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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Maharashtra elections: Congress fields journalist whose testimony nailed Sena in ’93 riots

“I was approached by the BJP in 2014 with a ticket offer. I denied. I had decided to contest the election six months back and chose Congress because it goes with my ideology of secularism. If one believes in human rights and democracy, Congress is their only option,” said Mohite.

Written by Sanjana Bhalerao | Mumbai | October 5, 2019 7:44:41 am
Yuvraj Mohite’s deposition before the Srikrishna Commission — set up to investigate the 1993 Mumbai riots. Express Photo by Amit Chakravarty

On the evening of January 8, 1993, then 27-year-old reporter Yuvraj Mohite overheard Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray give orders to his party cadre to attack Muslims during the riots that had engulfed the city. Mohite’s deposition before the Srikrishna Commission — set up to investigate the 1993 Mumbai riots — was instrumental in the Commission making its judgment about the involvement of Thackeray and the Shiv Sena in the riots.

Twenty-six years later, Mohite, who is now a Congress candidate from the Goregaon Assembly constituency, is reluctant to talk about the ‘day’.

“What happened? What transpired on the day? The events following it, are in the past. It is past and it is gone. It has no relevance here and now,” said Mohite, who will square off against BJP’s incumbent MLA Vidya Thakur. Mohite is keen to keep his focus on the problems and solutions needed in the assembly segment he is fighting from.

Mohite — then a senior reporter of the Marathi eveninger, Mahanagar — had overheard Bal Thackeray giving instructions on the telephone to attack the Muslims and even to kill them, if necessary. Sena leaders who came in person were also given the same instructions. Mohite wrote an article three months later and filed an affidavit of what transpired on the night of January 8, 1993, at ‘Matoshree’, the official residence of Thackeray, before the Srikrishna Commission.

The 52-year-old former journalist, anchor and social worker, said the decision to contest polls as a Congress candidate was not haphazard. “I was approached by the BJP in 2014 with a ticket offer. I denied. I had decided to contest the election six months back and chose Congress because it goes with my ideology of secularism. If one believes in human rights and democracy, Congress is their only option,” said Mohite.

After filing the nomination papers without any spectacle on Thursday, Mohite said he is fighting the election following the same reason that had driven him to become a journalist — working for the common man. “I am an admirer and follower of Mrinaltai Gore and want to take her work ahead. It is sad to see that people are not involved in the decision-making process by their leaders. They are treated as ‘nobody’ after the elections. It is time for revolt, agitation, giving back people their rights,” said Mohite, pointing at the encroachment of gardens, playgrounds and open spaces in Goregaon, which once had lush green open spaces and minimum vertical development as compared to other parts of the city.

Mrinatai Gore was the fiery socialist leader and champion of women’s issues and human rights. Her passionate, articulate championing of causes had riled Thackeray.

Mohite, who was until last week a political analyst and columnist, said the political flags and speeches are all new and he feels more responsible towards residents. Mohite, who has worked as a social worker in Goregaon and took up local matters, is confident that his work will speak for him in the election. “I don’t even have to campaign or take out big rallies. The performance (poor) of the incumbent MLA and the Shiv Sena MLA before her, is my strength in the election.”

Mohite, who was a marked man by the Sena after filing the affidavit to the Commission, said he wishes best for Thackeray scion Aaditya’s electoral debut. “I never thought that someone from the family will contest an election, and especially Aaditya. I have seen him grow up, a young mind interested in arts and poetry. His entry into politics was a surprise and no one should demotivate him. It is a fresh start and a break from ‘remote control’ politics.”

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