CNN-IBN aired a programme last night on the findings of the Justice Srikrishna report into the Bombay “riots” of January 1993 being put in cold storage despite the mountain of evidence available against its perpetrators. And the accompanying story by Ruksh Chatterji of a brave journalist who stood up and deposed against the commander-in-chief of the pogrom, Bal Thackeray, is telling.
Bombay: The role of the Shiv Sena is clearly proven in the 1993 Bombay riots, but there is one testimony that proves that Bal Thackeray coordinated much of the January carnage that Bombay Mumbai witnessed in 1993.
Says witness Yuvraj Mohite: “Balasaheb baithe they aur jagah jagah se unko phone aa rahe the aur woh halat poochke bolte the , ‘Maro unhe, kaat dalo. Unko Allah ke pas bhej do’. Balasaheb was sitting and he was getting calls from various places. He would ask what was happening at that particular place (from where he got the call) and then he would say, ‘Kill them. Send them to Allah’.”
On the night of January 8, 1993, when the Sena chief Bal Thackeray sat in his home controlling the mobs that set Bombay on fire, journalist Yuvraj Mohite was present at the Thackeray residence.
Mohite watched as Thackeray ordered his Sainiks like a commander, to riot, burn, loot and commit mass murder.
This is what Bal Thackeray said in February ’93 after the riots: “I am proud of what my boys have done. We had to retaliate and we did. If it was not for us, no one would have controlled the Muslims.”
What he saw at the Thackeray home, left Mohite stunned.
“Main yeh sab sunke baukhla gaya tha (I was stunned after hearing all of this),” says Mohite.
And Yuvraj Mohite wasn’t alone. Another man, Chandrakant Handore, then Mayor of Bombay and now social Justice Minister in the Congress-NCP government, is the one who took Mohite to the Thackeray home, and then told him to forget what’d he’d seen.
“Handore ne mujhe bola ki tum yeh sab bhul jao. Balasaheb to aise hee hain. Aur maine bola ki mein yeh kisi bhi halat mein nahin bhool sakta (Handore asked me to forget it all, Balasaheb is just like this. I said that I can never forget this under any circumstances.)”
However, Handore now claims he never saw Thackeray giving orders.
“Jab kuch hua hi nahi tha to main kaise kuch bolo sakta hoon. Aur maine kabhi Mohite ko nahi roka (When nothing of this sort happened how could I have said anything? I have also never stopped Mohite to speak),” says Handore.
With Handore claiming he had seen nothing, it was left up to the journalist to stand his ground. In his deposition before the Srikrishna Commission, Yuvraj clearly spelt out what Thackeray ordered:
# That not one Muslim be left alive to stand in the witness box.
# Asked his men to send the additional police commissioner, A.A. Khan, to his Allah.
# Ordered his men to retaliate to the Hindu killings in Jogeshwari.
It was this testimony that made the Commission indict the Sena chief.
Justice Srikrishna writes: “Even after it became apparent that the leaders of the Shiv Sena were active in stoking the fire of the communal riots, the police dragged the feet on the facile and exaggerated assumption that if such leaders were arrested, the communal situation would further flare up.”
And it’s Mohite’s testimony that helped the commission prove the Sena involvement. But what made him stand his ground?
“Jo maina dekha tha us se mein shock hogaya tha aur maine bola ki aisi baat jo maine dekhi hai use dabne nahi de sakta hoon (I was shocked at what I saw. I decided that something that I have seen I will not suppress it).”
Yuvraj Mohite’s testimony is a damning indictment of politicians like Chandrakant Handore and the then state government, which not only failed to save over 900 lives, but also didn’t have the will or the guts to put Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray in the dock.
Read the full story here: Balasaheb commanded rioters