On the morning of December 7, when a few hundred protesters wearing black bands on their arms and heads walked through Morland Road, Byculla, asking the police to release those detained as ‘preventive arrests’, Mohammed Saquib joined them.
As the group reached the BEST staff quarters behind the Bombay Central bus depot, some members of the procession threw stones at the buildings, provoking the armed policemen to fire at the procession. The firing killed a labourer, and a teenager was shot in the leg. This was one of the first incidents of violence.
Saquib said as the area burned, the 300 industrial-odd industrial galas, mostly owned by Hindus, on the road, remained safe. “We guarded these units,” he said.
A few days later, Saquib was arrested after swords were found in a taxi that he and a group of friends had used to collect groceries during a break in the curfew.
Later, as people fleeing the riots in places such as Tulsiwadi in Tardeo came to Madanpura, camps were organised to feed them. Many of the volunteers later became part of the local Mohalla Committees.
Mohammed Shakir Ansari, 42, credits the Mohalla Committees for the relatively riot-free period since 1993. “There have been provocations, but the Mohalla Committees have maintained peace,” he said.
Ansari works in the cable business, while Saquib set up his own garment-manufacturing unit six years ago. Though Morland Road has new slums, Ansari says residents have prospered in the past 20 years. But young and educated people still complain of bias when they look for work.