Before she could react, a man slashed so savagely at Anuradha’s abdomen that her intestines spilled out. Her eight-year-old son rushed for a towel and tied it around her waist, saving her life.
It has been 18 years since the evening of December 8, 1990, when Anuradha, who uses a single name, was nearly killed by a rampaging mob of sword-wielding men in Parthiwada locality, barely a kilometre from the Charminar in Hyderabad.
The 1990 riot — in which over 200 people were killed — was the worst in Hyderabad’s history. More than half the victims were Hindus.
Tension between Hindus and Muslims had been building for over a month in the old city, ever since a crowd of Hindu activists stormed the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on October 30 and again on November 2. (Two years later, they would bring it down completely.) This time they only managed to damage the domes before being dispersed by police firing. But the aftershock of their assault spread across the country, reaching even distant Hyderabad.
Anuradha’s four sons, aged four to eight years, saved themselves by hiding under a pile of debris in their house.
“It’s God’s will that I have survived. The physical scars have more or less healed, but I am not able to forget the nightmare. I still see the hatred in the eyes of the assailants,” said the 55-year-old.
Not a single rioter was caught.
The then CM, M. Chenna Reddy, went on record saying the riot was engineered by his rivals in the Congress to oust him.
Y.S. Rajsekhar Reddy, the current CM, has frequently found himself facing accusations that he was among the chief architects of the riot. But in a letter to N. Chandrababu Naidu, who taunted him for his alleged role in the riots, Reddy has said: “The judicial commission, which probed into the riots, has clearly stated that neither me, nor any Congress party member, was involved in the riots.”
Anuradha and her kids stayed in a relief camp for two months after she was discharged from hospital. She now lives with her
two younger sons. The two elder ones have shifted to the neighbouring Ranga Reddy district.
“I am now married with children. I did not want to take a risk by staying on in the old city. I earn Rs 100 a day by selling fruits and am saving to buy a plot of land,” said Jahangir, the eldest.
But Anuradha’s neighbour S. Lakpasil was not so lucky. Bludgeoned with an axe by the marauding mob, he had died on the spot. His three children still shudder at the memory.
“About fifty people, shouting slogans, entered our locality. They were not local residents, I had never seen them earlier… I was around 18 years then. We ran away,” said Rajesh, the youngest son.
He now earns a living by taking fruit orchards on lease and selling the fruit. “We were promised houses and financial help, but nothing materialised. All we got was Rs 25,000, which was distributed among three brothers.”
For the survivors, there is still fear. “No one can say he’s safe. We do not know what will happen next moment," said Mahender, whose hand was chopped off by the mob.
He was six.