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The ghosts that haunt a Mumbai riot victim

india Updated: Oct 29, 2007 12:16 IST
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Farooque Mhapkar, a survivor of the 1993 Mumbai riots, still shudders at the thought of that fateful Sunday 14 years ago when he went to offer prayers at a mosque.

Mhapkar, 38, says he was shot in the back by a five-member team led by inspector Nikhil Kapse during the 1993 Mumbai riots, which according to the Srikrishna Commission claimed over 900 innocent lives and injured hundreds more.

Mhapkar, who was in the capital as part of a social activist group demanding implementation of the Srikrishna Commission's report, narrated the gruesome turn of events about how Mumbai Police officials and Shiv Sena workers allegedly tortured and killed people.

"I remember it was a Sunday, Jan 10, 1993, and just past noon. I had gone to offer namaz from my Prabudh Nagar home to Hari Masjid (mosque) in the Wadala area. Around 20-25 Muslims were already there like me to offer prayers," he said.

"I was sitting in the masjid room along with seven others when we suddenly heard the faint sound of gunshots coming from the compound. We all fell numb realising that four to five policemen led by inspector Kapse were running towards us with guns in their hands," Mhapkar told IANS.

"We immediately bolted the room from inside, but to our extreme misfortune we forgot to shut the single window in the room and they without any warning opened fire on us. We had no way to run."

"Two others who were sitting close to me died there and then, and I received a bullet in my back. I fell down but they kept on firing. We pleaded, even begged them with folded hands for our lives, but they didn't listen. It seemed that they had just come with the sole purpose of eliminating every one present there."

"After firing for a few minutes, they stopped and asked us to open the door and come out. We kept insisting that we had committed no wrong and should be spared. Then the cops started hurling abuses and tried to barge in."

"Holding hands with each other, we leaned against the door. I was lying in a pool of blood, but somehow managed to pull myself up, and we didn't let them in," Mhapkar said, the memory bringing tears to his eyes even as he pointed towards pictures of the bloody floor.

"After a while, some jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) also came there and I vividly remember a Sikh official asked the police to halt firing and not to abuse us. On his request they stopped firing."

"The Sikh official asked us to come out, assuring that no one would harm us. We opened the door. The police officials made us stand in a queue and all of a sudden shot dead 25-year-old Shamshuddin."

"First they pumped a bullet into his leg and when he cried in pain they pumped one more into his chest. He died there. We came to know that seven others had also been killed."

"The Sikh official intervened and the policemen put us in a jeep, took us to the RA Kidwai Marg lockup, and abused us. I along with another injured person was sent to the KEM Hospital but to our utter shock the hospital was filled with Shiv Sainiks and they threatened to lynch us there itself."

"Fearing for our lives, we asked the doctors to send us back, thinking that the cops might not harm us this time. After an hour, we returned to the lockup, only to hear about another murder by the cops in the lockup. We again fell numb. Later we were shifted to the Bohiwada lockup."

"I, whimpering in pain, remained there for 17 days, counting my last days. During that period the cops refused to provide any first aid or food and slapped several fake charges on others and me. I was booked under seven charges, including murder," Mhapkar said.

"I got the bullet removed in a private hospital following bail from a court. That's when my struggle began and I am still doing the court rounds."

"But it didn't stop there, I was then threatened by a judge who asked me not to speak against the cops or else would face the consequences. After struggling for years I approached the Bombay High Court against Kapse, but the government, in a move aimed at protecting him, filed a new chargesheet against me and created new fake alibis."

Mhapkar, who works as a security guard at a private bank, says he and his family - comprising his wife, mother and children - are always on tenterhooks nowadays.

"Since then my life and that of my family has been completely ruined. I urge the Supreme Court to direct the Maharashtra government to implement the Srikrishna Commission report, which had suggested a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe."

"It would give new hope to all other victims like me who have been running from pillar to post to prove their innocence for the past 14 years."

The next hearing in the apex court is scheduled for Tuesday.

The Mumbai riots had broken out in January 1993 after the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya was demolished by Hindu zealots in December 1992.