“My hair still stands on end when I think of those days,” said Ravindra Chaurasia, who owns a paan stall, a hundred metres away from Radhabai Chawl where the killing of a family (from the majority community) started the second phase of rioting in January 1993.
“My shop was closed for two months due to the constant curfew and there was little business even when the curfew was relaxed,” said Chaurasia, 43, whose father managed the 24-year-old shop during the riots.
Chaurasia started running the stall after his father’s death last year. “We could not move out of our homes for days,” he said. “The wooden frames of our shop were broken by rioters and we lost most of the goods.”
The area where Chaurasia’s shop is situated is known as Bandra plot in Janata Colony, but after the riots everyone recognises it as Radhabai Chawl.
Before the riots changed the area’s demography forever, Chaurasia’s side of Janata Colony had a lot of zari workshops that employed thousands of Muslim artisans. After 1993, the workshops moved to Muslim localities, taking away Chaurasia’s customers. The Hindu residents moved to Shyam Nagar near the JVLR.
Chaurasia said he was stuck in a sort of no-man’s land. The road that divides the Hindu and Muslim localities is now referred to commonly as the ‘border’. “It is no longer an area where people come to buy things,” he said.
Does he see his locality again witnessing the kind of mayhem that divided two communities? “The perpetrators of the riots are not the ones who suffer; they have little to lose,” he said.