01, Aug 1993
PEOPLE’S Verdict, a 160-page report of the Indian People Human Rights Tribunal released, along with a well-attended press conference, on August 4th. This is a strong indictment of the Bombay police, the state government and political parties like the Shiv Sena, the RSS and the BJP. The tribunal comprised of three retired judges – Justice Krishna Iyer (Supreme Court), Justice S.M. Daud and Justice H. Suresh (both Bombay High Court).
Meanwhile, startling bits of evidence have surfaced in the course of the hearings before the officially appointed Justice Srikrishna Commission which commenced in April.
April, 1993: Chief Minister Sharad Pawar appointed Shamrao Samant, senior advocate as counsel for the state government. He is the next-door-neighbour and acquaintance of Bal Thackeray.
June 15: Police writ petition claiming privilege over its wireless tape messages quashed by the Bombay High Court. Bombay police still to submit official transcripts of wireless messages between January 10 and 18, 1993.
Business India had exposed the communal bias of the Bombay police as was evident from the tape of intra-police wireless messages during the riot period.
June 29: An application made by the state government to the Commission praying for the adjournment of all proceedings until October 1993 is refused.
July 1 & 2: Two affidavits filed on behalf of the state government before the Commission blamed the BJP and Muslim bodies for “the holocaust of December and January”. No mention of the role of the Shiv Sena or its mouthpiece, the Saamna, was made.
July 12: CPI leader, G.L. Reddy tells the Commission that he was witness to the mob that gathered for a mahaarti at Tulsiwadi (central Bombay) going on the rampage, burning and looting Muslim shops. Sena counsel before the Commission, Adhik Shirodkar was also slated to address one of the mahaarti gatherings. After Reddy’s evidence was recorded, the judge gestured to counsel for the police to begin the cross-examination. He, in turn gestured to the Sena lawyer to proceed first. Judge, “Do you want to follow in the footsteps of the Sena?”
July 14: Justice Srikrishna, “Public witnesses scheduled to appear before the Commission have been threatened. Hence I shall not reveal the names of witnesses in advance.” Counsel for the police, D.S. Prabhu, “Should we give them police protection?” The Judge, “They fear the police more than anyone else.”
July 14: Evidence of senior police inspector Madhukar Ghorpade of the Bombay police revealed that no arrests have been made in connection with nine mahaartis held on one day, within one police station area while prohibitory orders were in force. Two wireless messages were received by him from then police commissioner, Srikant Bapat. One said no cases should be registered in connection with the BJP-SS sponsored ‘mahaartis’, while the second asked the Gamdevi police station to shoot a video film of a particular ‘mahaarti’ conducted by a SS shakha pramukh.
August 6: Justice Srikrishna, irked by the fact that “some vital information had been withheld from the commission of enquiry” passed an order demanding a detailed affidavit from the state government – on or before August 16 – on attempts made by Muslim and Hindu groups to incite communal passions during November 1992 and January 1993. This followed the line of cross-examination by SS counsel, B.D. Joshi of a Muslim resident of Tulsiwadi (central Bombay). He was asked whether video casettes of Maulana Asad Madni were being played in the Tulsiwadi locality for a month prior to January 9.
On July 6, former Maharashtra chief secretary, J.B. D’Souza, appeared before the Commission after comments made by him in an article in The Times of India were found relevant.
Q: Do you hold the Shiv Sena in good esteem?
Q: What do you mean by calling Thackeray a paper tiger?
A: He is a sawdust supremo, a man of no stuff.
Q: Did you take any action, as a citizen during the Shah Bano controversy?
A: I wrote letters to the editor.
Q: On the uniform civil code issue? (Question dis-allowed).
Q: Could you explain your comments on the bomb blasts in Bombay?
A: What I meant (in the TOI article) was that even the bomb blasts had a silver lining in silencing the Shiv Sena, something that could not be achieved by the government or by saying prayers.
Q: Do you have a bias against Hindus?
A: My wife is a Hindu.