Jyoti Punwani is a freelancer and one of Mumbai's few journalists who sat through nearly every hearing of the trial of the 1992-93 riots, sometimes even borrowing a pen from prime accused Madhukar Sarpotdar to take notes in court.
The riots of December 1992-January 1993 that tore at Bombay were always for me THE story; the March 12, 1993 blasts that followed held no complexities, and hence no fascination. There was, of course, the odd effort to get the story of someone wrongly implicated into the papers, an impossible job then. But the blasts became a story six years after the event by two unconnected incidents. One was an envelope from Arthur Road Jail that landed on my desk. It contained a copy of the 12-page letter written by Yakub Memon, brother of Tiger Memon, to the Chief Justice of India. In it he detailed his story, from his very normal life till March 1993 (“Where was the time to hate?” he asked), to his decision to come back to his own country from Pakistan to clear his name and reveal everything about Pakistan’s hand in the blasts. “I am a good citizen,” he wrote. “I have tried to help the government in whatever manner I could. After all, why am I being made to suffer? Only for the sole reason that the alleged prime accused is in relation to me? …When this case will come to its logical end and the truth will unravel, everybody will come to know about my humble effort and sacrifice. But this will take considerable time. Till then, my life is being ruined.” What must Yakub have felt yesterday when the Supreme Court upheld his death sentence and described him as one of the “archers”? More importantly, what has stopped the Indian government from going after the real mastermind: Tiger Memon? Dawood Ibrahim of course, remains out of reach for reasons everyone knows. The second incident was the series of interviews I did with for a book called Bombay and Mumbai. That’s when I really understood how the blasts had changed the city. The humiliation of Muslims that had been going on even after the riots ended in January, came to an overnight stop after March 12, 1993. Muslims having to give up their seats in trains, being refused change in buses, Muslim girls being grabbed on the street - all this vanished to be replaced with looks of fear at any Muslim who happened to be travelling with a briefcase. The image of the Muslim-who-hadbeen-taught-a-lesson had been replaced with the Muslim-asterrorist. But while this killing of random innocent Hindus restored a crude balance of power between Muslims as a community and those Hindus who were preying on them, another skewed balance became even more so: during the riots, the police hadn’t hesitated at treating Muslims, even those in distress, as the enemy. Now, they did so in pursuit of a legitimate enemy. All Muslims became suspect, but it was the Memons who bore the brunt, be they travel agents or educated professionals. It took more than a decade for the witch hunt of Muslim businessmen and the denial of licences and passports to them to diminish. One thing was lost forever after March 12, 1993 - the trust that the community had in the police. Their brutality, first during the riots and then the bomb blasts - when women were brought to the police station and their menfolk stripped before them - created a chasm that is still to be bridged. Muslims grumble that their lanes are full of khabris, but these are good only to settle personal scores or to rat on petty criminals. The intelligence that would enable the police to gauge the community’s mood has become an elusive commodity. Witness the cluelessness about the Azad Maidan violence last year. Fortunately, the enmity between the two communities is a long-forgotten chapter, notwithstanding the ghettoization that has intensified after the riots. One mentions the riots because the 1993 blasts and the ’92-93 riots are inextricably linked as effect and cause. The verdict in the blasts case may have come, but is the story of those grim years really over? Especially when those who destroyed Babri Masjid roam free.
Courtesy : http://www.mumbaimirror.com/article/2/201303222013032204070887594330bfa/The-story-with-half-an-ending.html?pageno=2