (This is ours.) the mob would have left it.
I’ve been thinking of fighting the elections this time, but now I’ve made up my mind – if I do contest, it won’t be on a Congress ticket.’’
q Shiv Sena
Nathu Jagtap, Shiv Sena Taluka President
He was in Mumbai for Bal Thackeray’s Dashera meeting the day the riots erupted here. We met him in the Hindu-dominated Camp area, where Muslim homes; a mosque inside a graveyard and the graves too had been damaged.
``This riot was because of the Muslims’ support for Laden as seen in Nihal Ahmed’s morcha. It was proof of their thinking. We first got an inkling when a Muslim boy put up a Laden clipping on the college notice board.
Then that swadeshi leaflet – how come today they’ve turned swadeshi? Only for Laden. Because they feel Islam is in danger.
This riot will benefit the Janata Dal. No Hindu will vote for the Congress. No Congress leader came to meet Hindus; they only helped the Muslims.
Yes, here in Camp, masjids were attacked, but that’s because mandirs were attacked in their areas. There’s bound to be a reaction to every action.’’
Vasant Chavan (Ex City Chief of Shiv Sena)
The most shocking disclosure made by Mr Chavan was that during the riots, an SRP van was moving around in Hindu areas announcing that Hindus should arm and protect themselves as there were less police.
Expectedly, Mr Chavan came out strongly against Nihal Ahmed’s morcha, in which he said, slogans of jehad were raised. He deplored the release of the processionists, which he said came about because they were not arrested under S.124A and 154B IPC. He revealed that the Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena burnt posters of Bin Laden after the morcha.
Mr Chavan alleged that the student who put up the clipping of Bin Laden on the college notice board was an activist of SIMI.
Mr Chavan also alleged that the Muslims planned the riots. The proof of this: 1) Every Friday in Idgah Maidan, Muslim boys play cricket, but on 26th October, nobody did so. 2) Though it was the weekly off for the power looms, theatres were empty and all the Muslims were at the mosque. 3) Muslims who went to Jama Masjid that day did not come on bicycles or rickshaws or motorcycles as they always do, blocking the entire road. They went on foot.
Mr Chavan made specific allegations of Hindu women having been molested. He said that a woman who had come from Kalvan had her breasts cut. Osama Bin Laden Zindabad was tattooed on the breasts of three women.
Mr Chavan said a police officer had told the Sena that 20 Hindu women had been raped in the riot. But was not willing to name the officer.
Mr Chavan added that the women who were molested/ raped were first admitted in Dhule’s government hospital. After former CM Narayan Rane made an allegation at a press conference that 20 Hindu women had bee raped, the local Shiv Sainiks were asked to check this out in the civil hospital in Dhulia, but the women were not found there as they had been shifted to private hospital. by government officials to hide them from the public. The Shiv Sainiks had not yet been able to trace the women. But this failure only confirmed that the State was trying to cover up the incidents of rape, which in turn proved the fact that Hindu women had been raped, he concluded!
As the Sena always does with Muslim police officers during riots, Mr Chavan blamed PSI Sheikh for allowing Muslims to attack Hindus in Vijay Nagar, Hinglaj Nagar and Kalikuktti. In Golden Nagar, he blamed criminal elements, particularly those that have been extradited from the area, for the riots.
Mr. Chavan also alleged that Sheikh Rashid’s brother was responsible for Bapu Bachhav’s death.
He put the total loss of property of Hindus was to the tune of about Rs.200 Crores.
Mr. Chavan expressed the fear that Hindus were becoming an even smaller minority in Malegaon, but these riots had taught them how to deal with the ``violent’’ Muslim majority: by retaliating in villages against Muslims.
Mr. Suresh Gawli of the Sena and Mr. Dada Bhuse leader of Jaanta Raja, were arrested for the murder of ex-councillor Mr. Khalil Ahmed during the riots. They were in a private hospital under judicial custody when we went to meet them. They refused to meet us. But their followers standing outside the hospital spoke to us. Their feelings of helplessness against the police, against the majority Muslims came through clearly. One of them, Mr. Vinod Wagh, a college student boasted that he had slapped the Muslim student in his college who had put up a news clipping on Osama Bin laden on the notice board. When we askd him whether he hadn’t been afraid t do so, given that Muslims are in a majority in Malegaon, he replied grandly: ``Hum to sar par kafan baandhe chale hain. Humen desh ko bachana hai.’’
Yet, at the end of a long talk with us on the riots, most of which was spent in detailing the alleged anti-national and criminal character of Muslims and the government’s appeasement of them, he said, ``I feel so helpless, nobody listens to what we say. I feel like standing in the middle of the town and yelling out whatever is in my mind.’’ (corrected)
The other boys also spoke freely to us. ``Our leaders Suresh Gawli & dada Bhuse are innocent—we are ready to face any inquiry. In fact, after Suresh Gawli was arrested, Dada went to meet him and he too was picked up.
