Bombay in 1993: The Khal nayaks of communal politics

Radhakanta Barik

The city of Bombay being a working-class city had its life and soul for which they could protest against the killings of minorities specifically the Muslims by the Hindutva forces in the month of January, 1993 which revived old memory of the 1956 film song 'Bombay Meri Jan' which depicts the city on the backdrop of the partition

"Kahin satta kahin patta
Kahin chori kahin res
Khain daaka Kahin phaaka
Khain thokar kahin thes
ye hain Bombay meri Jan"

This song got replayed on the backdrop of riots of 1993. Hindutva forces organised their riots against the Muslims and killed them and murdered and raped. This happened in the month of January 1993. But Bombay city always got a new life as it was a working class city which had not lost its soul. Soul is very critical to human body. They constituted a Citizen tribunal under the chairmanship of Justice Daud and Justice Suresh retired judges of Bombay High court who had 26 sittings in different parts of the city and collected 2046 statements from various social activists as well as the large number of other documents. They visited the affected places and concluded, "The January riots were pre- planned and executed by the Hindu chauvinist forces with a view to terrorizing the Muslim minority."(People’s Commission Report: On Bombay Riots, PA Sebastian, Oct16,1993)

In the 1993 Bombay riots for the first time the state got sidelined. The rioters got a script prepared by the BJP and Shivsena who did not allow the police to act and enforce the rule of law. The rioters went to bastis where Muslims lived. Burned their homes and killed innocent citizens. Constellation of the party worker, criminals and police worked to destroy their property and lives.

Kitaben Bahut Si Parhi Hongi Tumne, a political song explaining the logic of communal politics. The main actor reading a book and the heroine demands that tell me what is written on my chehera. The script of the communal riots got prepared in the party offices of the BJP and Shivsena and script handed over to the goonds of their parties who went to the houses of the Muslims and attacked them and destroyed their property and killed them. According to the script the communal politics got finances from the builders to clear of the land of the Muslims. The textile company owners wanted to clear the Muslim workers working in the industries which got closed. But the unity of workers affected them to hand over these lands to the builders. It served both the builders and textile industrialists to work out a political design with these political parties who wanted to capture the Mumbai not Bombay an active political society working for people of India. The renaming of the city explains the logic of communal politics of these parties. January of 1993 saw a large scale riots according to the script prepared in the film Baazighar and the reading of these faces of these leaders led these worst riots which resulted in ghettoization of the Muslims. As if the Hindi films speak out politics in their songs so beautifully.

Bollywood has produced a popular film Baazigar whose song became the leading song of the year 1993. In the film the hero acted as a villain, who murdered his wife. The title of the story became the title of the political drama of Bombay where riots got organised by the BJP and Shivsena to demolish the houses of the Muslim community and killed the innocent people by going into their bastis and residential areas by conducting a census study of the houses of Muslim residents. This background got prepared by the party workers and provided to the rioters for killing the innocent citizens belonging to the minority community. The leaders of the Hindutva made a Bazi or bet that they could respond to the demonstration organised by the Muslims in the response to the destruction of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. As they felt like humiliated by the actions of the Hindutva forces in response to their humiliation they acted in a spontaneous manner to protest against these forces. This was the symbol of the secular state of India. After destruction of the Masjid the Muslims felt that their contract with the Indian state as a community when the Preamble of Indian constitution framed as " We the people of India..." got some cracks. They had every right to protest against this violation of their fundamental rights enshrined in the Articles 25 to 28 of the Fundamental rights chapter which has been declared in the Keshavananda Bharati case as one of the six basic features of Indian constitution. But the political masters planned for a month in preparing a script how to organise the riot in the areas dominated by the Muslims. These events were organised according to the script happened in the first week of January 1993. These heroes of the Baazighar had a prior planning for killing these people. This was the story where the wife of the hero got killed by himself like the guardians of the law killed the Muslims.

A famous character actor Manoj Bajpai in an interview with the NDTV said that the worst phase in Hindi film was the 1990s. This observation is pregnant with a powerful political meaning. As we have discussed that Hindi films specifically film songs impinge the politics of India. This is the phase when worst vulgar film songs came in the year 1992 and 1993. Khalnayak became the hit film of the year 1993. The main character of the story became real anti-hero which became the starting point of telling a story differently. The political khalnayak became the Hindutva actors who organised the riot in Bombay in 1993. It is interesting to note that the Khalnayak Bal Thakaray the Shivsena chief sat in his palatial house of Bombay with the security guards and directing the rioters to burn the houses of Muslims and killing them. He took all these decisions while drinking his cold beer and keeping himself cold while seeing blood on the street. His heart did not move while human being got slaughtered on the street. Moreover, he organised the Mahaarati one week before the riots happened on the streets of Bombay to mobilize the rioters to come to street for attacking the Muslims. This got staged some time back in Gurugaon where the RSS pracharaks did not allow the Muslims to offer their prayers in the public places. The Enquiry report by the Citizens' Inquiry Committee found him guilty and the official Commission headed by Justice Srikrishna found the name of Khalnayak and the police officers who killed the innocent citizens and the rioters who burned their houses and destroyed their property. The 1993 riots of Bombay was a well organised one but it was not difficult to find the names of the culprits as the hit song of the film Khalnayak was 'Choli se pichhe kiya hai" telling the truth known to every human being on the earth. But no action had been taken against these khalnayaks till now.

