The post-Babri demolition riots changed Hindu-Muslim relations in Mumbai forever.
For the first time, people of one community stopped interacting with members of the other for some time, and although business and professional relations were restored later, the schism still exists at the societal level: people from some communities are still denied housing in a few areas.
Could this schism widen and lead to violence in future? The peace in the aftermath of the August 11 violence at Azad Maidan this year suggests otherwise, but can we rule out trouble altogether?
“Riots should not happen given the character of Mumbai, which gets on with things and does not dwell on the past. Muslims, however, are unhappy that no action was taken on the Srikrishna Commission report on the riots. This does not bode well for the rule of law,” said Maulana Mahmood Daryabadi, general secretary, All India Ulema Council. Suleman Bakery puts the past behind
Pushpa Bhave, among the social activists who organised public readings of the Srikrishna Commission report in the late 1990s in order to try and get the then Shiv Sena-BJP government to act on it, said riots are unlikely in future as “such incidents happen but rarely,” but stressed that it was important we did not give up the peace project.
According to her, attempts at forging unity are critical because while sane voices do not reach out to large numbers of people, political rhetoric does. She believes the riots resulted in segregation and ghetto-isation, and that has spread today even to educational institutions. First few casualties were in Byculla
Terrorism has further complicated Hindu-Muslim relations, she said, with a section of one community unfairly branding the other.
Rafique Baghdadi, researcher, history buff and Muslim intellectual, is confident the cosmopolitan character of Mumbai will triumph.
“1992-93 won’t be repeated because Mumbai is all about survival, livelihood and hard work. The riots may have drawn people closer to their communities, but there has been no ghetto culture, only community life the way you’ve always had it in the Koliwadas, gaothans and other such areas,” he pointed out. A ‘border’ divides Radhabai Chawl
Baghdadi grew up in Mazagaon and was captain of a cricket team that had mostly Maharashtrians as its members. He is, in addition, a Konkani, and speaks a language close to Marathi in nature and spirit, so the language issue also could not divide him and the others. This sort of cultural unity, he feels, will ensure peace in Mumbai.
Will the Azad Maidan violence cast a shadow?
It won’t, said Daryabadi, because that violence had nothing to do with the Hindu-Muslim question. “That was a law and order problem, and the police/administration are taking action against the perpetrators,” he said.