January 1999


Srikrishna Commission Findings  




As a fall-out of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992, the riots that shook Mumbai were unprecedented in their sweep and intensity. Within a few months of the riots the Indian Peoples' Human Rights Tribunal and several other concerned citizens' groups brought out investigative reports that exposed that these riots which were like pogroms against Muslims, were engineered by Hindu chauvinistic parties like BJP and Shiv Sena and were not spontaneous but planned. They had estimated that about 1500 people were killed and properties worth over a hundred crores destroyed. They also exposed the communal bias of the police, their excessive firings on Muslims and brutality against them and their open connivance with the aggressive Hindu mobs. Further, they indicted the State Government led by Sudhakarrao Naik for colluding with the Hindu chauvinist parties and allowing the riots to carry on.



Now the report of the official inquiry into the riots, the Srikrishna Commission is public. The Commission has reached, essentially the same conclusions as the earlier investigations. The Commission has sharply indicted the Shiv Sena for planning and leading the January'93 phase of the riots, held that the Shiv Sena and BJP had a role in the December phase of the riots as well, with their aggressive and provocative celebration of the demolition of the Masjid; it has criticised the police for their "in-built bias" against Muslims and excessive brutality against them in specific incidents; and criticized the State Government for ineffective handling of such a grim situation. The Commission has held that the aggressive propaganda buildup, especially since July 1992, of the Ramjanmabhoomi campaign, Advani's Rath Yatra, the Ram Paduka processions, inciting speeches etc, generated communal tension. The Commission has also held that in reaction to the Hindutva campaign some Muslim fundamentalist organisations propagated that their religion is in danger, which added to the communal tension. The actual demolition of the Babri Masjid, watched widely on TV, created a sense of resentment and anger among Muslims. The Commission has criticised the police for being insensitive to the sentiments of the Muslims in this situation and mishandling the situation from December 7, when they came out in large numbers, to protest against the demolition. But the Commission did not agree with the unofficial investigations that in December 92, the police deliberately targeted at the Muslims with an aim to kill.

Official Commission reports are rarely so categorical in fixing responsibility and in criticizing ruling class politicians and the Government. The Misra Commission report into the massacres of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984 is in contrast to this report. It was a complete whitewash of the role-played by Congress politicians and their hoodlums and the Rajiv Gandhi Government in the massacres and a cover-up of the connivance of the police in the killings.

As expected the Shiv Sena-BJP Govt in Mabarashtra tried to scuttle first the Commission and then its report. It suddenly disbanded the Commission on January 23,1996, hut was forced to revive it after six months. Then after the Commission submitted its report in February 1998, it found excuse after excuse not to table it before the Assembly. It was finally forced to place the report before the Assembly on August 6 under pressure from a public interest case and public demand. Then it printed such few copies of the report that ~ would know the actual contents of the report. The Shiv Sena-BJP Govt rejected the report outright, and the fascist Home Minister L.K.Advani, the main architect of the Ramjanmabhoomi campaign, defended the State Govt's decision. But, the Commission's findings have officially exploded the myths and lies circulated by the Shiv Sena (SS), BJP and its allies on the origin of the riots to justify the brutal attacks on Muslims.



The first lie is that the ISI was smuggling large quantities of firearms like AKs into Mumbai and storing them in mosques, to be used in attacks on Hindus and the police. This was widely propagated in order to provoke Hindus to attack Muslims. The Commission has proved that this was a total lie and found no evidence of an ISI plot or conspiracy behind the riots and no smuggled arms or explosives were recovered during the riots. Police officers have admitted in their depositions that even in combing operations no arms were found. In fact in the whole period of the riots a total of 14 firearms were seized, 8 from Hindus and 6 from Muslims!! Two foreign made weapons which were seized were a Smith and Wesson revolver and an Astra pistol. They were seized by the army from the then Shiv Sena MLA Madhukar Sarpotdar and his associates at the height of the riots. The SS and BJP kept on publicising reports of private firings against Hindus to support this lie which when investigated, as the cross-examination of police officers proved, in most cases happened to be false.