The Citizens Enquiry Commission brought out truth bluntly and reported that the riots in 1993 were a new year’s gifts to the Muslim masses. This riot had no link with the December riot of 1992 which started in response to the Babri Masjid break down. It was a spontaneous protest without any leader. Most of them got killed by police firing. The policemen should have allowed the peaceful procession to move till   a meeting got organized where they would have condemned the incident of the Babri Masjid breakdown rather than firing at them. There were no recognized leaders as this was a spontaneous protest movement.

While starting the 1993 riots the Hindutva forces alleged that there were some killings around the JJ Hospital area where some Hindus got killed by the Muslims. This triggered the riots by the Hindutva forces against the Muslims.  The Commission found these cases were false.  This was a preposterous statement by the Hindutva forces.

We want to make a comparative study of riots of 1992 with the riots of 1993. We found these two months of December and January was very cruel in the city of Bombay. The city, financial capital and headquarter of the Bollywood got shocks for such a large scale riots against the minorities specifically the Muslims. Both influence the whole country as most of the viewers of the Hindi films came from the other regions. These artists did not protest against these riots, although the Picture Bombay shows the riots in a cinematic narrative that the December riots affected the children belonging to interreligious family. The first riot of December the both the children got caught in the communal riots but made free after their parents made a humble request. The second communal riots of January did kill these children. Children do not have any religion. They are called children of God but these communalists do not believe in the God and they killed the children. This has a symbolic importance of politics of India that these riots create psychological scars in the minds of public both the Hindus and Muslims. Bombay being a cosmopolitan city suffered the worst. In the riots of December most of deaths caused by the police bullets. The police were supposed to fire at the below the waist but bullet shots have happened to the above waist which resulted in deaths of rioters. They all belonged to the Muslim community.  These riots happened in the centre of the city but the January riots spreaded to the whole city faraway places like China Bhatti, Dharvi and Ghatakpur.  December riots subsided quickly whereas the January riots continued for a long period. The December riots were spontaneous whereas the January riots were planned and organized with a prolonged campaign of disinformation and falsehood. The social character of the rioters of the January riots were people belonging to commoners with different castes and classes. Communal virus cut across the caste and class lines.

Rumours played an important role in mobilization of riots. As we studied the riots of Bhopal of December 6 we found the officials went with pistols and guarded the institute in the night that the Muslims would attack them. We objected to their behavior. Here in the case of Bombay the Hindu residents in many areas took to keeping night vigils. They collected weapons and took night duty. In some places women were said to have kept oil boiling to pour on would be attackers.

The city suffered the worst in the January riots in terms of human loss and economic loss. Death toll exceeded 600 in the January riots and whereas 133 deaths in December. The number of stabbing cases in crowd went up to 10,000 and one lakh people went to the refugee camp. Economic loss was above Rs 10,000 crores and many houses of the Muslims got burnt and destroyed. They became homeless and property less. (Asghar Ali Engineer, EPW March 20-27,1993)

These two riots teach the communal forces how to organize the riots in other cities against the Muslims. This happened in the year 2002 when the Muslims of Ahmadabad and Baroda got   The rioters would not be happy with the support of policemen or political leadership. They need the census report by which they can carefully study the city map according to social demography. They need hit songs of the Hindi films to motivate their rioters. They need to train the rioters who would go on rioting. Rioting is an art for which one needs communal imagination to be stirred up.  For which one needs to study how to manufacture the rumours and how to communicate your people to believe those rumours.  This needs a psychological war for mobilization of your supporters. You have train the Resident Welfare association people to turn into night vigilantes. One needs modern technology such as SMS or face book and other technological inputs in creating riots. Then riots can be organized in future. It needs investment from the rich specifically industrialists and builders who will finance the rioters if they go to jail. Their family needs can be managed by the trust created by the political party.

Prof. Radhakanta Barik, Retired Professor in Political science and a story writer in Odiya.

Oct 21, 2018

Prof Radhakanta Barik [email protected]

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