25 years on: Many probes, limited action have left Mumbai’s riot survivors with no hope of justice

Shakil Ahmed, who contested the case of victim and accused Farooq Mapkar in Hari Masjid police firing case, said nobody believes they will get justice anymore
For five days in Dec 1992 (Dec 6 to 10) and 15 days in Jan 1993 (Jan 6 to 20) Bombay was rocked by riots and violence, unprecedented in magnitude and ferocity, destroying all human values and civilised behaviour.(HT File Photo)
For five days in Dec 1992 (Dec 6 to 10) and 15 days in Jan 1993 (Jan 6 to 20) Bombay was rocked by riots and violence, unprecedented in magnitude and ferocity, destroying all human values and civilised behaviour.(HT File Photo)
Updated on Dec 06, 2017 11:49 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | By, Mumbai

A commission headed by a Bombay high court judge, a special task force (STF), a committee headed by the Director General of Police (DGP), four special courts and a high-power committee headed by the additional chief secretary for home – all these were formed over the years to bring justice to those affected by the 1992-93 riots, which killed 900 people and injured 2,306 others in Mumbai.

However, the question whether the victims have got a closure still remains.

Lawyer Shakil Ahmed, also an activist who had contested the case of Farooq Mapkar, a victim and an accused in the Hari Masjid police firing case, said things have stopped moving as everyone, who was part of the long battle, has come to the conclusion that they will not get justice. “Victims have lost faith and don’t want to continue the fight,” said Ahmed, who had filed a petition in Supreme Court in 2002, demanding dismissal of 31 policemen indicted by the Srikrishna Commission.

According to an affidavit filed by the Maharashtra government in the Supreme Court in January 2008, 2,267 cases were filed during the riots, of which the police failed to detect 1,371. These cases were closed as ‘A Summary’ cases – crimes that have happened but remain undetected. Later, 112 cases were re-investigated and charge-sheets were filed in eight cases. In all, 894 charge sheets have been filed in the courts. The affidavit was filed on an order of the apex court that had come in response to the cases filed before it.

In 2007, four special courts were formed for trial of around 253 pending cases related to the riots. A high-power committee (HPC) was formed in August 2007 to review pending cases. It selected 16 cases to be expedited and ordered revival of 93 other cases. This led to the arrest of 41 absconding accused involved in 24 cases. The HPC also chose to scrutinise 379 of the 539 cases, where the accused were either acquitted or discharged. The HPC identified 50 cases for action, sources in the state home department said.

Meanwhile, the Srikrihna Commission took around five years to complete its investigation. The 800-page report was submitted to the state in February 1998 after examining over 500 witnesses and 2,126 affidavits, of which two were from the state government, 549 from the police and 1,575 from the public.

The commission indicted 31 policemen for actively participating in riots, communal incidents or incidents of looting, arson, and so on. Of them, RD Tyagi, former joint commissioner of police (crime), along with eight other policemen, was accused of opening fire at Suleiman Usman Bakery. The incident led to the death of nine people. He was acquitted by Bombay high court in 2009 along with other policemen. The acquittal was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2011. Tyagi was also promoted as Mumbai police commissioner later.

The commission, in its report, also indicted several politicians, including late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and several other leaders, for inciting people to participate in the riots. The government affidavit filed before the apex court also says the police filed nine cases against Thackeray and Saamana, the Sena mouthpiece, for provocative articles. In two cases, the Sena chief was acquitted on October 2, 1996. In four cases, charges were not framed and Thackeray, along with other accused, was discharged on October 18, 1996.

Former Sena MP Madhukar Sarpotdar was the only leader convicted and that too for provocative speeches during the riots, on July 9, 2008. He was awarded one-year imprisonment with a fine of Rs5,000, but secured bail immediately and never went to jail. Sarpotdar died in February 2010.

The commission has suggested measures to be taken to exorcise the police force from the evil of polarisation on communal lines and to inoculate them against it. Revamping riot control scheme and deficiencies to counter rumors by equipping the police control room with modern technology are some of the other measures suggested by the commission in its report.

Arif Naseem Khan, former minority affairs minister, also one of the petitioners in the SC, admitted that the findings of the Srikrishna Commission report could not be brought to a logical end but blamed implementing agencies for the lapses. “There are lapses on part of the agencies in implementing the government decisions which were issued time and again. The same was highlighted before the apex court by filing counter-affidavit by many of us. The matter is still is pending before SC,” Khan told HT.

A senior official from home department, who did not wish to be named, said: “There is sea change in the police force – from their training to the technology being adopted – since 1992-93. We have incorporated many things as part of police training to prevent the police force to not get swayed by communal hatred in such situations.”

He said the Mohalla committees formed to increase dialogues with the communities in the wake of the communal riots have also helped in regaining confidence in the police force. All the grievances raised by Mohalla committees were also addressed.

About the use of technology, the senior bureaucrat said the Mumbai police now has a “state of art” control room. “We have around 5000 CCTVs installed across Mumbai. They have become the eyes of the police force.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Faisal is with the political team and covers state administration and state politics. He also covers NCP.

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