Arresting Dada Bhuse is an insult to the concept of social work. He’s the man who saved the Hindus here and arranged for them to be housed in a school. He has organized so many blood donation camps. When there was drought here, he organized tankers at his own cost to help the villagers. No politician had done this. He left a good job to work for the people and now this government arrests him only because someone mentions his name. Shouldn’t there be some investigation before people are arrested? That too at 1o’clock in the night!
The way our boys are being picked up – is there any evidence any witness? Or the police just want to make one-sided arrests? People are more scared of the police than of the Muslims. When we talk to the police, they just don’t listen.
Those who go on a morcha with Laden’s garlanded photo are let free. It shows their true feelings. If UP CM Rajnath Singh were ruling here, he’d have straightaway put those processionists inside as ‘Deshdrohis’.
Muslims beat up the police, that's why they were fired on. They broke the police vehicle. Hindus didn’t come out on the roads, Muslims did.
They broke our idols, they didn’t allow the police to enter Farhan Hospital, and they burnt our Bapu Bachav, who was trying to save Hindu women in their area. We’ve given the names of the killers: Life Member and Riaz, but neither has been arrested. For the breaking of the idol at Pawar Galli, we’ve given 22 names, none has been arrested.’’
These boys did not agree that Nihal Ahmed could be compared to their leader Bal Thackeray. When we pointed out that even Thackeray is never arrested, no matter what he says or does, they retorted: ``He does everything for the good of the nation.’’
We met Mr. Subhash Bagul, Sena member, injured in mob violence in the riots. He is a welder. He said he had gone to the toilet on the night of October 26, when some boys from Isaac Galli attacked him near Diamond Mill. His teeth broke in the attack and he had to have stitches on his head.
We also met Bapu Bachav’s family.
This 45-year-old rickshaw driver, father of three and an ex-Sena up-pramukh, was killed and then burnt alive on the first day of the riots. The Sena says he was saving Hindu women from a Muslim area, the Muslims say he was trying to set fire to Kalikutti Masjid.
His post-mortem shows how violent his death was discharge from his brain, burnt thighs, genitals, back, and neck.
His younger brother and mother spoke to us. His widow and children remained quiet.
``He had his lunch and left without telling us where he was going. At around 10.30 PM, the police brought his body back.
He had left the Sena many years' back, now he was only doing social work. But yes, Narayan Rane did come and give Rs 2 lakh. The Congress MLA Rashid Shaikh also came, just half an hour before Rane’s visit. He must have come to know that Rane was coming here. After Rane Saheb’s visit, everyone came here. But the CM didn’t come. He flew by in a helicopter. But he managed to go to Farhan Hospital.
We have given an application to the CM for a job for his wife.
We don’t know how he died, no one who was present at the spot told us. But we heard that he was trying to rescue the women from the Kalikutti area. ‘’
Mr. Sanjay Joshi, Social Activist, Rashtra Seva Dal, Camp area:
``The effect of the October 19 morcha was that the Muslim youth felt that Nihal Ahmed was with them and that emboldened them to behave the way they did during the riots.
Nihal Ahmed did not come out to stop the Muslims who had resorted to rioting before the police fired; though he could have pacified them.
The situation was like Partition. Systematic rumours were spread that Muslim mob is coming to attack. These rumours were easily believed. This and the all-night azaan created panic on both sides. False rumours about atrocities on women were spread. All these factors helped spread the riots rapidly.
There was pre-planned targeting.
When the mosque in Modak Galli was being attacked, the police picket on duty in front of the mosque sat idle in Aashirwad General Stores and allowed the mosque to be attacked.
During the riots, secular elements were also thinking on communal lines – even communists.
Dr.Baranth (a well-known and highly respected National Alliance of People’s Movements activist) was physically lifted by the mob and prevented from coming to the rescue of one Qureshi who was being attacked by a mob. Dr.Baranth was told that people had taken enough nonsense from secular elements like him and warned not to come out of his house.
There is lack of education amongst the Muslims in Malegaon. A Taliban-like movement is spreading amongst them.
When curfew was lifted, there were incidents when youth from both communities met and cried together.’’
q Hindu victims:
Many Hindus fled from Pawar Galli, Jaffer Nagar and Dhobi Galli. The poorest of them went to Camp where a refugee camp had been arranged in a school.
Pawar Galli was described as the ``last border’’ and hence a dangerous place from which Hindu women had preferred to flee to Soyegaon. Others were helped to flee by Dada Bhuse of the Jaanta Raja, it was claimed.
Satish, a vegetable vendor, was so angry at the burning of the vegetable market that he said: ``Today, if someone tells me to come on the road and do anything, even anything wrong, I'm ready. I haven't earned anything for 2 weeks, what shall I feed my family?"
The Pawar Galli temple trustee Yogesh Patil, who belongs to the third generation of his family which has been looking after the temple, claims this is a 400-year-old temple, from the time of the Peshwas. It stood at what was then the village’s entry-point.
