Safar / Rabi-Ul Awwal 1422 H
Volume 15-05 No:185
Observations made by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) and supercop Julio Ribeiro regarding the postings of IPS officers from the minority community in Gujarat have brought out in the open what was otherwise an “unspoken rule’’ - sideline the minority and muzzle its voice. This was reflected in the initial days of rioting after the Godhra incident where the police have been accused of being mute spectators or taking one-sided action. “I am surprised to know that IPS officers from the minority are given only less important postings in Gujarat,’’ says supercop, Julio Ribeiro. Sidelining minority officers has been an unwritten rule since 1995, when the BJP government first came to power. It did promote some of these IPS officers, but gave them peripheral postings.
One of the country’s best-known police officers, Julio Ribeiro, was in Ahmedabad for three days recently during which he met several senior police officers and addressed 12 public meetings. In Gujarat, he was the director-general of police in the mid-80s after completing his term as the Mumbai police chief. According to Ribeiro, the top brass must take the blame for the failure of the police in Gujarat. “I did not sense a whiff of leadership from top police officers. Senior officers have been reduced to mute spectators as they have little control over the force. Generally, senior police officers discipline errant subordinates by transferring them to insignificant wings. But in Gujarat, officers from the subordinate ranks manipulate all the transfers and postings at the police-station level, which is the cutting edge of the force,” he said.
Ribeiro also blamed Goverdhan Zadaphiya, the minister of
state for home for political interference. “I was told that 95 per cent of the
transfers in Gujarat police were done by oneman,Goverdhan Zadaphiya. He shifted
all senior police officers who happened to be Muslims to branch stations, such
as the traffic and prohibition departments and repeated it at the police station
level. Ribeiro received slew of complaints about the police from the citizens.
“Apart from the usual complaints of inaction, people said that the police were
recording absolutely incorrect FIRs.
A close scrutiny of all the judicial commissions into post-Partition communal riots in India shows how every report presented to the state or central government has indicted the police for its communal bias since 1961.
I met a respectable Hindu gentleman who said that the police did not take down the names of the rioters he had seen and wrote that it was a group of unidentified people” he said. “If people who have seen their mothers and sisters being raped and burnt before their eyes have no hope of getting justice, they will all turn into terrorists. Why are we talking about ISI and Pakistan when we are doing their job for them by creating terrorists,” said Ribeiro. Gourisankar Ghosh, a former Indian Administrative Service officer from the Gujarat cadre, now working with the United Nations opines that, “What happened in Godhra is deplorable and should have been immediately tackled by an alert administration in a pure law-and-order management process. But it did not happen. What happened after Godhra is shameful. If the first incident is a failure, the later incidents are the sheer result of administrative impotency”. Ghosh believed that leaders should take moral responsibility and hang their heads in shame for their failure and they should punish those who failed in their duties. “It is a fact that the police has been infiltrated by political elements. I hear of corruption nowadays very easily. But this degradation is the lowest limit those honourable protectors of society can reach. We are passing through a dark stage in the life of our country. It is not threatened by anyone outside, but by us. We have converted ourselves into barbarians” he said. Despite the state being a communal time-bomb, always ready to blow up in the face of the administration, there has been no attempt at ensuring proportionate representation of the minorities in the police. A move that many believe would give law enforcers a more secular face if implemented. The rot is so deep that not a single top officer from the minority community has field postings. The National Police Commission had foreseen some of these problems way back in the 1960’s and made a number of suggestions. As one officer remarked, it was better sitting on the sidelines because he would not have known how to marshal his men in such a situation. Not more than two per cent of the lower rank policemen are from the minority community. The government already has an example in the form of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) where the rule of proportionate representation is respected. Their blue uniforms do inspire more fear among rioters than the khaki of the Gujarat police. What are the consequences of this blatant abdication of responsibility of the state? Will the minorities conclude through bitter real-life experiences, riot after riot, that they can expect no protection or fair treatment from the custodians of law? Will the aggressors - be they individuals from Hindu communal organisations or policemen - go unpunished? “The alienation of any section of society is a ripe breeding ground for unfortunate, even deplorable methods of retaliation,” said B.G. Deshmukh, former Union cabinet secretary.
