A day after a sessions court judge directed Pydhonie police to arrange a tape-recorder to hear two audio cassettes containing recordings of police wireless messages during the 1993 communal riots, a recorder was brought to court and the cassettes heard for over two hours.
Seven policemen, accused of killing nine Muslim men at Suleman Usman Bakery on January 9, 1993, are facing trial. The recordings are of messages sent to the south zone control room on the day of the incident. On Tuesday, the recording of evidence of two witnesses, both policemen who had in 2001 heard the audio cassettes and transcribed them, had to be deferred for want of a tape-recorder.
On Wednesday, a witness, who had recorded the messages, was present in court. K P Desai, a 70-year-old retired constable and wireless operator, told the court that on the day of the incident he had reported to work in the south zone control room at 8.30 am and stayed there till 1.30 pm. He said his duty included noting down the wireless messages and directing police vehicles to spots.
He told the court that while wireless messages are usually not recorded, it was done in some cases owing to the riots. “I remember recording was done that day. I had pressed a button to begin recording…” Desai said. He was asked if he would be able to identify the audio if he heard it. The cassettes were then heard in court.
The tape-recorder was brought by an officer of Pydhonie police from an acquaintance. Initially, the staff tested the tape-recorder by playing a cassette of Mohammed Rafi songs in the antechambers of the court, following which the two cassettes containing the wireless messages were played.
The first cassette, Number 29, the transcript of which runs into 30 pages, included references to alleged firing on police from Suleman Bakery. The second cassette, Number 30, was also heard. Both cassettes included messages from various places where fire brigade or police vans were sent. Desai identified his voice. “Some messages in the recordings are in my voice and also that of head operator Kadam, who was on duty with me at that time,” Desai told the court.
He denied the suggestion by the defence that he had heard orders given by the state to shoot at rioters or any message stating that the areas, including Pydhonie-Dongri, should be handed over to the Army. Desai said he may have heard of fires and injuries caused to people, but did not recollect receiving messages about any deaths. He said he had heard a message from Pydhonie-1 wireless — which was in the area of the bakery — where he said he could hear firing sounds in the background and commotion from the police mobile van.