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OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.
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With the media clamour on action on the Srikrishna Commission Report getting louder by the day. Most of the media activism on this front is by CNN-IBN led by Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghosh. Karan Thapar too had Soli Sorabjee on the same subject. CNN IBN’s sensationalism is naseuating to say the least when it compares Sanjay Dutt’s conviction for illegal possession of an AK-47 with Sarpotdar’s posession of an unlicensed pistol while quoting from the report.

Offstumped takes a critical look at the Srikrishna Commission report to get to the bottom of the media myths.

At the outset it must be said the eminent Justice has done a great job digging into facts far and wide to put the chronology of events into perspective. However the Justice’s personal opinions make their way into the report every step of the way. On a subject as sensitive as this, one would have expected the Justice to withhold personal opinion while drawing conclusions solely from his findings. Nevertheless it is a commendable effort by him.

The clamour in the media in recent days has been primarily two fold. The first is a demand for some kind of equity that since Muslims were sentenced for the Mumbai Blasts how can the Hindus be allowed to go scot free. The second is the suggestion that there were specific individuals against who a case was made out by the Commission and despite that no action has been taken against these individuals.

Offstumped sets about to analyze the report primarily from this perspective as well as to point out some talking points that have been highlighted and repeated by the media while obscuring the facts.

One of the talking points often made in the media is that the report finds that an inordinately high number of Muslims were killed in the riots. It is not hard to find the origin of this talking point. While describing the events of 8th December 1992 the report talks about police firing deaths in 33 jurisdictions in 43 cases and makes this remark

The police firing resulted in the death of a large number of Muslims as compared to Hindus

When taken in isolation this remark biases the uninformed very easily and is ready fodder for a media that thrives on “secular” moral grandstanding. But what are the actual numbers the commission is comparing to draw this conclusion

The police had to resort to firing in 43 cases resulting in the death of 21 Hindus, 31 Muslims and three other

So compared to 21, 31 is a large number, remember this is only deaths not injuries. If one looks at the numbers from 9th December, one gets a better perspective on the sweeping generalization made above.

The police firing resulted in deaths of 17 persons (five Hindus and 12 Muslims) while 13 Hindus, 12 Muslims and six others sustained injuries.

Its generalizations of this kind that the media has picked up on and repeated many times over that have colored the debate here and made it that somehow the blasts were about punishing Muslims and fairness demands that the riots be made about punishing Hindus.

The report once again goes on to make sweeping generalizations in summing up the December 1992 riots that disproportionately large number of Muslims were killed but it however goes onto absolve the police of any wilful wrongdoing.

 the Commission is not inclined to give serious credence to the theory that dis–proportionately large number of Muslim deaths in December 1992 was necessarily indicative of an attempt on the part of the police to target and liquidate Muslims because of bias

If you look at the actual numbers as cited above by Offstumped the “disproportionately large” comes only on Dec 7th, on 8th and 9th the numbers marginally different. On 10th and 11th few deaths were reported and violence petered out by the 12th. On the 7th however

Police intervention came about by resort to fire on 72 occasions, killing 20 Hindus and 72 Muslims and injuring 131 Muslims and one other.

But then remember the 7th was primarily a day of rioting led by Muslim mobs a fact cited by the report

Large mobs of Muslims came on the streets and there was recourse taken to violence without doubt. This time the Muslim mobs appear to have come out with the intention of mounting violent attacks as noticed from their preparedness with weapons of offence.

So net net the “disproportionately large” numbers come from a day when the rioters were “dispropriotantely large” Muslim.

So you can see how a sweeping generalization becomes a media talking point and almost truth by obscuring facts and pushing a convenient secular template – Muslims were targeted.

The report then goes on to set the context for the 1993 riots. A very interesting paragraph in the report, one doesnt hear much of it in the news though.

The last week of December 1992 and first week of January 1993, particularly between 1st to 5th, saw a series of stabbing incidents in which both Hindus and Muslims were victims, though the majority of such incidents took place in Muslim dominated areas of South Bombay and a majority of victims were Hindus. The stabbings appeared to be executed with professional accuracy intended to kill the victims. The killers had not been then identified in several cases, though it was presumed, at least in the cases where the Hindus were victims, that the killers were Muslims. The motive for the stabbings appears to have been to whip up communal frenzy between Hindus and Muslims.

