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Causes and Fallouts of Violence

Mahtab Alam

By Meena Menon
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2012, pp. XCII 267, Rs. 595.00

VOLUME XXXVII NUMBER 2-3 February/March 2013

Last year marked twenty years of the demolition of Babri Masjid, followed by a series of large-scale communal violence, clashes and riots in different parts of India, especially in the Bombay then and now Mumbai. The year also witnessed Bal Thackeray, founder of the Shiv Sena and one of the key figures involved in the politics of hate and bigotry for more than four decades, die a natural death, leaving the city once again in fear (created by his followers) for a few days. However, what started in December 1992 continued till January 1993. Not only that, while people were still trying to recover from the after effects of the violence, on 12th March 1993, a series of bomb blasts rocked the city and led to comparisons between the two acts of violence unleashed by two ‘opposite’ communities, often ignoring the differentiation between the acts of the individual and that of the community. What is important to note here is that the violence of December 92-January 93 in Mumbai was the worst among all those that had occurred in the city, ever since the first recorded communal violence in the year of 1893. Officially (according to the Justice Srikrishna Commission Report) 900 people were killed in mob violence and firing by the police, 2,036 injured and thousands displaced from their homes, taking shelter in temporary relief camps that were mostly run by NGOs and individuals. The book under review is by Meena Menon, who is a Mumbai based senior journalist, with considerable experience in covering communal riots and violence for nearly three decades and currently deputy editor of The Hindu daily. Starting with the simple premise of ‘going back to the survivors and seeing how they had coped with their lives after the riots’, the writer goes much beyond her initial objectives and presents a meticulous and painstaking chronicle of the past and the present of communal violence and riots in the city, going backwards from 1992-93 to look at the history of violence between Hindus and Muslims in Bombay/Mumbai. For her research, the writer essentially relies on archival materials, other official documents such as reports of various commissions, court judgments, case dairies, etc., and available literature on the subject apart from a large number of interviews of survivors and other concerned parties, conducted between February 2007 and November 2009. Connecting the present with the past, in her preface, the author observes: ‘Today it is common to hear ...

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