The build-up to each round of violence unleashed against the minorities over the decades reveals systematic propaganda unleashed by Hindu communal organisations - be it the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (indicted by government-appointed judicial commissions in the Tellicherry, Bhiwandi and Ahmedabad riots), the Jana Sangh (held responsible in Ranchi and Ahmedabad), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal (in Meerut and Bhagalpur) the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, the Hindu Munnani in Tamil Nadu - to communalise society and wings of the state. A close scrutiny of all the judicial commissions into post-Partition communal riots in India shows how every report presented to the state or central government has indicted the police for its communal bias since 1961. The prejudice reflects itself in a more aggressive treatment of the minority and shielding of the aggressors belonging to Hindu communal organisations through the tailoring or scotching of evidence so that the guilty go scot-free. Apart from judicial commissions’ reports and reports of Investigations by civil liberties’ groups, the National Police Commission, the National Minorities Commission, the National Human Rights Commission, the National Integration Council and individuals have frequently emphasised that the state needs to swiftly and firmly adopt remedial measures to arrest this growing alienation.Top
Tahir Surti, a businessman does not want to go back to his village in Gujarat because he gets no protection from the government. Safi Barkat, a trader is planning to shift from the Muslim dominated Shahpur in Ahmedabad to the densely Muslim populated Mohammed Ali Road in Mumbai. Advocate Saifee Rajkotwala refuses to go back to his flat in Godhra. "Police themselves are telling us that they cannot guarantee any security even in our Bohra dominated areas. My relatives in Mumbai are insisting that I permanently shift to the Bohra Mohalla in south Mumbai", he said. For centuries, Hindus and Muslims in the fertile western state of Gujarat have lived next to each other in the same villages. They have shared land, water pumps and cups of tea. But in areas where Muslims are in minority, they are now leaving, and moving to places like Savala which are rapidly becoming Muslim ghettos. "Our Hindu neighbours told us we should go to Pakistan. But we are Indians. India is our country. It is our motherland. We are faithful to our country and we don't want to leave," said S. S. Pathan, a school teacher. Muslims in the remote interiors are leaving for safer locations - those, that is, who have not already been murdered. Ironically, even the chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, Justice Mohammad Shamim (retd) has asked the state government to shift riot victims from the relief camps to a site where they can feel collectively safe. Speaking to victims at the Shah-e-Alam camp on his visit to the state, he said, "I have recommended to the state government to give land to these victims so they can create a new settlement and get a sense of security."
Like every communal riot in India, the Muslims of India, after the Gujarat carnage, are in a dilemma. The questions Muslims are asking themselves is, "Should they shift back to their own ghettos or they are safe in the cosmopolitan or mixed residential areas.
Ghettos is an oddly dry and technical word to the pain of
being forced to choose one side of the divide or the other. The individual
stories are vastly more compelling. They form a mosaic of lives uprooted,
families split and existences made suddenly tenuous in the minority ghettos of
India. The darker colours of the mosaic come from murder and fear. The Gujarat
carnage exemplifies the grave social and political implications of the
ghettoisation of religious and ethnic minorities. In the case of the Muslims,
ghettoisation is the only option, given the threat to their life and property in
Gujarat. But when religious minorities, like the Muslims in India, who
constitute a sizeable section of the Indian middle class, prefer to live in
spatially, cordoned community ghettos, then the issue needs careful examination.