Interesting that these were planned attacks, professional not amateur and clearly targeting one community over the others. No sweeping generalizations based on this though. It is interesting how the secular templates the media plays tend to be consistently pro-minority. The report then goes onto identify the brains behind these planned attacks.

Some of the Muslim criminal elements operating in South Bombay, like Salim Rampuri and Firoz Konkani, have been identified as the brains behind the stabbing incidents.

The report cites these attacks as one of the prime reasons for subsequent Shiv Sena led mobilization and incidents that followed from that mobilization. The other reason cited is the murder of Mathadi workers.

The Mathadi workers’ Union called for a Bandh. Huge meetings were held which were addressed by leaders of Mathadi Unions. Speeches were made during this meeting to condemn the police and Government for their ineffectiveness with exhortations that Hindus might have to pick up swords to defend themselves if the police failed to protect them.

The report also cites that at that time

At the time when these murders of Mathadi workers took place, neither the police, nor the public, had a clue as to the identity of the killers, which came to be established much later. Nonetheless, the Hindus spearheaded by the Shiv Sena kicked up a furore that the murders had been committed by Muslims, virtually giving a call for arms. 

Once again the vicious spiral of “cause effect” that triggered the chain of events is diluted when one looks at the secular template with which the media has gone to town on the reports findings that there was a deliberate conspiracy to trigger riots and to target the Minority community.

6th Jan is cited as the trigger for the 1993 phase of the riots. Again the facts of the day are something one rarely sees in the media.

On 6th January 1993 there were several cases of stabbing in Dongri, Pydhonie, V.P. Road and Nagpada jurisdictions in which the victims were innocent pedestrians who were stabbed after ascertaining their identity. In all, 18 cases of stabbing were reported by the evening of this day of which eight were from Pydhonie, two from Dharavi, two from V.P. Road, two from Nagpada and one each from Nirmal Nagar, Kherwadi and Andheri. These stabbing cases resulted in one Hindu, one Muslim and two others being killed and 13 Hindus, one Muslim and one other being injured. Mob violence accounted for the deaths of seven Hindus and one Muslim and injuries to nine Hindus and eight Muslims.

It is once again strange that no “disproportionately large” comparisons were made about the events of the 6th which provoked the subsequent events.

The report then goes onto describe the happenings on 7th Jan which in its opinion was the first day of the 93 phase of riots.

The stabbing incidents resulted in deaths of 16 Hindus and four Muslims and injured 41 Hindus and twelve Muslims. Eleven cases of mob violence occurred in different jurisdictional areas, killing two Hindus and injuring ten Hindus and two Muslims. Seven cases of arson were reported on that day in which, apart from huge property loss, two Hindus were killed; five Hindus and two Muslims were injured.

By no means was the first full day of violence described as “disproportionately large” in targeting one community over the other. Remember the media spin machine has always projected the Jan 1993 phase of riots as one of revenge by Hindu Mobs, well clearly not on the first day of violence.

8th January has more provocations.

During the wee hours of 8th January 1993, at about 0030 hours, some of the Hindu residences in a chawl popularly known as Radhabai Chawl in Jogeshwari jurisdiction were locked from outside and set on fire by miscreants. One male and five female members of a Hindu family (Bane) and their neighbours were charred to death and three other Hindus sustained serious burn injuries.

The report then makes a very curious remark

 One of the victims was a handicapped girl. This incident was sensationalized by the media by giving exaggerated and provoking reports.

Surprisingly there is no criticism of media sensationalization before this one. Nevertheless the report goes on to talk about the Hindu bacjkash.

So there you have it folks, all the clamour in the media about bringing “Hindu Terrorists” to justice and somehow making the entire Srikirshna Report as being about justice to Muslims by punishing Hindus, all of that clamour refers not to the events of December 1992, not even to the provocative stabbings in the run up to the events of Jan 1993, not even to the first full day of violence but it almost exclusively refers to the events after the morning of 8th Jan.

If this is not selective outrage, what is it ?

Nevertheless let us examine the facts of the 8th and subsequent days.

Sixty–six stabbing cases were reported from different jurisdictions, in which 11 Hindus, 15 Muslims and two others were killed and injuries caused to several Hindus and Muslims. Forty–eight cases of mob violence occurred in which six Muslims were killed and 11 Hindus and 17 Muslims and one other received injuries. Thirty–one cases of arson were reported which, apart from causing loss of property, resulted in deaths of six Hindus and two Muslims and injuries to five Muslims and two Hindus.