One of the older residents of the area said that gradually, in the last 10 years, all the Hindus were selling off their homes here and moving across the river to the Hindu areas. ``The Muslim goondas deliberately target the temple because they want us to leave this area, and take the temple along with us, so that they can take over this property. We have good relations with our Muslim neighbours; we have always celebrated festivals with them. They participate in the Ganpati procession, they even play Holi with us. But the goondas are stronger than they are. The good Muslims advised us to leave the area for a few days this time. ‘’
It was from one of the Hindus inside this temple that we heard the comparison between Nihal Ahmed and Bal Thackeray. That were the only time such a comparison was made.
"Nihal Ahmed has 105 slums with him. He doesn’t want Malegaon to become a municipality because then his control over it will go. Whatever he says, they obey him. And the police do nothing. He’s like Bal Thackeray in Mumbai.’’
An 85-year-old freedom fighter had threatened a fast unto death unless those who desecrated the temple were arrested—the names had been given to the police. He alleged that Nihal Ahmed’s pressure and money had prevented the police from arresting them.
While the trustees were very bitter, a constable from the SRP picket stationed there reminded them that the temple had been saved in 1992 by Rukma Bai, old mother of the proprietor of National Travels, Haji Ibrahim Seth, who lived round the corner.
q Muslim Victims
Mr Khalil Ahmed, age 45, ex-councillor, popular social worker and Congress member, killed while praying in the Diamond Power loom Complex Masjid near his home in Sangameshwar, a Hindu area, on the night of October 26. Jaanta Raja leader Dada Bhuse and Sena leader Suresh Gawli had been arrested for the murder.
He was described as a ``gentle, religious’’ man by his fellow Hindu Congress workers, who also told us that Khalil was very friendly with Gawli and the latter had been framed at the insistence of their own MLA Rashid Shaikh.
We met Khalil Ahmed’s family . They were bitter that a man who spent all his time with Hindus and who worked for them all the time had been killed by them.
" We never left our old home, because we never felt unsafe. Besides, our brother worked all the time for this area and its people. He didn’t want to leave.’’ According to them, he had also tried to pacify the crowd outside the Jama Masjid that afternoon. "He told them, `Don’t attack the police.’ He came home at 4 o’clock, and himself gave the azaan for the 5 o’clock namaz. "
By 5 o’ clock, the attacks on Diamond Complex had begun, and the owners of the Complex had taken refuge in Khalil’s home.
According to his sister, a little after 8 p.m., two Hindu neighbours came to call him and he went with hem. When he hadn’t come back till 10.15 p.m., his sister went looking for him.
"At that time I could hear the Hindu mob shouting `Jai Bhawani, Jai Shivaji.’ I also started shouting, ' Naara-e-Takbeer , Allah-o-Akbar,.’ The police were near our house, while the Diamond Complex was on fire’
The sister said he was brought home dead by Muslims from the area who came out hearing her slogans. His whole body was full of stab wounds.
The police came only at 11.30 pm.
The family refused to hand over the body to the police that night. It was taken for post-mortem in the morning and the funeral was held under curfew on Saturday afternoon, with just 15 persons allowed to attend.
The family couldn’t get over the fact that Sakharam Bhodke, local Congress president, didn’t come even to visit them. ``Everyone came – the MLA, the Jamait-e-Ulema Mufti, Nihal Ahmed, but Bhodke, who relied so much on our brother, didn’t come.’’
The family was bitter at the police inaction. ``The Complex was attacked three-four times, but the police did nothing. Had they fired at the attackers, our brother would still be alive. The attackers came back at night thinking it would be all clear for hem. And it was.’’
The family said they had been receiving threats when the news spread that Khalil’s cousin has named Dada Bhuse and Suresh Gawli as the culprits. But they were determined to stick to their stand and see that the duo was punished. ``Only then others will hesitate to do the same. How do people become terrorists?’’ asked his younger brother. ``Only when there is no justice. Those who did this to my brother, to all of Malegaon – they are the real terrorists. How much damage they have inflicted on our town. Every one has become a debtor today, thanks to the riot. And it was outsiders who did it, brought in trucks from Soyegaon. ‘’
The family was obviously religious, consoling themselves that if they don’t get justice here, God would definitely hear them. They also believed that Khalil Ahmed had become a shahid for their religion, as he died trying to save the lives and properties of others. ``He died like Shahid Bhagat Singh.’’
We met Haji Ibrahim Seth, proprietor, National Travels at his residence. His garage was burnt on Mosam bridge.
His mother had saved the Pawar Galli temple in 92 by standing in front of it and facing the mob. This time, she heard the sounds of the temple being broken, but was prevented from going down by her daughter-in-law, who told her one woman had already died in police firing.
Mr. Ibrahim Seth spoke bitterly about this riot and ended with the words: ``I no longer believe in secularism, it’s all a sham. ’’ He was too angry to participate in the peace march for which he had been invited. At the same time, he was the only Muslim in Malegaon who cited the case of a Hindu (one Joshi) hiding 50 Muslim women inside his home in Camp till they were rescued by Mr. Ibrahim Seth. ``Our garage has been safe for the last 30 years. The Hindus used to save it every time. This time they stood there and got it burnt. We weren’t there, my brother was trying to pacify the mob outside the mosque.
