The riots that shook Maharashtra.
Such is the depth of polarization in Malegaon, that a peace committee is planning
to encourage marathi-medium Hindu children and urdu-medium Muslim children
to become pen-friends.
The investigation team
Specficities of these riots
- Shama Dalwai, Professor of Economics, Mithibhai College
- Jyoti Punwani, Freelance journalist
- Irfan Engineer, Advocate
- Sandhya Mhatre, Researcher
- Shakeel Ahmed, Social Activist
- Sameena Dalwai, Advocate
- All members are based at Mumbai.
- 13 people died.
- Riots ccurred 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.
Communal tensions backdrop
- Malegaon tahsil - 150 villages and 2 towns - is in Nasik district, Maharashtra.
- Malegaon city is located on the National Highway No.3 - the Mumbai-Agra Road.
- Population of the city - 342,000 (1991 census)
- Three-fourths are Muslims, the next largest are Hindus.
- Read more
Effects of the riots
- The power-loom industry is the majority employer.
- Muslims dominate the weaving sector
- Hindus dominate the yarn manufacturing and cloth
trading (market) sectors.
- Weavers contend 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.
- Read more
- The Congress party is being blamed by both Muslims and Hindus.
- The Hindus being economically superior, never realized they
were a minority at Malegaon, till now.
- The Sena-BJP gets a handle to peddle their pet argument that
Hindus are under threat from Muslims.
- A large number of people have lost their jobs.
- A peace committee is planning to persuade Marathi-medium Hindu and
Urdu-medium Muslim school children to become pen-friends.
- Read more
- The only way out is mutual understanding and co-operation between Hindus and Muslims,
as part of a long-term process undertaken by committed citizens and
Write to the authors at:
The immediate provocation for the Malegaon riots was the scuffle between
the police and the Muslims over the innocuous distribution of swadeshi
leaflets outside a mosque. 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 Ahmad1 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 (President, Janata Dal(S), Maharashtra)
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
The outcome of the riots 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 and can only be undertaken by committed
citizens and activists.
The investigation team
The Malegaon riots were the first major religious riots to have taken place in
India since the September 11 incident. Recently, EKTA (Committee
for Commual Amity) and Nirbhaya Bano Andolan sponsored a 6 member citizen's
enquiry team to investigate the Malegaon riots. This article reproduces the
summary and conclusions of the detailed report. Click here to
read the detailed report.
[Reproduced with permission of Ram Puniyani and Sandhya Mhatre]
Related:India Together Peace page
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