So there you have it the “Hindu backlash”. It is hard to see by what stretch of the definition of the word backlash, these statistics could explained the fairly equitable nature of the casualities.

Police resorted to firing on 31 occasions in different jurisdictions resulting in the killing of nine Hindus and 18 Muslims and injuries to 20 Hindus and 24 Muslims and one other.

A backlash indeed, but very equitable in its casualities.

9th January the mayhem continues.

Fifty–seven cases of stabbing resulting in death of eight Hindus and 18 Muslims and injuries to 27 Hindus, 33 Muslims and one other, were reported. Ninety–seven cases of mob violence occurred in various parts of the city resulting in the death of one Hindu and six Muslims and injures to 19 Hindus and 24 Muslims. Seventy-three cases of arson were reported from different jurisdictions which caused loss of property, death of three Hindus and six Muslims and injures to four Hindus and six Muslims.

Fifty–two cases of police firing occurred in different jurisdictions, killing 15 Hindus, 22 Muslims and one other.

The concrete references to an organized backlash come only on the 9th. While the overall casualities are high on both sides, the report calls out one incident of police high handedness which pretty much set the tone for the only police offer to have surrendered and a case filed against him in subsequent years.

Operation launched against the alleged terrorists by the Special Operation Squad (SOS) under the direction of joint commissioner of police, R.D. Tyagi, and extensive firing by the SOS resulted in deaths of nine Muslims. The police failed to apprehend even a single so–called terrorist, nor did they seize any fire–arms, sophisticated or otherwise, from which firing was done at them, as claimed.

10th January more mayhem but high casualties on both sides.

Eighty–one cases of stabbing occurred in different jurisdictions resulting in deaths of 10 Hindus and 39 Muslims and injuries to 24 Hindus and 42 Muslims. One hundred and eight cases of arson occurred in which there was property loss, death of one Hindu, five Muslims and two others, while one Hindu, one Muslim and one other were injured.. One hundred and eight cases of arson occurred in which there was property loss, death of one Hindu, five Muslims and two others, while one Hindu, one Muslim and one other were injured. Firing on 82 occasions, resulting in deaths of 22 Hindus, 23 Muslims and one other, while injuries were caused to 77 Hindus, 27 Muslims and two other 

The Muslim casualties on 11th were markedly higher. This borne by the fact that markedly more Hindu casualties in police firing as the mobs were Hindu.

 Eighty–six cases of stabbing occurred in different jurisdictions resulting in the death of 11 Hindus, 44 Muslims and one other; 23 Hindus, 58 Muslims and one other were injured. Four Hindus, 19 Muslims and two others were killed in 129 incidents of mob violence in different jurisdictions. Ninety–three cases of arson in different jurisdictions resulted in the death of two Hindus and 12 Muslims and injuries to seven Muslims. Police firing on 67 occasions caused to deaths of 19 Hindus and seven Muslims and injuries to 45 Hindus, 21 Muslims and two others.

12th Jan produces a gruesome incident similar to Radhabai Chawl but this time it is a Hindu Mob and Muslim women. The report cites that

Though the miscreants were arrested and tried by the Sessions Court at Bombay, later on they were all acquitted on the ground that the panchanamas were defective and that the eye–witnesses were not produced

There is no reference in the report of anybody being brought to justice for the other such incident.The statistics on the 12th too bear signs of a backlash.

Police resorted to firing on 31 occasions in different jurisdictions resulting in the deaths of four Hindus and six Muslims and injuries to 23 Hindus and seven Muslims. Fifty–six cases of stabbing occurred in different areas resulting in the deaths of three Hindus, 27 Muslims and injuries to 11 Hindus and 41 Muslims. Seventy–one cases of mob violence in different areas occurred in which one Hindu and six Muslims were killed; nine Hindus and 21 Muslims were injured.

From the 13th to 15th the violence peters out with lower overall numbers but deaths due to stabbing report a higher Muslim number while on injuries the numbers are comparable between the two communities.

The final tally reported by the Commission across December 1992 and January 1993.

Dead — 900(575 Muslims, 275 Hindus, 45 unknown and 5 others). The causes for the deaths are police firing (356), stabbing (347), arson (91), mob action (80), private firing (22) and other causes (4).

Injured — 2,036 (1105 Muslims, 893 Hindus, and 38 others).