They started at 4 o’ clock on Friday and didn’t leave a single Muslim garage on the bridge.
The first incident was the burning of Gupta Dairy. Not even a dog would eat the mithai available there. Almost at the same time, a Muslim’s cycle shop was burnt near the masjid. The Hindus knew those pamphlets were to be distributed that day, they must have been fully prepared.
Had we known, we’d also have been ready. But who would have thought our garage would be burnt? It’s to us that they come when they want to expand the temple. We are the ones who allowed the Ganpati procession to pass from the Masjid when the mob had blocked its way and were squatting on the road shouting Allah-o-Akbar. The Hindus were insisting on playing their band baaja outside the mosque. The police couldn’t solve the problem; I went and removed those boys. This happened this year, barely two months before these riots.
Yet this time they surrounded my car when I was returning after leaving Hindu families to Soyegaon.
The Phaltan Masjid was broken, the Koran burnt. . They didn’t spare event he water pipeline. And then Vartahaar writes on its front page that Hindu women are being raped. And the police takes no action".
q Muslim refugees from the villages
These were sheltering in a school. Their needs were being looked after by the proprietor of National Travels, Mr. Haji Ibrahim, whose own garage had been burnt in the riots – the first time he had faced any damage in all his years in the city.
Neither Mr. Nihal Ahmed, nor the Congress MLA Mr. Rashid Shaikh, had visited them.
Refugees from Chinchgavan:
"The Shiv Sena came on Sunday morning, shouting Jai Bhavani, jai Shivaji and burnt our homes, we had run away. On Saturday, the villagers had threatened they would break our mosque. It was a new mosque. We were building it with the help of people in Malegaon.
When we began building it, the villagers didn't say anything. But after the riots broke out in Malegaon on Friday, they started telling us `We don’t want your Masjid here. Why did you build it?’ They broke it on Sunday night.
We used to do namaz inside our homes, or go to some other village which had a big mosque whenever necessary. Then people in Malegaon advised us to build a mosque in the village.
On Saturday, when we returned from work in the fields, they wouldn’t let us enter our homes. We asked them, what have we done? We had to spend the night in the open.
We were 25 families in Chinchgavan. Some had fields, some had shops, some worked as labourers. But now we don't want to go back there. Only those whose lands are there will go back. Their cotton crop has all been burnt – 50 quintals of cotton gone.
This is our third generation there -never has anything like this happened. One man tried to stop the attackers and ran to the villagers for help. But the villager beat him up and tied his hand and feet and poured kerosene on him. If one among them had not felt pity on him, they would have burnt him. The villagers abused us (women) calling us raand, mende. They told us, get out of the village or we'll rape you.
We could not phone the police -- all the phones are in their homes and their area.
The Nasik police rescued us on Monday and were bringing us to Malegaon in an auto when a mob surrounded us on the highway. The policemen only had lathis, so they advised us to get down and escorted us here. We had to walk for an hour. The children were barefoot, thorns were getting inside their feet and they were crying.
After all the burning was over, we fell at the feet of the sarpanch and begged him to forgive us if we had done anything wrong. We didn’t want to leave our homes, even though everything – even our ornaments, had been looted and destroyed. But he said, `What can we do?’
They could have saved us. They had the power to stop the outsiders by just standing outside our homes. Of course, those attackers were armed with all kinds of weapons: axes, sickles, even kerosene and bombs. They threw a bottle bomb inside the mosque.
We can’t name the assailants though we knew some of them, because our elders are still there. They could not run away. Suppose they harm them? We go to meet them secretly, dressed as Hindus.
We need a plot to live here – anywhere, but we can’t go back there. We can earn something, how long will these people go on feeding us?’’
q Soyegaon: (near Malegaon, this is considered a stronghold of the Sena/Jaanta Raja)
Chand bi: ``On Saturday morning the Sena and Jaanta Raja came shouting `Jai Bhawani, jai Shivaji’. Mine is the only Muslim shop on the main road. It’s a mattress shop. They burnt the machine and the shop. I ran away.
There is a school nearby. The teachers there told the mob to let me be, saying that I am old and poor. But they warned them to stay out of it or else they would put me into the fire too.
The police at the Camp (Soyegaon is just near the Camp area of Malegaon) wouldn’t take down my complaint till someone from National Travels accompanied me.
Jaanta Raja & Sena became active only in the last 2 years.’’
These refugees say their neighbours didn’t help them because they felt that Muslims had attacked their people in Malegaon. But they asked when Muslims burnt Hindu shops in Malegaon; they were fired at, how come the police didn’t fire at the Hindus in the villages who burnt Muslim shops?
Dead in police firing:
Bilkis Bano died on the first day of the riots i.e. October 26. We visited the family while a large number of relatives were present.
The relatives told the story as follows;
‘`We have a two-storeyed structure. We were not aware of anything that happened near the masjid on the 26th afternoon. Bilkis Bano had gone to the bathroom at around 4pm. She came out and went to the balcony of the first floor to hang the washed clothes to dry them. The rest of the family was on the ground floor.
