The communal clashes of Muzzafarnagar have refreshed my memories of Mumbai riots of 1992-93. I was a school going kid that time & whatever I witnessed at that age is still clear in my consciousness. I was born & brought up in city’s infamous locality of “Bombay Number 3”. The locality is having a mixed population of Hindus & Muslims & my house was located beside a road whose one side was occupied by Hindus & another by Muslim residents. The road became a battleground of the two warring communities during those riots. I still remember those pictures where somebody’s intestines were ripped apart by a sword, where somebody was bathed with petrol & then a burning match stick was thrown at him & how a rioter shot somebody in his head. Daily newspapers published during the second week of December 1992 & January 1993 were full of stories which ashamed humanity. Nights were no less than hell. Nobody was able to sleep fearing attacks from rioters. Even a person who had never killed a fly made petrol bombs at his home & collected cycle chains, hockey sticks, choppers & stones to defend himself & family from the rioters. Curfew imposed by the authorities made survival difficult for people who were not directly affected by the riots. A couple who was celebrating parenthood till few days back was left with no milk to feed their infant. Some families ran out of eatables, while many had no cooking gas to cook. Some families were not able to take their ailing elders to hospital. You may ask, what is the point in digging out such past? Such misery is caused in any communal riots…but I believe it is necessary to keep those memories alive. It will be disastrous to erase what happened during in 1992-93, especially for that generation which has not witnessed those riots & have not felt that pain.
Those people who are amongst the age group of 15-25 years today were either not born during Mumbai riots or were too young at that time. They don’t have much idea of what havoc communal riots can play & what could be their long & short term effects. They belong to an age group which could be easily brain washed by hate mongers. Their immature minds & boiling blood could be easily used for evil agendas. Remember 11 August 2012 riots of Azad Maidan where media personnel & cops were targeted. Most of the rioters arrested by cops belonged to this particular age group. The violence happened that day was controlled in few hours, but that incident has set an alarm for future. It has also raised a question whether we are doing enough in Mumbai to strengthen communal harmony & whether we are doing anything at all in this direction?
Mohalla Ekta Committee System was initiated in Mumbai with an idea of generating communal harmony. This formula was adopted by a police officer named Suresh Khopade in Bhiwandi which is a town near Mumbai. Bhiwandi has a black history of communal riots but Khopade believes that communal riots didn’t happen there post Babri incident due to Mohalla Ekta Committes. According to this system Mohalla Committees are formed in those areas which are communally sensitive. Local leaders of Hindu & Muslim communities are made members of such committees and their functioning is supervised by local cops. Local leaders of parties like Shiv Sena, BJP, Muslim League & Samajwadi Party were also made members of Mohalla Committees. The committees were entrusted with responsibility of organizing activities which attempt to boost mutual trust between the communities & reduce hostilities. Many such committees were set up in Mumbai post 1992-93 riots. Their presence was felt till many years after the riots. If a procession for Ganpati immersion passed in front of a mosque at the time of prayers, members of committee greeted the revellers with flowers & politely requested them to shut down the band. The committees also organized friendly cricket matches between the communities & with the cops. Anyways, such committees have now become defunct. They now exist just for the namesake & their existence is seen just during Ganpati immersions or Iftaar parties. People with shady backgrounds have become members of many such committees with the agenda of gaining proximity with cops.
1992-93 riots of Mumbai happened when the general environment of the nation was awful. Babri issue had deepened the gorge between the two communities. Things are different now, but that doesn’t mean that we should sit idle assuming that communal riots will never happen again in Mumbai. Whatever happened on August 11, 2012 at Azad Maidan is an example that communal clashes can flare up again anytime. Elections are around the corner & few politicians may go to any extent to ensure their success. Frequent bomb blasts across the country also intend to ignite communal violence. Confessional statements of 1993 blasts accused indicate that Dawood Ibrahim’s gang anticipated another communal riot in Mumbai post serial bombings. Moreover, Indian intelligence agencies have also warned that anti national elements are waiting for a chance to cause communal riots.
Various studies & researches conducted on communal riots suggest that any big communal riot is not caused by just a standalone incident. A series of incidents one after the other, economic factors & social factors lead to bitterness between the communities. Any minor provocation provides the warring communities an opportunity to ventilate their hostilities & leads to a carnage. In my view, the present generation must be informed about the consequences of communal clashes & should be told what this city witnessed during 1992-93. A system must be evolved to deal with the causes of communal riots which could include reviving Mohalla Ekta Committees or introducing something better. Mumbai riots also shattered our many beliefs like Mumbai is a city of progressive thinking, everybody is just concerned about his bread & butter in Mumbai & nobody has time to fight in this city. If we don’t want to get shocked like that again then a dose of communal harmony for the city is a must.