[Reader-list] The Mumbai riots and Justice

meena menon meenamenon at gmail.com
Wed Aug 15 15:03:49 IST 2007

Hi all,
Here is my fifth posting for the Sarai fellowship.Since the last one month,
there has been a massive effort by various human rights organisations and
other groups  to revive the cases of Mumbai riots and implement the
Srikrishna Commission's report.  The Maharashtra chief minister has decided
to create special courts to try the really serious cases of which here are
about 36. Of the 894 chargesheets filed in courts, 253 cases are still
pending. Below is the story of Farooq Mapkar, a victim and an accused in the
riots and his story exemplifies much of how justice was dispensed with after
the riots.


meenamenon at gmail.com

Blasts trial ends but riots case yet to begin-- Fifth posting for Sarai

While the historic trial of the serial bomb blasts case in Mumbai on March
12, 1993 has ended with 100 convictions, the trial of Farooq Mapkar, an
accused in the Hari Masjid firing case during the Mumbai riots of 1992-93
(before the blasts)  is yet to begin. Since 14 years Farooq, both a victim
and an accused in the firing, has been running around for justice.
Fed up with waiting, 41-year-old Farooq has also filed a writ petition in
the Bombay high court demanding  the registration of a first information
report against the police who shot at people in Hari Masjid. The high court
has asked the government to respond and the case will be heard on August 24.
Farooq who works as a security guard in a cooperative bank has been trying
to get an offence registered against Nikhil Kapse and other policemen
responsible for the firing since 14 years in vain. He has approached the
high court as a last resort.
Farooq was one of those injured when police opened fire at Hari Masjid on
the afternoon of January 10, 1993. "We had all gathered for namaz and people
were milling around the mosque when the firing took place," Farooq says. He
too got a bullet injury in his left shoulder but instead of being taken to
the hospital he was put in jail for 15 days. "The bullet was removed on
January 27," he recalls after he was let out on bail.
The irony does not end there. Farooq is one of the 57 persons accused by the
police of mob violence. According to the charge sheet filed by the police in
1994, there was private firing from the mosque and later the mob went to a
house one km away and burnt it, killing one man. Shakeel Ahmed of Nirbhay
Bano Andolan who is an activist and Mapkar's lawyer said that all the 57
persons were charged with murder too. The case was pending for ten years. "I
have already suffered so much," said Mapkar.
   In 2004 the case was shifted to a fast track court in Sewri where it was
finally heard before sessions judge C M Salunkhe.  However, Ahmed points out
that during the hearing, one of the witnesses Shravan Killari testified in
court that he was injured in police firing.  However, the court when
recording this dropped the word "police". "I objected to this and there were
a lot of issues about my intentions. Finally the judge separated Farooq's
trial as a result of this," explained Ahmed.
He said that this separation of the trial was illegal and the judge issued
no directions as to how the trial would proceed in Mapkar's case. Finally on
February 4, 2006, the court acquitted most of the people in the case. In the
meanwhile some had died and the rest were untraceable and only 30 odd
persons were acquitted by the court due to lack of evidence.  Even in that
judgement no directions were given about Mapkar's case.  After an
application was made by Ahmed, it took over eight months for the case to
come on board. The new judge in July 2007 ordered the police to file a
separate charge sheet in Mapkar's case since his trial was separated and now
the police have sought time till August end to do so.
The Sri Krishna Commission which has produced a voluminous report on the
1992-93 riots in Mumbai has documented the Hari Masjid case in detail. It
said that one of the policeman Nikhil Kapse was not justified in opening
fire and his conduct was violent. Kapse who has been promoted since then and
now works in Economic Offences wing of the Mumbai police, was exonerated in
a departmental inquiry and even the Special Task Force (STF) that was set up
to look into the riots cases gave him a clean chit. Mapkar says he was not
even summoned by the STF to give evidence.
In 2001, Ahmed filed a petition in the Supreme Court demanding action
against 31 policemen involved in the riots who have been named by the
Srikrishna Commission. The case is still going on. The STF closed 1371 cases
of riots saying that they were true but undetected. Only eight cases were
reopened of the 112 scrutinised by the STF. Ahmed says that the police did
not bother to summon witnesses or investigate the cases properly. There were
detailed testimonies before the Srikrishna Commission and the police could
have used those same witnesses but did not do so. The cases filed against
Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray were also withdrawn. A senior policeman R D
Tyagi who was arrested in the Suleiman Bakery firing case was later
discharged and a petition challenging this is pending in the Bombay high
court. The state government has not even appealed against his discharge till
Mapkar says the case against him is false and the government is just fooling
the people when it says it has taken action against the rioters.  He wants
to go ahead with his own trial. "Let them prove they have a case against
me," he said.
The Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and deputy chief minister R
R Patil of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have said that the state has
implemented the Sri Krishna Commission report. It was also an election
promise the Congress-NCP  made to the voters of the state in 1999. Now faced
with a lot of anger, the government is quickly saying there may have been
shortcomings and is trying to  rectify the damage by setting up  special
courts. For the victims, justice has come too little too late.


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