Sri Krishna Commission Report Into 1992-93 Mumbai Communal Riots: A Summary And Excerpts

What Triggered The Violence

The Sri Krishna Commission Report firmly holds the demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992, and the subsequent ‘victory processions’ with provocative speeches by Shiv Sena leaders in Mumbai, events that triggered the first phase of rioting between 6-10 December 1992.

The Commission notes that in the weeks prior to 6th December 1992, “The Rath Yatra by the Bharatiya Janata Party in support of its campaign for building of Ram Temple at Ayodhya further added to communal tension all over the country and Bombay city was no exception.”

Recounting the events of 6th December, the Commission notes:

“Trouble appears to be brewing in the city even before the demolition of the Babri Masjid and percolation of the news….Between 11 am–12 pm, there are various meetings held by kar sevaks, activists of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bharatiya Janata Party at different places in the city….

At 12:33pm, a crowd of 300-400 holds a meeting opposite Shiv Mandir, Dadar. …The Babri Masjid is demolished at about 12:30 pm and the news of this event is widely publicized by the electronic media, particularly BBC News….

At 16:40 pm, a cycle rally of 200-300 persons is taken out by the local leaders of Shiv Sena in Dharavi…This rally passes through several communally sensitive and Muslim predominant areas in Dharavi and terminates at Kala Killa where a meeting is held and addressed by the local activists of Shiv Sena. Provocative speeches are made at this meeting.” This is followed by several incidents of stone pelting in Muslim areas.

The Commission noted, “The sight of large contingent of armed constabulary and Central and state para–military forces standing mutely without raising a finger to protect the mosque being pulled down and the fact that some of them were even seen to be gleeful over the said fact, caused deep hurt and anguish beyond endurance to the Muslims. The irresponsible act of the Hindutva parties in celebrating and gloating over the demolition of Babri structure was like twisting a knife in the wound and heightened the anguished ire of the Muslims. The celebration rally organised by Shiv Sena in Dharavi jurisdiction is an example. The Muslims protested, and protested angrily on the streets.” The Commission notes that mature handling of the protest demonstrations could have calmed the climate. Instead, “The police mishandled the situation and by their aggressive posture turned the peaceful protests into violent demonstrations, during which the first targets of the anger of the mob became the municipal vans and the constabulary, both visible signs of the establishment….It is significant that the mobs were not armed, not even with stones and sticks, though they were angry and wanting to vent their spleen against anyone in authority. This situation was misdiagnosed, mishandled and turned messier….

“At this juncture the Hindus had nothing to complain and should have left the matter to be dealt with by the police as a problem of law and order. It is unfortunate that even at this stage the activists of Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena jumped into the fray, and escalated communal passion, as seen from their act of stopping the vehicles on roads in the jurisdiction of V.P. Road Police Station.”

The situation then rapidly escalated into full scale rioting with violence by both Hindus and Muslims.

Deliberate Political Pogrom, Not 'Spontaneous Riot'

The Commission noted that the Shiv Sena “shakhas in different jurisdictional areas turned into centres of local commands. The attacks on Muslims by the Shiv Sainiks were mounted with military precision, with list of establishments and voter’s lists in hand.”

The Commission categorically states, “the immediate causes of the communal riots on 6th December 1992 were: (a) the demolition of Babri Masjid, (b) the aggravation of Muslim sentiments by the Hindus with their celebration rallies and (c) the insensitive and harsh approach of the police while handling the protesting mobs which initially were not violent….

“As far as the causes for January 1993 phase of the rioting is concerned, the Commission does not accept the theory that it was merely a backlash of the Hindus because of the stabbings, Mathadi murders incidents and the Radhabai Chawl incident….the communal passions of the Hindus were aroused to fever pitch by the inciting writings in print media, particularly Saamna and Navaakal which gave exaggerated accounts of the Mathadi murders and the Radhabai Chawl incident; rumours were floated that there were imminent attacks by Muslims using sophisticated arms. From 8th January 1993 at least there is no doubt that the Shiv Sena and Shiv Sainiks took the lead in organizing attacks on Muslims and their properties under the guidance of several leaders of the Shiv Sena from the level of Shakha Pramukh to the Shiv Sena Pramukh Bal Thackeray who, like a veteran General, commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslims.”

Communally Biased Cops</h3

But, as the Commission notes, “Even after it became apparent that the leaders of the Shiv Sena were active in stoking the fire of the communal riots, the police dragged their feet on the facile and exaggerated assumption that if such leaders were arrested the communal situation would further flare up, or to put it in the words of then Chief Minister, Sudhakarrao Naik, “Bombay would burn”; not that Bombay did not even burn otherwise.”

The Commission was scathing in its documentation of police bias, “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 offenses against Hindus even when the accused was clearly identified.”

Riots and Blasts: Cause and Effect

About the serial blasts of 1993, the Commission found “There does appear to be a cause and effect relationship between the two riots and the serial bomb blasts. Tiger Memon, the key figure in the serial bomb blasts case and his family had suffered extensively during the riots and therefore can be said to have had deep rooted motive for revenge. It would appear that one of his trusted accomplices, Javed Dawood Tailor alias Javed Chikna, had also suffered a bullet injury during the riots and therefore he also had a motive for revenge. Apart from these two specific cases, there was a large amorphous body of angry frustrated and desperate Muslims keen to seek revenge for the perceived injustice done to and atrocities perpetrated on them or to others of their community and it is this sense of revenge which spawned the conspiracy of the serial blasts. This body of angry frustrated and desperate Muslims provided the material upon which the anti–national and criminal elements succeeded in building up their conspiracy for the serial bomb blasts.”

Bitter Truths - That Were Not Heeded

The Commission named senior Shiv Sena leaders including Bal Thackeray, Manohar Joshi and Madhukar Sarpotdar, as well as 31 policemen, responsible for the communal violence, detailing the evidence against them. By the time the Commission submitted its report, Manohar Joshi was the Chief Minister, the killers were in the seat of power. Neither Shiv Sena-BJP Governments nor subsequent Congress-NCP Governments acted to implement the recommendations of the Commission.

The Commission ended with an apt quotation from the Ramayana: “Sulabhaah purushaa rajan satatam priya vaadinah/Apriyasya cha pathhyasya vakta shrota cha durlabah(Persons pleasing in speech are easy to find; it is difficult to find one who speaks or listens to the bitter, but wholesome, truth).

Indeed, we need more citizens of the country to come forward to speak and hear the “bitter, but wholesome, truth.”

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