In many slums across the country, different communities are co-existing and living together in complete harmony with no communal violence. Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia in Central Mumbai is the classic example of co-existence
The emergence of the middle - class Muslim ghettos in the new areas of big cities like Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Calcutta, and Delhi is a fairly recent phenomenon. Whereas in cities like Ahmedabad and Mumbai, this development is a direct result of the gruesome communal riots of the last two decades, it is difficult to trace its immediate causes in Delhi where middle class localities have by and large been unscathed in Hindu-Muslim conflicts. It is no doubt understandable that the killings in urban middle class localities of Mumbai and Ahmedabad created a general insecurity in the community as a whole, and the middle class in particular closely identified with the victims.But ghettoisation of the middle class Muslims is not the solution to the fear of riots. This trend inflicts more damage than communal flare-ups. Its ramifications are detrimental to the long-term interests of the community. For such a herding together reinforces an inclusive sense of community identity based on fear and urge for retribution. But more importantly, ghettoisation is splitting the Muslim middle class into two neat groups. For instance, in Delhi the middle-class Muslims increasingly prefer to stay in two community enclaves.
The small-time business class, contractors and lower level political functionaries live behind Jamia Millia University in the nightmarish urban slum called Zakirnagar. The Muslim professionals, and the service gentry class are housed in a more habitable neighbourhood - Zakirbagh. The social hierarchies between these two “Muslim areas” are very clearly demarcated. The emergence in the last two decades of a considerably big Muslim middle-class raised the hope of social reforms within the community and the eventual change in its leadership. But a split in this class is all set to extinguish this ray of hope. Middle-class Muslim ghettoisation thus needs to be checked as it reinforces the mischievous stereotype of the “backward” and “intolerant Muslims.” Since communal violence has been largely urban-based, most Muslims living in slums are also its victims.
There they live cheek-by-jowl with Dalits, Christians and the poor from the Other Backward Classes (OBC). Life has taught them to co-exist with these other communities and what they share in common are denial of drinking water, toilet facilities and drains and other civic facilities and they are equally helpless in the face of slum-lords, criminalisation and corruption, police-politician nexus and the constant threat of eviction that hangs over their heads like the Damoclean sword. In many slums across the country, different communities are co-existing and living together in complete harmony with no communal violence. Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia in Central Mumbai is the classic example of co-existence. No doubt, living together with the community one belongs to is essential to maintain the cultural religious identity. But shunning of community in the ghettos forces them into the shell, oblivious of the other communities. This leads to the gap in communication and suspicion grows. In such a scenario, communal forces find it easy to operate and implement their hate agenda. In a plural and multi-religious country like India, isolation is not the solution.
Interaction with the multi-communities, working with them, living with them, identifying with their issues and problems, is not only a pre-requisite for the peace and safety, but also essential for the growth of the community. F. T. Khorakiwala, chairman, Akbarallys said, “There has been lot of damage in Gujarat and it’s really sad. Now, the only way for everybody is to forget the past and move on. Both communities should work towards creating an environment of mutual understanding”. The majority of the Hindus of this country are not communal. They might have misgivings about the Muslims and misunderstanding about Islam in the face of consistent hate propaganda by the saffron brigade. Muslims must counter this hate campaign through sustained interaction with the Hindus and other communities at different levels. This will expose the saffron brigade and create communal harmony.Top
First the focus on Ayodhya and now the Gujarat carnage has led the Democratic Front(DF) government in Maharastra off the hook, as it has not been able to prevent the series of riots under its rule. Recently, three persons were left dead in Kalyan near Mumbai and curfew was imposed in the Bazarpeth area following a tiff between a rickshaw driver from the minority community and a passenger from the majority community , sparking off a night of violence and rioting. Houses and shops were set ablaze and groups threw stones at each other. Communal riots make news only when people are killed in the violence or in police firing, as was the case in Akola last week. But the State Minorities Commission, which monitors them, says there have been 50 instances of communal violence since the Democratic Front government took over in October 18, 1999.
Malegaon, Nashik, Ichalkaranji, Buldana, Pune, Sangli, Nanded and Akola are some of the places, which witnessed communal clashes in the last 28 months. The worst such rioting was in Malegaon in October last year when 15 people were killed and property worth crores of rupees was destroyed. The immediate cause of the riots in this textile town was the rough treatment meted out by a SRP constable to a Muslim youngster who was distributing anti-America pamphlets after the attack on Afghanistan.
In March last year, there were incidents of arson and burning
of buses at Pune following rumours of the Quran being burnt in retaliation for
the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues by the Taliban. Nashik witnessed
riots in January 2000, when an enraged mob went on the rampage following the
demolition by civic authorities of an illegal structure that resembled a mosque.