The other myth repeated ad nauseum, and used to justify Sena's theory of "retaliation" was that it was the stabbing of two mathadi Hindu workers and the Radhabai chawl arson case in which 6 members of one Hindu family lost their lives, in the first week of January, that led to anger among Hindus, due to which they retaliated. This has been specifically rejected by the Commission. It states that even after December 15, attacks on Muslims and their properties indifferent parts of the city continued, stabbings by professional criminals in which mostly Hindus were victims continued, the Marathi newspapers Saamna and Navakal kept inciting Hindu passions with false and exaggerated reporting, rumour-mongering, (an art perfected by the Hindu chauvinists) reached its peak in this period, and Maha-artis were started on the roads in which hundreds of Hindus were mobilised and inciting speeches given. All this build-up before these two incidents only proves that they were not the "flashpoint" for the riots to restart. The murder of the mathadi workers on January 5th, at that time by an unknown assailant, was given a communal twist by the local SS Pramukh. Radhabai Chawl, located in Jogeshwari, was set on fire on the night of January 7. But three days earlier, on January 4th itself the 55 MLA Gajanan Kirtikar had taken a mob of 4000 to the Jogeshwari police station. The morcha damaged Chacha nagar masjid and looted Muslims' shops. On January 5th, Muslims huts in MP Mill compound, Tardeo had been set on fire. Inspite of these glaring facts even senior police officers repeated this myth before the commission.



The first procession on 6th Dec. was a victory rally organised by the 55 in Dharavi area. During the rally stones were thrown at the namaazis in Anjuman Kadaria mosques and extremely provocative slogans were given. On December 6, the SS and BJP had organised 'Ghantanaads' — bells were rung to coincide with the karseva in Ayodhya — in every locality. Towards the end of December they began Maha-artis which were publicised in Saamna; they wrote slogans and instructions on blackboards at their Shakhas and public places inciting Hindus to attack; the Shakhas collected voters' lists to identify Muslim residents and surveyed houses (eg. in Abhyudayanagar and Prateekshanagar) which were later systematically attacked and looted. 55 leaders were leading the mobs that went on the rampage. The Commission concludes, "from 8th January atleast there is no doubt that the Shiv Sena and Shiv Sainiks took the lead in organising attacks on Muslims and their properties under the guidance of several leaders of the SS from the level of the Shakha Pramukh to Shiv Sena Pramukh, Bal Thackeray who, like a veteran General, commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslim."

Thackeray openly defended the role of the SS in the demolition of the Masjid and he wrote venomously. On December 8th, Saamnas edit says, "Muslims must draw lessons from the demolition. Otherwise, they will meet the same fate as the Babri domes……” 

According to him, "in this war, we and our Saamna fought like men.." (Jan 23)

He exhorted the police, "Police - your weapons are meant to kill traitors. These leaders and officers telling you not to do so are bigger traitors than those living in Behrampada. Obeying anti-national orders is also an anti-national act. The police must think – should guns be trained on traitors or innocent people?" (Jan 5)

How Bal Thackeray directed the riots was proved by the evidence of a journalist, Yuvraj Mohite, who gave an eye witness account before the Commission. Mohite, a journalist of a Marathi newspaper, Mahanagar, accompanied the Mayor of Mumbai, Chandrakant Handore, to Bal Thackeray's house on January 8th night, to get his signature on a memorandum calling for peace. There they heard Thackeray directing Shakhapramukhs and others on the phone, on whom to attack and how…..” give tit for tat... not a single 'landya' (deregatory marathi term, meaning circumscribed muslims) should survive to give oral evidence……”, "catch hold of AA, Khan anywhere and send him to Allah's home" etc etc. He not only told Handore he would not sign the memorandum but made his determination to eliminate "landyas" clear, "I am giving orders to that effect," he said. They also witnessed him giving instructions to Madhukar Sarpotdar (presently MP) and MLA Ramesh More.

