Insights into 1993 riots/bomb blasts

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This article appeared in the Hindustan Times
All are equal before the law? When the Indian State talks of inequality there are issues that are obviously ignored.  Parts of the article that are not published but represent useful insights are underlined for your convenience.

Ever since the TADA Court delivered its judgment in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case there has been a clamor to punish those guilty for the 1993 riots. A well known leftist recently wrote an article whose bye line read, “The strength of the Republic is measured by its capacity to treat all its citizens equally”.  That the guilty should be punished is beyond question but to say that the law treats all Indians equally is a myth.

This article tells you, one how the India State discriminates amongst its citizens and two gives you insights into events during and after the riots/blasts. But first a few examples on how citizens are treated differently. 

One, subsequent to a February 2006 judgment, in July 2007 the Supreme Court reiterated that all states to frame rules for compulsory registration of marriages, irrespective of religion. The petitioner Kumar said that states had issued notification under the Hindu Marriage Act and therefore, it was not mandatory for Indians belonging to other religions to get their marriages registered. (HT July 24 by Bhadra Sinha)

Two, temples in many states notably Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are under the control of state governments. It means that contributions made by devotees in the temple box become part of the state treasury. Back home the Maharashtra Government passed an ordinance to take over the trust that runs the Shirdi temple but! Similarly would it take over the Haji Ali Dargah as well?

Three, educational institutions run by Minorities are subject to limited government control and do not have to reserve seats for SC/STs. To overcome the constraints posed by such rules the Ramakrishna Mission approached the Supreme Court in 1995 praying that the mission be declared a minority institution since they were not Hindus.

Four, state governments spend crores of rupees for imparting education (religious and secular) in Madrassas. Are Gurukuls similarly funded?

Five, the UPA government recently directed that Loans to minorities would now qualify as priority sector lending. This would reduce cost of funds for banks. Therefore, interest rates for minorities would be lower than for others.

Six, a Supreme Court judgment of July 2005 w.r.t ‘Noise Pollution - Implementation of the Laws for restricting use of loudspeakers and high volume producing sound systems’ clearly lays down decibel levels. While Mumbai police adhere to these norms during the Ganesh Chaturthi and Navratri festivals, they are unable to enforce them on mosques. The purpose behind sharing these facts is not to arouse Hindus or blame Muslims.
Unfortunately, successive Congress and non-Congress governments continue to live by the divide and rule policy. Give facilities by all means, but economic backwardness and not religion should be the basis for such grants. 

With Justice P D Kode completing the arduous tasks of delivering judgment in 1993 Mumbai blasts case the focus has shifted to the 1992-93 riots once again. While the judiciary will punish the guilty some questions. Were the riots planned or a spontaneous expression of Muslim anger against the demolition of the Babri Masjid? What were the internal equations of the ruling Congress party then? Could the riots have been controlled earlier and precious lives saved? Some insights- 

In 1992, former Deputy Municipal Commissioner Mr. G R Khairnar started demolition of illegal structures. A number of buildings allegedly belonging to the underworld were demolished in the Muslim dominated areas of South Mumbai. While this made him a middle class hero sections of the population were very angry with him. Presumably, Mr. Khairnar could undertake this work because of the unstinted support of the then Chief Minister Sudhakarrao Naik. When appointed, Mr Naik was supposed to be a nominee of Mr. Sharad Pawar. With time he started acting independently, made many Congressmen unhappy in the process.

Therefore, in December 1992, Muslims were angry with two demolitions, of the Babri Masjid and illegal structures. First there were protests against the demolition of the disputed Masjid. Those who were affected by demolition of illegal structures added fuel to the fire. Later criminal elements got involved. 

The 1992-93 riots can be divided into two phases, December 1992 and January 1993. In phase one Muslims protested, there were violent attacks on policemen in Muslim dominated areas. The police had not only to maintain law and order but protect their own lives too. When faced with an aggressive and violent mob during a communal riot, the police have to fire, cannot follow the normal sequence of lathi charge, tear gas and fire. Since the mobs were Muslim casualties were Muslims too. So phase one involved the police and Muslims.

Phase two started with two incidents where Hindus were killed. One was the murder of mathadi workers (Maharashtrains who work in the dock areas and hail from Satara, Sangli, Konkan etc) on the night of 5th March 1993 allegedly by Feroze Konkani (was arrested and escaped, is untraceable today). Two was the Radhabai chawl massacre on the night March 7, 1993. That is when the Hindu backlash started. So in phase two, Hindus responded after being attacked.

When the riots continued the Army was sent to control the situation. However, the Army had limited effect due to contradictions within the then leadership of the Congress party. Due to party infighting the Army was not called out in time and given clear cut instructions.
Former PM Narasimha Rao watched the situation as it unfolded. He was busy warding off Pawar who was forever trying to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming PM.

In March 1993 the Mumbai blasts took place. The country was aghast! As it had never experienced something like this before. CM Naik was blamed for being incompetent and replaced by Sharad Pawar who controlled the situation admirably. Mumbai was on its feet as usual in a matter of days if not weeks. All credit goes to Sharad Pawar.

Who gained from the riots? The underworld got a chance to hit back at the state government for demolitions in South Mumbai. Pawar once again, became the uncrowned king of Maharashtra. Balasaheb Thackeray became the savior of Mumbai’s Hindus. PM Rao was happy to see Pawar return to state politics, get off his back. All but the average Mumbaikar benefited!

The guilty should be punished. However, everyone should be treated equally. A starting could be made by granting Hindus the same constitutional rights that are granted to other Indians citizens and trying those responsible for the Mumbai riots, both Muslim and Hindu.

For a change can we start thinking as Indians first or the fruits of 9% GDP growth would get lost in internal conflict!