Malegaon is neatly divided into Hindu and Muslim ghettos, a ramshackle city. None of its major roads have sewers or stormwater drains. It is a city of looms, built through waves of migration of weavers and workers from across northern India.india Updated: Dec 06, 2008 22:55 IST
Malegaon is neatly divided into Hindu and Muslim ghettos, a ramshackle city. None of its major roads have sewers or stormwater drains. It is a city of looms, built through waves of migration of weavers and workers from across northern India.
On the banks of the putrid Mausam river, which cleaves Malegaon into two, stands a fort that marks the head of the Muslim quarter. Here, English troops battled Arab fighters in 1740. The river’s west bank houses the Hindu community. The houses are larger and set in neat gardens. There are banks, ATMs, even a shopping mall. There is no ATM in the Muslim quarter, where 62,000 people are packed into every square km, among India’s most-crowded areas.
“Any Muslim who suffers after riots in India finds refuge, and work, in Malegaon,” said Sudhir Raut, who heads the town’s municipal body, founded in 1893. “Their condition is no better than bonded labourers though.”
The poverty is a direct outcome of crippling power cuts, which ensure that the British-era powerlooms, purchased as scrap from India’s defunct textile mills, today stand silent for 10-12 hours each day.
The municipal corporation runs on a deficit of Rs 35 crore to Rs 40 crore, a third of its budget. That means it is bankrupt, surviving on largesse from Mumbai.
The most damaging impact is on Malegaon’s 116 civic schools, where children regularly drop out to join looms, and teachers haven’t been paid in months. In June, then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh announced a Rs-9 crore special grant so they could be paid: It’s still tangled in red-tape in distant Mumabi.
This administrative callousness is common to towns across India, but Malegaon’s Muslims view it through the prism of discrimination. The common refrain: “We could have been as good or better than Nashik (the town next door), but see where we are.”
It is this alienation that fuels the suspicion around the death of Karkare, the officer who had come to be viewed as Malegaon’s messiah.
In the office of the Malegaon chapter of the Jamiat-Ulama-I-Hind, a 1919 national socio-religious body built by figures like Malauna Abdul Kalam Azad, lawyer S. Sheikh is putting final touches to a petition to move the Supreme Court.
It will ask that the 2006 blasts be reinvestigated in the light of Karkare’s findings around the town’s second blast. The silver-haired, urbane lawyer said: “Why was Malegaon bombed in 2006 and 2008? Who directly benefits from Karkare’s killing? We need credible answers to these questions.”