Handore was too scared to act on what he saw. Mohite's editor telephoned the Home Minister Babanrao Pachpute and informed him about Thackeray. But the Govt took no action against Thackeray, and from the Chief Minister to the Police commissioner all shielded Thackeray before the Commission. A few cases filed against Thackeray for inciting communal tensions were also withdrawn by ihe SS-BJP Govt.



Police officer after officer initially stated that the Maha­-artis were purely religious affairs and did not lead to any riots. They gave permission for them and even diverted traffic for them. They had to be confronted with evidence from areas under their jurisdiction to make them admit that crowds returning from the Maha-artis often attacked Muslims, and many riots were in the vicinity of the Artis. In deposition after deposition the police officers were unable to justify their actions or inactions during the build­up to the riots and in the riots. They turned a blind eye to the inciting propaganda; they were abusive to Muslims and dismissed their complaints; they arrested Muslims, but often did not arrest Hindus inspite of being identified; and cases in which Muslims were victims were closed as (A summary) "true but undetected". Worse, they fired unnecessarily and specifically at Muslims and covered up records of Hindu mobs looting and burning. Many serious incidents of police brutality have been given, like the Suleiman Bakery shooting, led by then Jt CP Ramdeo Tyagi and his commandos in which nine were killed; the Hila Masjid killing etc. Some constables are identified while participating in the riots. But why blame only subordinates when the pro-Hindu bias began at the very top. So you have Dy. Commissioner K.Bishnoi asserting before the Commission that he did not perceive any role of the SS in the riots, even after admitting that he knew of a secret meeting in his area by the SS, held for the purpose of teaching Muslims a lesson. Tyagi joined SS after retirement.

The then Commissioner of Police, Vasant Bapat, revealed himself as the most biased and an active agent of the Hindutva politicians. Apparently, he could not perceive any role of the 55 or similar organisation in the riots. Even after being confronted with facts, he had the gall to say that there was no material on record to show involvement of the SS! Yet he did not need concrete evidence to blame ISI for the riots in his written deposition.

Though he was Jt Director of IB at that time (1990), he asserted that Advani's Rath Yatra was not the cause of any riots enroute! He saw to it that no action was taken against SS-BJP leaders even when evidence of their active participation in the riots was available. Thus Sarpotdar went scot free, BJP MP Ram Naik (presently Central Minister) was allowed free movement inspite of having led a violent morcha on January 9 and Thackeray remains untainted. Communalisation of the top police bureaucracy needs no comment. Their ruthlessness too is blatant. Bapat did not favour modern methods of riot control like use of rubber bullets, water canons, which are now being used in many parts of the world.



The Commission has been mild in its criticism of the then Congress Govt, terming it as "effete political leadership" which was prone to vacillation. But the deposition of the then Chief Minister Sudhakarrao Naik before the Commission clearly reveals his pro-Sena leanings. He did not merely dilly-daily over whether to give the Army operational duties. In his deposition Sudhakarrao Naik claimed that he had no knowledge of the SS being involved in communal violence! In the context of these riots he said that it was some citizens' delegation that met him that complained to him about Bal Thackeray's role in the riots. This was the statement of the Chief Minister of the State of Maharashtra with the entire administrative resources of the State at his command. The SS from its very birth has whipped up hate campaigns, first against 'Madrasis', then against Buddhists and now against Muslims. In vidarbha, the area from which Naik hails and neighbouring Marathawada, SS was openly involved in fomenting riots against Dalits. Sudhakar Naik as CM took the political decision to allow Maha-artis, not to arrest Bal Thackeray, not to use TADA against hindus arrested during the riots. (TADA was only invoked against the accused of the Radhabai Chawl case, all of whom were Muslims). His delay in using the Army was due to his rivalry with Sharad Pawarr, lest the Defence Minister takes the credit. All this and more shows that he connived and colluded with the fascist hindutva forces during the riots. This very same Sudhakar Naik, when he was cold-shouldered by the Congress leadership last year tried to join the Shiv Sena. The fact is that the Congress, both at the State level and the Central level must share the responsibility for the Mumbai riots. Can we forget that the birth of the Shiv Sena is linked to faction fighting in the Congress in the 1960s; or that its revival in the 1980s was also linked to faction fighting in the Congress. Sharad Pawar deposed before the Commission as a very concerned and secular politician, but it was Pawar himself, who as CM of Maharashtra covertly encouraged the SS to grow by allowing the vandalism of SS goons, and himself had close links with Bal Thackeray.