We heard a big noise of someone falling from the first floor, so we all ran up. We found her lying on the floor in the balcony. When we touched her, her clothes her wet. We realised then that she was bleeding and that a bullet had hit her on her heart.
We wanted to carry her to the hospital, as the doctor was not available. On the road to Perry chowk, there was a lot of dhamaka, people were running away, and the road that side was closed. We saw that police was firing on the running mob.
First we took Bilkis Banu to the government run Wadia Hospital but they did not have any instruments to detect the bullet so we transferred her immediately to the Farhan hospital, which was accessible. When we went to that hospital the doctor announced her dead. The police was helpful while carrying the body home and even at the funeral.’’
Muzaamil Husain Khalil Ahmed, aged 28.
His father said he was shot in the head and back while going to the toilet at 1 am. He lived near Dyane and worked in a power loom. He had been married just eight months back.
By the time people brought him home, he was dead.
His father blamed the police for the death, saying had they not objected to the leaflet being distributed, the riot wouldn’t have taken place. ``Why did the police have to interfere? We were not distributing it to non-Muslims.’’ He however, agreed that the Muslims present here also need not have vented their anger on the police. ``Yes, the public was wrong there. The Mufti and the MLA try to explain to them, but you know how young people are – the more you tell them not to do something, the more they do it.’’
The father wanted the policemen responsible to be punished. ``Once they are stripped of their uniform, others won’t do the same thing. ‘’
The father, an original resident of Malegaon, had seen all its riots. According to him this latest one was less ferocious than the one in 1964.
The victim’s wife said hardly anything. When specifically asked what she would do now, she kept quiet.
Injured in police firing
The police have recorded statements of all those injured in police firing and filed cases against them. We met them in Farhan Hospital.
Ashfaq Ahmed Abid Qazi , 15, eldest of 7 children
``I was going to the weekly market. I live in Kalampura, I didn’t know anything about what had happened outside Jama Masjid. It was around 3.45 pm when a bullet hit me. I was near the Islampura mosque. The bullet went through me. I fainted and woke up in hospital. I’ve been working in a powerloom since a year, like my father. I never went to school. I didn’t go for Nihal Ahmed’s morcha.’’
Rizwan Ahmed Iqbal Ahmed
``I had gone to buy cloth on Kidwai Road around 3.30-4 pm on Friday. But I saw people running, saying `Bhaago, police aa rahi hai’. I also ran and the bullet hit me in my left foot from the back. I work in a power loom in Ramzanpura. My elder brother works in a shop. We support my mother and sister.’’
``On Friday around 3.30-4 pm, I was going to buy material for my paan shop from Islampura. I hadn’t heard about any problem after the namaz. As I reached Nishad Road, people began running. I also ran and I was shot in my thigh. I fainted. I’ve had to have 3 operations. My brother’s looking after my paan shop now.’’
Injured in mob violence
``My cousin Khalil and I went to pray in the Diamond Mill mosque around 9 pm on Friday night. It was the closest mosque to our house. They came with swords, and other weapons and killed my cousin. They hit me on the head too and I fainted. They were 250-300, some were outsiders. They were shouting Jai Bhawani, jai Shivaji.
They had tried to attack the diamond Power loom Complex at 5 pm too, but the police had chased them away. But they returned at night. That time, no policemen were there. In fact, they kept regrouping every time the police van went on its rounds.
Dada Bhuse and Suresh Gawli were the people who were leading the mob. Gawli is a former Sena councillor, and Bhuse is the leader of Jaanta Raja. They are behind the burning of the Diamond Mill Compound.
My cousin was Sakharam Bhodke’s right-hand man. He was himself once a Congress councillor. Khodke had promised to protect him, but he did nothing. When he came to see my cousin’s body, everyone there abused him.’’
Tublic Jammed members beaten in Karanj Gavan
The tublic jamaat has been active for the last 15 years. But it's only now that their efforts to make Muslims follow an orthodox version of Islam, have begun to bear fruit. They are religious preachers, who travel to villages and stay in each village for 2-3 days. Of late, perhaps under the influence of the VHP/Bajrang Dal campaign against Muslim `terrorism’, Hindu villagers have begun to look on their trips with suspicion, and resent their influence on the Muslims. In one such village Mangle, in? This year, the Muslims were forced to give up everything that identified them as Muslims -- beards, caps, namaz five times a day, and loudspeakers on the mosque, after a newly converted Muslim wrestler allegedly broke a temple idol.
The Tublic claim they only talk of spiritual matters, they have nothing to do with worldly things. But their emphasis is on the physical practices of Islam: a particular external appearance which distinguishes a Muslim from a non-Muslim; the cultivation of a separate identity both physically and culturally. They not only frown upon Muslim participation in Hindu festivals and jatras, but even disapprove of Muslims worshipping at dargahs.
These teachings affect the Muslims’ daily social life with Hindus. In the villages, the two communities are so close as to be practically indistinguishable from each other.
In certain villages in the Konkan strip, some communities have put up a notice outside their mosque: ``No Tublic allowed here.’’
