October 7, 2002


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     Part I

Varsha Bhosle

More "involved explorations"

I'd written this article two weeks ago, but, more dignified souls had persuaded me to hold it back. I've squirmed each night, tortured by the thought that I had let go unanswered, what are to me, grave accusations. And then, I read Vir Sanghvi's column on The Hindustan Times' face-off with The Times of India. And I thought, dignity be damned -- at least I'm not arguing over who reads whom more!

But before I append that piece, let me say: I'm with HT all the way. As veteran journalist Ajit Bhattacharjea pointed out in his media-watch column, "Readers will feel that if managements can play around with circulation and readership figures, how much confidence can we place in the news? The self-perception of ToI emerged on September 23 in the unctuous self-promotional tone in which it describes its role in an editorial page article titled Hum Aapke Hain Kaun?... It is a revealing essay in public relations, not journalism."

You gotta see The Bombay Times to get the full blast of ToI's idea of journalism. Or check out the front-page "news reports" on the supposed reputation of Radio Mirchi or Planet M or Indiatimes "is news as it happens. Now, it's news that is happening." These aren't mere advertorials. Self-promotion disguised as news is a fraud.

And now, the MD of Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd (publishers of ToI), has been elected chairman of the Press Trust of India... Oh dear. Imagine PTI reports going: "Deputy PM LK Advani arrived in Washington DC, where he will avail of his Times Card which offers first day first show tickets and invitations to movies, masti, music, masala..." That's scary!


Dilip D'Souza has accused me of setting off on an "involved exploration of all that happened" during the Bombay riots of 1992-93. Fair enough. However, it begs the question: Is there any other way to answer, what he himself calls, "the entire panoply of complex, tangled tensions that form the tortured Hindu-Muslim relationship"? Would he be satisfied with a short... scratch that. Would he be satisfied with anything less than, "I'm soooo sorry. You're right"...?

Actually, I'm disappointed. Once upon a time, I used to enjoy sparring with Mr D'Souza because he wasn't entirely mentally incapacitated by his singular obsession with Balasaheb and thus threw interesting challenges. God knows, I never expected him to display the sort of intellect that fuels my hate mail; to wit: "herself recounting various crimes... Herself disproving the case she is set on proving: that it was the Radhabai Chawl massacre that set Bombay on fire."

I don't know whether to laugh or to cry at that. I've never had patience answering obtuse children and have none here, either. Therefore, I'm simply pasting a comment forwarded to me: "The big idea of D'Souza's article is that the degree of violence that was seen after the Radhabai incident is the same as the preceding week. Going by the very report that seems to be the benchmark of the author, this is an absolutely wrong conclusion. To go by the author's own visual imagery, one would need to tell him that Bombay was simmering that week but burned after that incident."

I thought that any person -- let alone a paid news analyst! -- would have gathered this point from my methodically having recounted the cases of stabbing, arson and mob violence before January 8, 1993. But, my "involved exploration" was in vain: He still didn't geddit. Or, that's one way of avoiding the points I had raised...

Mr D'Souza seems offended by my giving you the mere gist of his mail. I admit my guilt: I didn't give you the details because I hadn't read his entire mail... I'm like that with books, too -- don't have the patience to suffer yards of the same old stuff when I've sussed the core. Now I wish I had read it. For, I could have pre-empted the allegation: "she makes no mention of the Pratiksha Nagar murders I quoted to her.. The exception she chose to omit? The roasting of those two men in a taxi, January 7."

Well, I wish I could see things in the fashion that Mr D'Souza does: Black = Hindus; white = minorities. Black = Shiv Sena; white = Srikrishna Report. I wish life were so uncomplicated. But since it's not, get ready for another "involved exploration," hehehehehe...

Volume I, Chapter II, Term No. (I), Section 1.10, paragraph i of the Srikrishna Report ends with: "A taxi in which two Muslims were travelling was set on fire in Pratiksha Nagar, Antop Hill jurisdiction resulting in the two Muslims being burnt alive." That is correct.

But guess what you find when you try to tally this horrendous incident with the Report's Volume II, Chapter I, in which "The Commission examined the evidence police stationwise. In each police station jurisdiction, police officers and public witnesses have been examined. In all, there are 26 police jurisdictions which are covered by the evidence." That is, the section which contains the raw data (names, crime report details, etc) supporting what appears in Volume I. You'll need to undergo more "involved exploration" on Police Station No. 2, Antop Hill, to get my point -- provided you're not glaringly blind.

  1. 2.3: The first reaction to the demolition of Babri Masjid came on 7th December 1992, during which angry Muslims directed their anger at the police or BEST buses by stoning them (CR No 354 of 1992). In another incident (CR No 357 of 1992) which occurred on 8th December 1992 at 1315 hours in Rajiv Gandhi Nagar, a mob of 300 to 500 persons set fire to some of the huts therein... However, the two huts in Rajiv Gandhi Nagar which were set on fire were occupied by Hindus and, it may be correct to presume that the aggressive mob was one of Muslims. The slogans shouted by the mob also lend support to this assumption.