SS Chief Minister Manohar Joshi has accused the Commission for being anti-hindu, pro-Muslim. But on the question of the circumstances and immediate cause of the bomb blasts and its links with the riots, Justice Srikrishna merely repeats what the Shiv Sena and the police have maintained all along. Basing himself on the material filed in the bomb blast cases by the police, Justice Srikrishna concludes that the bomb blasts were the handiwork of anti­ national elements like smuggler Dawood and Tiger Memon aided and abetted by the ISI, who utilised the anger and frustrations among Muslims as a result of the riots, to instigate them, train them and implement the serial bombings in March 1993. But a political analysis discloses that it was not the Muslims who gained anything from the blasts, but it was the Hindutva forces which gained from the serial blasts. The SS-BJP came to power in Maharashtra as an aftermath to these bomb blasts. Besides, the smuggler Dawood is a mercenary whose name has been connected with a range of politicians, extending from Sharad Pawar to Chandra Swami to Bal Thackeray and Romesh Sharma. Hence it seems more probable that the bomb blasts were the devious plan of a section of the Hindutva forces, who deliberately utilised misguided, frustrated Muslims to execute it.


All the political parties have responded to the report with an eye on the Assembly elections due next year. The Congress welcomed the report and initially demanded the arrest of Bal Thackeray, but later retracted to demanding "stern action against the guilty". After saying this it fell silent. It wants to win back the Muslim votes, but does not want to alienate Hindus. The SS and BJP, together in Govt, rejected the report. While the SS has openly defended its retaliation theory and its hindutva platform, the BJP has been completely silent. Obviously the BJP prefers to let the entire blame for the riots fall on the SS, and thus seeks to increase its share of the Hindu vote at the expense of the SS. The Samajwadi Parry is actively campaigning for the punishment of the guilty. The Samsjwadi Party is based exclusively among Muslims in Mumbai. In order to consolidate its vote base it is also, like the Congress in the past, relying on opportunist, fundamentalist forces and even some criminal elements among the Muslims. Muslims must learn that such forces are in no way interested in the welfare and improvement of the community but only in retaining their vote bank. Unless Muslims break out of the hold of their fundamentalist, discredited leaders, organise themselves to fight the hindutva forces (not ordinary hindus), and ally with all democratic and revolutionary forces, they cannot get justice and nor can the Hindutva forces be combated.

A section of the liberal secular minded individuals and organisations are satisfied with the indictment by the Commission, and are not pressing for punishment of the guilty for fear of reopening wounds and again creating communal tensions. But history has shown that fascism could Dot be defeated by appeasing the fascists or forgiving them for their crimes. They had to be fought in the streets and made to pay for their crimes.

The demand that those accused of fomenting, participating and conniving in the riots including, Bal Thackeray, should be tried, is a democratic demand, it is a demand for justice. After all, over 2 thousand people, mostly innocent muslims, particularly women and children, have been butchered by the Shiv Sena-police combine and it is these very murderers who' today occupy the-corridors of power. While the number of those killed in just two months is more than those eliminated by the CPI (ML) PW) have killed in a decade (that too, mostly criminals, in and out of uniform), yet the establishment portray the latter as "terrorists" and the former as "respectable gentlemen" ! What justice can be expected from this system? None. Justice cannot be obtained by relying on political parties who are merely utilising the Report for election strategy. A strong mass movement based on a democratic platform alone can ensure justice. Hindu communalism in India is a weapon in the hands of a rapacious, desperate ruling class that seeks to divide the people and suppress them. Hindu fascist forces have to be combated, but it is the alliance of the organised masses and oppressed minorities in alliance together that can effectively fight them and get justice for the Muslims.





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