We met three Tublic members in Farhan hospital. They had been beaten up in Karanj Gavan during the riots. We spoke to them at length.
``We reached Karanj Gavan from Khadki on Friday. At night, the policeman on duty there told us to lock the mosque and rest inside.
Next morning, the villagers told us there had been rioting in Malegaon. They advised us not to come out of the mosque, and they locked us in and left the village by about 9 or 10 am.
There had been a riot in the village two months earlier, by the Soyegaon people. So people were afraid.
Around 12 o’clock, we heard them shouting, `jai Bhawani, jai Shivaji.’ They burnt the auto in which we had come. Then they began breaking the masjid. They broke the lock and came inside.
They were about 70 – 80 of them, armed with lathis, sickles, maces. We were just five.
They attacked us all the time abusing us with filthy words, threatening to rape our women and saying `Tumhare Islam ko mita denge.’
We recognised one of them, his name is Bhaskar, and he's a rickshaw driver from a village called Lendane. His rickshaw number is MH15J 0935.
After three or four hours, SP Kanti Jain reached there and took us in his own jeep. When we reached Lendane, we saw a lot of Sena people sitting there. Despite the SP ordering them, they refused to disperse. They even roughed up the SP.
Somehow we made it to next village Wargaon from where the SP made a call. While he was phoning, the villagers stoned his jeep. The driver and the constable accompanying him got down and protected us. The assailants were abusing us and our religion.
Finally the SP brought us to the government hospital.
The journey had taken us an hour; it normally takes 20 minutes.
When we were lying injured in the mosque in Karanj Gavan, the policeman who had the previous night told us to rest inside the masjid, told us to leave as the mob had already burnt four houses.
The villagers came and told us: `Outsiders attacked you and burnt the homes.’ But we could see some of the locals among the assailants.
One-and-a-half hours after the attack, the Sarpanch and police patil came and asked us, `Why do you come here? Our village has got a bad name because of you.’
We have gone to that village earlier, so we knew where the local doctor lives. We went to his house for treatment, but from one of the houses a voice told us to go away. `There’s nothing for you here, go to Malegaon. There you people are killing our people, we aren’t going to help you.’
The local policeman was seeing all this, but he only kept warning us to leave the village.’’
We asked the Tublic members about their religious work, they said, “Every two months, we go on a trip to the villages. We’ve been doing this since the last 15 year but never faced any problem. It’s only two months back that for the first time; our people were beaten up in this village. But soon after, the sarpanch gave in writing that the matter had been resolved amicably.”
Our task is to remind Muslims about their religion. Those who don’t go for namaz, those who remain away from mosques, we try and change them.
We never talk against any community, in fact, everyone knows we only talk about things which lie under the earth and above the sky. Nothing in between interests us. We don’t go for morchas, we stay away from worldly things.
All we do is tell Muslims that when they die, they will have to account for every moment of their lives. We tell them what is good in our religion and what is not. In fact, everyone knows our work. Hindus often tell us: `Isko bhi lekar jaao, yeh kabhi masjid nahin jaata.’’ (Take this one also, he never goes to the mosque.)
People do change their lives after listening to us. If we are successful in giving them true Islamic teachings, they will stop practices such as celebrating Diwali and other Hindu festivals as they do in the villages.
Now for some time we won’t go on our trips.’’
Maulana Abdul Qayyum Qasmi and Mufti Mohd. Ismail (Jamiat-Ul-Ulema) :
The latter is the chief Mufti f Malegaon and imam of the Jama masjid.
The Mufti gave us a detailed account of the manner in which the atmosphere was being poisoned before the riots. He also gave an eyewitness account of the incident that sparkled off the riots.
``On August 15, Uddhav Thackeray came and gave an inciting speech.
``On August 18, i.e. on Pola Festival Day, rumours were spread that a Muslim boy had raped a Hindu girl in Karanj Gavan.
On August 19, Jaanta Raja members went to Karanj Gavan to incite people on the issue of rape in mini trucks and attacked the mosque in that village. Seven people were injured during the attack. In Vakhari, a masjid was attacked in August.
In Deola (Taluka Satana), Muslims were not allowed to pray in mosques and were not allowed to give azaan on loud-speakers. Muslims were also forced to shave off their beards. (this was by way of `punishment’ for the alleged breaking of an idol by a Muslim.)
During Ganpati procession in Bhadgaon Taluka, the route of the procession was sought to be changed and the processionists were insisting on passing through Muslim majority areas. The police was able to stop them, but not before they warned the Muslims.
Before October 19, the Shiv Sena had burnt effigies of V.P.Singh and Imam Bukhari, though permission was refused by the police to do so.
After the October 19 procession, everything had calmed down.
On the 26th, it was Mufti Masood Akhtar’s sermon. After the namaaz, most people had left the mosque while a few continued offering namaaz or attending to administrative work. There was a police picket outside the mosque and a young man was distributing leaflets. There was an SRP van stationed outside the mosque. An SRP constable asked for the leaflet and was trying to tear the entire bunch of leaflets being distributed. The young man had a heated argument with the constable who then tried to push him into the van. This enraged the Muslims who had begun gathering there. They had a scuffle with the police.