The cunulative numbers present a chilling overall casualty rate but it must be borne in mind, a 100 of the muslim deaths occured during the first 2 days of violence in December 1992 mostly on account of police firing on Muslim mobs.

In fact if you examine the days of peak violence on account of the “Hindu backlash”, on no single day did the cumulative Muslim deaths equal  or exceed those on the first day of violence in December 1992.

The reports conclusions on the question of

Whether any individual or group of individuals, or any other organization, were responsible for such events and circumstances

For the December phase the report completely absolves any individuals or groups of individuals for the Muslim reaction instead it calls it spontaneous and leaderless which commenced as peaceful protest, but soon degenerated into riots. Now contrast this with its own language in the reporting of the events of the same day.

Large mobs of Muslims came on the streets and there was recourse taken to violence without doubt. This time the Muslim mobs appear to have come out with the intention of mounting violent attacks as noticed from their preparedness with weapons of offence.

How does the report square the intentions and preparedness with spontaneity ?

The report then goes onto blame Shiv Sena, Bal Thackeray, Madhukar Sarpotdar and Manohar Joshi for inciting the Jan 1993 phase of retaliation.

Because some criminal Muslims killed innocent Hindus in one corner of the city, the Shiv Sainiks ‘retaliated’ against several innocent Muslims in other corners of the city.

There is no material on record suggesting that even during this phase any known Muslim individuals or organizations were responsible for the riots, though a number of individual Muslims and Muslim criminal elements appear to have indulged in violence, looting, arson and rioting.

The report neither names the Muslim criminal elements in a significant way nor does it name specific individuals responsible for specific acts of violence in its conclusions. In fact the only individuals the report names explicitly in its conclusions are the 31 police officers against whom it recommends specific action to be taken.

A lot has been made in the media on the purported letting off the hook of politicians who engineered the riots. The names of Madhukar Sarpotdar, Manohar Joshi and Bal Thackeray are oft repeated including some media reports even mentioning BJP leader Gopinath Munde. The reality of the conclusions drawn by the report is however quite different.

In the entire volume on conclusions (volume 1) Madukar Sarpotdar’s name appears only once and that too not for ascribing blame for any specific incident or riot but for expounding a “doctrine of retaliation”. Most of what has been reported in the media against him appears in volume 2 and the smost serious pecific case against him is illegal possession of a pistol.

Manohar Joshi’s name appears only twice. The first time in reference to the 13 day Vajpayee Government asking him to revive the Commission. The second time in ascribing blame for the Jan 1993 phase. Again here too there is no specific incident or riot that is called out but only a “doctrine of retaliation” is mentioned.

There is no reference to Gopinath Munde in the conclusions report, in fact no BJP Leader is mentioned by name in the report for any of the violence. It is a media myth and a mischevious one at that which has references to Munde and the BJP largely on account of Munde’s assistant being apprehended with a firearm not licensed to him.

Bal Thackeray is referred to 3 times The first time for his writings, the second time for his attitude in in the Time Magazine Interview and the third time that he commandeered like a General the retaliation. While no specific instances of commandeering are mentioned in the conclusions volume. Volume 2 however goes into the alleged notes made by a journalist Mohite who accompanied Mayor Handore to Thackeray’s house and overhead Thackeray’s phone conversations which is the basis for the Commissions observation on Thackeray commandeering the riots. While Thackeray was  arrested briefly a few years ago the case against him fell apart.

Offstumped Bottomline: The 1992-1993 riots are a blot on civil society.

Attempting to selectively cull the vicious spiral of cause and effect 17 years own is not about healing the wounds or society of the malaise of mob violence.

Instead it is about vote bank politics and political correctness of the Left of Center media in assuaging it sense of guilt over the 1993 blasts convictions.

A serious debate on ridding India of the scourge of mob violence would have focused more attention on how Law enforcement needs to be reformed and how local communities should be made stakeholders in law enforcement.

Instead this one sided of secular template that the media is pushing does neither justice to the affected Muslims who have since moved on 17 years after the fact nor to the Hindus who too were affected in comparable numbers.

By asking irresponsible questions like “What about the Hindu Terrorists ?” the media is obscuring facts and manufacturing fiction and a dangerous one at that.

Specific action on specific individuals for specific acts of violence on both communities must be taken and the judicial process brought to closure without delay.

The one sided witch hunt the media is clamouring for, however serves no purpose but to fester open wounds and further vote bank politics.

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