• The citizen's inquiry report
         [80KB, zip]
  • Read the report online
  • 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.
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    In brief

    The investigation team
    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
    7. All members are based at Mumbai.
    Specficities of these riots
    • 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.
    About Malegaon
    • 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
    Communal tensions backdrop
    • 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
    Effects of the riots
    • 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 activists alike.
    Write to the authors at:
    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.

    January 2002: 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 false.

    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
    January 2002

    [Reproduced with permission of Ram Puniyani and Sandhya Mhatre]

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