Mufti Mohd. Ismail came out of the mosque and managed to pacify the mob and asked everybody to sit down, and they did. After explaining things to them and pacifying them, he asked everybody to leave the place, which everybody did.
Later, Sheikh Rashid, MLA, came there, and along with him a crowd assembled once again. As the crowd was not dispersing this time, police resorted to lathi-charge and the mob dispersed. While dispersing and running, a navratri mandal near the masjid, which was loosely supported on bamboo poles, fell down, but this was not a deliberate act.
The Jama Masjid is adjoining Sangameshwar, divided by a river. Jaanta Raja leaders who were watching all this from Sangameshwar, took advantage of the fact that a navratri mandal had collapsed in the melee, and started burning Muslim shops in Sangameshwar, a Hindu area. The mob first attacked Munna cycle shop and other Muslim shops situated on land owned by a masjid. But 5 adjoining Hindu shops were also destroyed. All this was visible on this side of the river, i.e., in the Muslim area. Seeing the Muslim shops burning, Muslims also started burning Hindu shops. Gupta Dairy was burnt first. Then the police had to fire on the mob, which was looting and burning. The firing took place on Kidwai Road, Nishad Road, Mehmood Road and Mohd. Ali Road. Police firing led to death of innocent children, women and bystanders.
In Sangameshwar, though the mob was looting and burning Muslim shops under the very nose of the police, no firing was resorted to. Dr.Bhuse was leading the mob attacking Muslim shops.
The Mufti also alleged that the moesty of five Muslim women had been outraged in Deola, Satan, and Kalwan near Umrana. In Misi, one muslim woman was made to run naked behind a motorcycle.
= Peace March
The Peace March was taken out on Nov 11 by the Teachers' Federation and other Gandhians and Socialists. Nihal Ahmed was the only leader to walk along with the processionists part of the way, giving strength to the report that this march was organised by the Janata Dal.
Students of Marathi and Urdu schools carrying peace placards formed a large part of the morcha – marching not together, but separately behind their teachers.
The peace marchers played down the riots, saying they seemed more serious this time because they lasted much longer than normal. ``Normally the riot is over in a couple of days and Hindus and Muslims go back to living together on the third day,'' said one organiser. ``This time, because of the long curfew (83 hours), people couldn't meet.'' Property damaged was more because population had increased, they said. They dismissed the communal polarization the team had encountered saying it was a temporary feeling and not one universally shared.
Their priority they said was to send the refugees back to their villages. ``If they remain here, they will be a blot on our town, on us,'' said one of them.
They were confident of accomplishing their task. They proposed to take the permission of the refugees to talk to the Hindus in the villages, convince the latter and then bring them to Malegaon to meet the Muslim refugees. ``We want the Hindu villagers to themselves escort the Muslims of their village back home,'' they said.
Among the peace programmes announced at the march was a Diwali mushaira and an Id Milan. At the meeting held after the march, the idea of making Marathi-speaking and Urdu-speaking students of Malegaon become `penfriends' was put forward -- an indication of the polarisation in the town.
Despite the attempt to underplay the seriousness of this riot, some of the organisers confessed that as teachers, they ad failed. Datta Wadge, a Socialist, ascribed the riots to ``vote'' politics. Asked about Nihal Ahmed's morcha, he said it was his personal idea -- not the party's.
Dr ?? Hirey, former minister, ascribed the riot to ``international'' influences.
* Karanj Gavan Muslim victims
Yusuf Babu Mansuri – mattress shop owner
``My shop was set on fire on Saturday at noon. The villagers put out the fire. They told me outsiders had set it on fire. The police only came in the evening.
In August too, my shop was attacked, the machine was broken, but that was minor damage. ‘’
Md Bhai Usman Shaikh had been beaten up in August when outsiders ``avenged’’ the molestation of the Hindu girl. But he had little to say against the Hindus in Karanj Gavan, with whom his family had been living for the last three generations. He worked in their fields, and till today he said, despite the two attacks on him, they came to call him for work. When asked if he would send them sweets for Id, he replied in a trice: ``What do you think? Of course I will.’’
But his wife Zakiya and daughter were upset about the loss they had suffered for no fault oft heirs – their grains had been thrown in water, their utensils broken, their mattress and clothes burnt, their window broken and door of their home sought to be burnt. Here too, the Hindu villagers had put out the fire.
Their house bore the brunt of the attacks because it faced the mosque, which was being renovated with help from Malegaon’s Muslim. The tin roof was being replaced with a pucca one. In August, the mosque’s loudspeaker wires had been cut and the matkas of water inside broken. At that time and again this time, after the Malegaon riot, the Tublic members inside it had been attacked.
The most disturbing factor of this incident was that while the Hindu villagers had offered to help repair the mosque, the Muslims had turned down the offer, probably on the advice of the Malegaon maulanas. ``We told the villagers you could help repair the dargah and madrasa. They understood.’’
