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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Status check: Mumbai riot cases triggered by Babri Masjid demolition

For five days, from December 6 to 10 in 1992, and later from January 6 to 21 in 1993, Bombay was rocked by riots and violence which claimed 900 lives and left 2,036 persons injured.

Written by ZEESHAN SHAIKH , Sadaf Modak , Edited by Explained Desk | Mumbai | Updated: October 5, 2020 10:15:26 am
In the Mumbai city civil and sessions court, seven policemen accused of killing nine Muslim men at Suleman Bakery on January 9, 1993, are facing trial on charges including murder. (Express Archives)

The demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya sparked off riots in Mumbai leading to many deaths and damage to property running into crores of rupees. While a Special CBI Court has acquitted those who were booked for the Babri Masjid demolition, certain cases pertaining to the Mumbai riots are still on. The Indian Express explains the status of these cases:

When did the Bombay riots occur?

The riots started in city, then called Bombay, immediately post the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. The first violent incident was reported at 9:10 pm by the Mumbai Police at Jogeshwari. Subsequently, for five days, till December 10, 1992, and later from January 6 to 21 in 1993, Bombay was rocked by riots and violence which claimed 900 lives and left 2,036 persons injured.

How many cases were filed by the Mumbai Police?

Soon after the riots, the Mumbai Police filed a total of 2,267 cases. However, over the years over 1,300 cases were classified as “A” summary and closed. “A” summary cases are those which are deemed to be true but undetected and does not justify a trial as there are no clues about the accused and no evidence. Only 892 cases were registered, of which 11 cases were tried under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act. In this, 11 Muslims were sentenced for the burning of the Radhabai chawl in which six people lost their lives. The 11 who were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1996 where subsequently let off by the Supreme Court in 1998.

Was a Commission of Inquiry set up to look into the riots?

The Congress government in Maharashtra, on January 25, 1993, constituted a Commission of Inquiry under the then 51-year-old justice B N Srikrishna to look into the causes of the riots and to find if any group of individuals or organisation were responsible. In 1995, the terms of reference were expanded by the Shiv Sena-BJP government to include investigating the cause of the Bombay blasts of March 1993.

What were the Commission’s findings?

The commission stated that the December 1992 phase of the rioting by the Muslims was a spontaneous reaction of leaderless and incensed Muslim mobs. It blamed the Shiv Sena for fanning trouble in the January phase of the 1992-93 riots. It had also pointed to the delinquency of the police and said that evidence before the commission indicated that the police personnel were found actively participating in riots, communal incidents or incidents of looting arson.

It had also strongly recommended that the Government take strict action against 31 serving police officers including the then Joint Commissioner of Police R.D.Tyagi who it said was guilty of excessive and unnecessary firing resulting in the death of nine Muslims in the Suleman Bakery incident. Tyagi was discharged as an accused from the case subsequently. Prominent Shiv Sena leaders named by the commission include Bal Thackeray, Gajanan Kirtikar, Madhukar Sarpotdar and Milind Vaidya.

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Were the commission’s recommendations implemented?

Subsequent governments, including the Congress NCP and the BJP Shiv Sena, have not fully implemented the recommendations of the report. However, with little progress in prosecuting the accused, the then Congress-NCP led alliance was forced to set up two fast-track courts in 2008. A total of 120 cases were referred to these courts. Conviction was ordered in seven of these cases including of 20 Hindu rioters. Subsequently, appeals resulted in acquittals of almost all.

Also read | Explained Ideas: Why the Babri Masjid demolition verdict is being seen as unjust

Were any politicians convicted for their role in the Bombay riots?

The only major conviction was of former Shiv Sena Member of Parliament Madhukar Sarpotdar and two Shiv Sainiks, Ashok Shinde and Jaywant Parab, for giving inflammatory speeches and for inciting violence between two communities. The trio have been sentenced to one-year simple imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 5,000 each. They were immediately granted bail to appeal and Sarpotdar died while the appeal was being heard. A sessions court subsequently reduced the term of the other two accused to two months.

Are there any cases of the riots that are still being heard?

In the Mumbai city civil and sessions court, seven policemen accused of killing nine Muslim men at Suleman Bakery on January 9, 1993, are facing trial on charges including murder. The trial began only in August last year with less than ten witnesses having deposed till March when the lockdown stalled the proceedings. Initially, 17 policemen, including the then JCP Crime R D Tyagi, were named in the case. While ten were discharged, seven are facing the trial.

Another appeal pending before the Bombay High Court is that of the Hari Masjid firing incident where six were killed.

This February, on a long-pending petition filed by Mumbai lawyer Shakil Ahmed, the Supreme Court sought a detailed response from the Maharashtra government in respect of each of the police officers against whom the commission had recommended action. The petition too is pending.

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