  2. 2.4: On 9th December 1992, between 2300 to 2330 hours, a mob of 100-150 Muslims attempted to attack the Hindu settlement at Vijaynagar and was marching towards the local Ganapati Mandir. There was stone throwing by the said mob and slogans shouted that all the huts should be set on fire.

  3. 2.5: January 1993 saw thick rumours being floated around in the area that there was an imminent attack by Muslims...

  4. 2.6: By far the most serious incidents took place in January 1993 in Pratiksha Nagar and Kokri Agar. All the action in this area took place on 9th and 10th January 1993...

  5. 2.7: On 9th January 1993 a violent mob of Hindus attacked the house of a Muslim in Pratiksha Nagar with stones, ransacked the articles inside and set fire to them. On 10th January 1993, one Mohamad Hanif Quereshi was killed by a mob which attacked him with lathis and swords...

  6. 2.8: On 9th January 1993, at about 1200 hours, a Muslim, returning from the open field after answering the call of nature, was assaulted and stabbed.

  7. 2.9: On 10th January 1993, two bodies were found in badly mutilated condition in Pratiksha Nagar. One was discovered near the Tata Power line at about 1800 hours and the other in the night...

  8. 2.10: On 11th January 1993, at about 0600 hours, two Muslims were stabbed in Pratiksha Nagar, resulting in the death of one and injuries to the other...

  9. 2.11: There was an attack on a Masjid known as Markaz-E-Tamir-Millat Masjid by Hindu mob (CR No.20 of 1993). The mob threw stones at the masjid and the adjoining huts of Muslims and torched vehicles...

  10. 2.12 A Muslim driving his vehicle in Pratiksha Nagar near the Santosh Hotel was attacked by a violent mob of Hindus on 11th January 1993 at about 1300 hours...

  11. 2.13 A Hindu driving a vehicle was attacked by a violent mob on 12th January 1993 at about 1703 hours opposite the Kokri Agar Church. Surprisingly, in this case, the accused arrested are both Hindus (CR No 23 of 1993).

  12. 2.14: Three Muslims travelling in a Maruti car in Pratiksha Nagar were pulled out, severely assaulted, put back in the car and the car was set on fire resulting in their being burnt alive. The incident occurred opposite Building No.20, Manohar Kini Memorial Library, Sardar Nagar No.1, Pratiksha Nagar on 14th January 1993 at 1430 hours (CR No 27 of 1993).

    Do you get this, at least? Maruti car -- not taxi. Three Muslims -- not two. January 14 -- not 7. Six days after Radhabai -- not one day before.

    Hmm... is this why Mr D'Souza wanted me "admit" my "mistake" about the date thing? To prove that Muslims burned the Radhabai Hindus on January 8 only because Hindus had burned these Muslims on January 7...? (BTW, I didn't see an admission on goofing up about the "night of January 7.")

    Also, note Section 2.6: "by far the most serious incidents" and "All the action in this area took place on 9th and 10th January." If a taxi had been burned in Pratiksha Nagar on January 7, would the Commission have noted this? What, wasn't the car-roasting serious enough? Or, was the Commission trying to "cover for the Shiv Sena's own crimes in those weeks" before Radhabai...?

    Do you think this is a new argument Bhosle's dug up? That the Sena lawyers were blind to this discrepancy? Rubbish! The Report is absolutely littered with such inconsistencies! Such were put forth to the Commission -- and such were ignored. If the Bombay riots case were in the Supreme Court, the sentence imputing the car-burning to January 7 would have summarily been struck off! When one makes allegations of murder and of exhortation to murder, one better have a water-tight case -- not leaky documents. Is that also too hard to get...?

    With Antop Hill as a microcosm of Bombay, observe which community went on the offensive when. "One-upmanship of victims" is an useful device to escape facing the fact that -- just as in Gujarat -- Muslims began the violence, and when Hindus rose, the city burned. And that's confirmed by Volume II.

    Oh yeah, the late M P Rege -- a philosopher, a Sanskrit scholar, and an educationist. But, HOW does that make him the last word on riots??? Wouldn't someone like K P S Gill (till recently, reviled by pinkos for his iron hand in Punjab) or former commissioner of police S K Bapat (in disgrace for his statements on the riots) be more reliable authorities for scrutiny of violence? Besides, Mr Rege was a staunch "secularist" -- so why would I heed his views on Hindu culpability??? Do I hear any pinko glowingly refer to the thoughts on Islam of Nobel Prize winner, V S Naipaul...?

    The Guardian of January 25, 2000, notes: "About 60 teachers - a tiny proportion of a quiescent profession in India - are calling on the government to abandon the indoctrination. 'The demand to rewrite textbooks should come from academics, not politicians,' the academic philosopher M P Rege said. 'In the interest of academic impartiality, political moves of this kind must be resisted'."

    Well, the Supreme Court's verdict indicates that Mr Rege's stand was wrong. And, the holes in the Report he extolled are evident. So, what "unchallengeable evidence"? The academic was a mortal who erred, period. So, no, mine wasn't a mistake. Mr D'Souza really should return to the subject in which he's truly proficient: public toilets.

    Varsha Bhosle

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