She had recognised one of the rapists. She described him as a Rajput called Mohan, whereas the other two were Bhils. She gave his name to the police.
All three have been arrested, Malegaon’s SP told us. ``What kind of a husband was that man, leaving her like that? She can’t take him back now,’’ he added.
But for the wife, the uncertainty of not knowing where her husband was and in what condition, would he come back to her or not, made her future seem even bleaker than the terrible atrocity that had been inflicted on her.
(At the time of going to press, we learnt that her husband had returned to her, and both were living in Malegaon.)
But the Hindus had made it clear to them that no outsiders would be allowed here – neither their relatives, nor their jamaat people. So insistent had they been said the daughter, that even the truck filled with grains sent as relief from Malegaon had been sent back.
The wife said the faujdar, SP Chavan, had intervened and told the Hindus that just as they needed a Brahman priest to perform their weddings, the Muslims needed a qazi for their nikaah, and since the local imam of the mosque was not qualified enough, an outsider would have to be called.
v Rape victim
She sat on the cot in our hotel room looking terrified, though her mother sat next to her and there was no male in the room. As she talked, haltingly, and in half-sentences, the haunted look on her face never left her.
She, her husband and little daughter were running away from their village on Monday morning, since they were the only Muslim family there, and Muslims in nearby villages had already been targeted. Accompanying them were two neighbours – Bhil women.
The men, also Bhils, had been hiding behind the bushes and suddenly surrounded them, stones in their hands, and pushed her to the ground. She yelled at her husband to run with their daughter. ``I thought now that I’m in their hands, my life is over, at least they should be saved.’’
He ran, so did the two Bhil women accompanying her. ``They could have prevented those men,’’ she says sadly. ``But they must have been in league with them.’’
The men dragged her down a slope 30 feet, she said. Her back was covered with scratches. She was yelling, but there was no one to hear. It was around noon.
At a secluded spot, they stripped her and three of them raped her while the others watched, laughing and egging them on.
"They told me their women had been raped by my people. I begged them to punish those who had done it, why me?’’
Suddenly, they heard sounds of a motorcycle and fearing it was the police, they ran away. As she lay there, trying to collect her wits, an old Bhil came by and took her home. He had her daughter with him: her husband had met him while running away and told him what had happened. If his wife survived, he said, give her the daughter, if not, you look after her.
The old man took care of her for three days. "His family took a lot of trouble over me, as though I was one of their own,’’ she recounted. "Those men came to know he had saved me, they would hang around his hut all day and threaten him to hand me over. The old man told them I’m not there. But he also told them they could burn everything down, but he wouldn’t let them touch me.
At night, she would sleep in the thorny bushes outside, so that even if a mob came searching to the old man’s home, they wouldn’t find her.
After three days her uncle came to take her to her mother’s home. That didn’t turned out to be the refuge she needed. ``It would have been better had she died and her husband survived,’’ said her mother in a burst of bitterness. ``The saying is right: better a dead daughter than a widowed one. Her husband could have remarried and looked after the children. What can she do now with her three children? I already have a son and daughter-in-law with me. Her husband must have decided to desert her, thinking she’s no good to him now. His two sons were being looked after by me anyway, why would he bother about the daughter?’’
But it was the mother who showed us the torn and blood-stained sari which her daughter was wearing that day. ``I could barely look at her,’’ she said in anguish, ``when my brother brought her home. What they had done to her!’’
It was her son’s behaviour, which troubled her. ``He keeps abusing her,’’ she explained. `` I’ve told her not to listen. But I’m worried about her. She just sits in a corner, not talking. If only her husband would come back. Maybe he’s ashamed to face her.’’
As her mother spoke, the daughter sat silent, a broken look about her. ``I keep thinking of that day,’’ she finally said, weeping. ``I wish they are punished and suffer the way they made me suffer.’’
 Sakal Marathi news paper, 27 th Oct.2001.
 figures given by the Supritendent of Police
 Gundewar Commission Report
 Raj Vardhan, Supritendet of Police (SP), Malegaon
 Sakal Marathi News Paper, 27th October to 3Rd November 2001
 Indian Express, 7th November 2001.
 Justice B.N. Srikrishna , Commission
 Zoya Khaliq Hasan (1991)."Communalism and Communal Violence in India", in Communal Riots in Post Independence India, (edited) by A.A. Engineer, Sangam, p. 85, Hydrabad, Second Ediion, p. 85.
 Savarkar V.D.(1997), ‘ Sadgunvikruti', Saha Soneri Pane’ Veer Savarkar Prakashan,Mumbai. Savarkar. Ninth Edition, p.158-159 (marathi)
 Kolpe S.B, (1991)," Caste and Communal Violance and the Role of the Press", in Communal Riots in Post-Independence India", edited by A.A.Engineer , Sangam Books, Hyderabad, Second Edition, p.340
 Imtiaz Ahmad ( 1991), " Perspective on The Communal Problem in Communal Riots in Post-Independence India", edited by A.A.Engineer , Sangam Books, Hyderabad, Second Edition, p. 140.