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'The riots took away the glitter of Diwali and colours of Holi'

March 02, 2012 16:58 IST

Meena Menon's Riots and After in Mumbai: Chronicles of Truth and Reconciliation records the plight of the survivors and victims of the 1992-1993 communal carnage and the struggles that haunt riot victims.

Prasanna D Zore reports.

is the Indian State anti-minority? Unarguably, yes.

Look at the scores of communal riots where the state administrative machinery in partnership with the majority community targeted the Sikhs (1984) after prime minister Indira Gandhi's assassination by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984; Muslims during the Mumbai riots of December 1992-January 1993 that followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya; and more recently in Gujarat in 2002 after the burning of coach S6 of the Sabarmati Express; and Christians in Kandhamal, Orissa, in 2008 and 2009, in the wake of the murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader, in August 2008.

These instances starkly stand out because the rioters were aided and abetted by various political dispensations in these states and the law and order machinery either joined ranks or happily let the mayhem continue.

While these acts of 'genocide' find opposition from contemporary civil society, they only get chronicled in the form of a book decades later.

Meena Menon's Riots and After in Mumbai: Chronicles of Truth and Reconciliation is one such attempt. A deputy editor at The Hindu newspaper, Menon's book chronicles the plight of the survivors and victims of the 1992-1993 communal carnage and the struggles that haunt riot victims.

The book was launched in Mumbai on March 1.

Menon got Justice B N Srikrishna -- who was asked by the then state government to investigate the reasons behind the 1992-1993 riots -- to launch the book.

Actor Nandita Das, award-winning social worker Firoz Ashraf, who is widely quoted in the book along with Justice Srikrishna, spoke about their experiences. The discussion was moderated by senior journalist Kalpana Sharma.

"Nowhere in the world can riots continue for 15 consecutive days and that too in two consecutive months," former Supreme Court Justice Srikrishna remarked about the spiral of bloodshed in Mumbai.

First, it was in December 1992 after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, and later in the first half of January 1993 after Hindu mobs began a systematic cleansing of Muslims from Hindu-dominated areas of the city following the burning alive of a physically-disabled Hindu girl in Jogeshwari's Radhabai Chawl.

The judge felt that such systematic riots happen only when the perpetrators of the violence and the State's law and order machinery were in cahoots with each other.

Ashraf, recounting how the January 1993 riots forced him to become part of a Muslim ghetto and tore apart the city's secular fabric, said, "The riots took away the glitter of Diwali and colours of Holi from people like me."

He castigated secular activists who vanished from the scene leaving their Muslim brethren to the mercies of marauding mobs during the riots, but make their fashionable presence felt at press conferences, peace marches and book launches.

Menon, who researched the history of riots in Mumbai since 1893 as part of a fellowship and later covered the Bombay riots of 1992-1993, and later the March 1993 bomb blasts, said she wrote the book to record the events so that they could last longer.

"I wanted to see where the survivors were," Menon said, "and draw from their experiences as to what went wrong with the city."

Prasanna D Zore in Mumbai