The mob set fire to eight shops in the Shivaji market during curfew hours.
Ichalkaranji, another textile town in Kolhapur district, witnessed arson on
December 28, 2000.The root cause of the riot was the dispute between the two
communities over the ownership of an Idgaah maidan, where namaz is offered.
While the Hindu groups maintain that the 2.5-acre ground is public property, the
Syed Maqdum Ali Idgaah Trust, led by the local councillor, claimed the maidan
and constructed a wall across it. The immediate cause of the clash was the
insistence of the Shiv Sena and BJP activists to perform a maha aarti at
Police officers and men, particularly at the junior level, appeared to have an in-built bias against the Muslims which was evident in their treatment of the suspected Muslims and Muslim victims of riots.
In November last year, violence erupted in Sangli in southern Maharashtra after provocative slogans were found on a portion of the Idgaah maidan wall. The mob that had gathered there started stoning passing buses, following which the police caned them. In December 2000, riots broke out in Jalgaon Jamod in Buldana, resulting in the arrest of 60 Hindus and 47 Muslims. In September 2000, there were riots in Nanded and at Akot in Akola during Ganesh immersions. Before the riots in Kalyan, the last incident of communal violence was in Murbad in Thane district, where Bajrang Dal activists burnt the shops of Muslim traders in the main market on the day of the nation-wide bandh organised by the VHP in protest against the carnage at Godhra.
How do riots erupt? The Union home ministry said in a note circulated to the National Integration Council in 1968: “From 1954 to 1960, there was a clear and consistent downward trend. This trend was sharply reversed in 1961.” The then Home Minister, Y.B. Chavan, told the council: “We know they always start from some insignificant incident, but suddenly spread to the whole community. Therefore, we have come to the conclusion that this cannot be explained by these small insignificant incidents, but there are some dangerous spots in the minds of men like distrust which ultimately erupt into communal riots.” Rioters are a reserve army, a mixture of lumpen elements and others. In riot-prone areas, they have most likely been used before and will be ready to come out on such occasions when they receive the word from their masters. Thanks to the RSS and its progeny, an institutional riot structure is ever in place; a pre-existing “technology of terror” ready to go into action on short notice. In his view, “persistence of Hindu-Muslim conflicts in India is neither natural nor inevitable”. Moreover, anti-minority bias in the Indian Police is a well-documented fact. A slew of Inquiry Commissions have pointed fingers at the police for being anti-Muslim. “The response of police to appeals from desperate victims, particularly Muslims, was cynical and utterly indifferent. On occasions, the response was that they were unable to leave the appointed post, on others, the attitude was that one Muslim killed was one Muslim less. Police officers and men, particularly at the junior level, appeared to have an in-built bias against the Muslims which was evident in their treatment of the suspected Muslims and Muslim victims of riots. The treatment given was harsh and brutal and, on occasions, bordering on the inhuman.The bias of policemen was seen in the active connivance of police constables with the rioting Hindu mobs, on occasions, with their adopting the role of passive on-lookers on occasions, and, finally, their lack of enthusiasm in registering offences against Hindus even when the accused was clearly identified and post-haste classifying the cases in ‘A’ (True, but not detected) summary”. (Report of the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission on the Mumbai riots of 1992-1993).
Both the Congress and the NCP had promised implementation of the Report in their election manifestoes. Why the reluctance now? The most likely answer lies in what Bhujbal, then in the Opposition, told this correspondent when the Report was about to be tabled. There was no doubt that the Sena-BJP Government would reject it. Asked whether he would lead an agitation for its implementation, he retorted, “What? And lose the Hindu vote?”
The way he has gone about implementing the Report, using it as a political weapon against his bete noire, Bal Thackeray, he must have lost it by now. On his part, the only time the Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, talks about the report, is on Muslim platforms. Not to be left behind, Muslim politicians have done their bit to communalise the Report by fighting in public about who should get credit for the progress in the Supreme Court.Top