One Day is Yours, the Rest is Ours

The often common man falls pray to the incessant communal propaganda of the communal leaders.  These people, fired up by the communal frenzy them rush forward to organize religious festivals on grand scale.  Such religious festivals and their processions increase communal tension and result in riots.  There is a school of thought that advocates the banning of such processions.  But I think this medicine will prove to be worse than disease.  I implemented a scheme in Bhivandi which contained and controlled the provocation in the processions without banning them completely.  This scheme was called, “One day is yours, the rest are ours”.

Hindus & Muslims indulge in various provocative acts during the festivals and processions.  Gulal is thrown on persons not participating in the procession, slogans hurting the feelings of the other community are raised, the procession lingers near the places of worship of the other religion, the processions go on for longer than the stipulated time, people indulge in drunken behaviour etc.  If the police take immediate action against such mischief mongers, matters get worse and there is a skirmish with the police.  Hence I decided that the day of the procession would belong to the people in the procession.  But after the festival was over I planned to take action against the trouble makers and once the identities of such habitual offenders was established, I would take preventive action against them during every subsequent festival.

In 1988 we declared that plainclothes policemen would be deployed to keep an eye on trouble makers during the religious processions.  I deployed 75 such plainclothesmen in Bhiwandi at various points on the path of the procession.  They carried a notebook and pen and were simply asked to note the names of the mischief managers.

The first festival after the scheme was drawn up was Bakari Id.  The names of mischief mongers in Bakari Id. were noted.  I called a meeting of all plainclothes men the very next day.  They had made a list of 15 persons.  Each one of them was prosecuted under sections 110, 112, 117 of the Bombay Police Act.  Some pleaded guilty and were fined Rs. 20 to 50 by the court.  Others contested the court cases. 

Next came the Ganesh festival.  The fifteen persons prosecuted earlier during Bakri Id were brought to the police station.  Preventive action was taken against some of them under sections 151(1), 151(3) and 149 of the CrPC.  Like before, a list of 80 mischief mongers was made during the Ganesh processions.  After the festival was over, they too were prosecuted under sections 110, 112, 117 of the Bombay Police Act. 
The following festival was Moharam.  All those booked earlier during Bakari Id and Ganesh Utsav were subjected to preventive prosecution and the new trouble makers from Moharam were hauled up and produced in the court the next day. 

This practice was followed in all successive festivals.  Even those who had indulged in mischief just once were hauled up under preventive action in all the succeeding festivals.  Communal leaders were enraged and condemned the police action.  They threatened that they would leave Lord Ganesh’s idols on the street in case of police action. 

On the day of the procession I received a call from the Thane Police Commissioner at 8 in the morning.  “Khopade, immediately stop this new ‘One day is yours, the rest are ours’ scheme of yours.” I told him that sudden suspension of the scheme would boost the moral of the communal leaders and they would get an upper hand over the police for years to come.  He said,  “The CID intelligence report says that if you continue your scheme they are planning to leave the idols on the streets.  Don’t increase the tension in Bhiwandi with your stupid fads.”

It would have been counter-productive to suspend the scheme.  We had the communal leaders on the run and this would increase their grip over people.  This scheme had put the police at an advantage and so I continued the scheme inspite of orders to do otherwise.  My career would be destroyed if they put down the idols on street.  I was under tremendous pressure that day, and finally my worst fears did come true. 

When the Sutar Ali Ganapati procession started a huge chain of firecrackers was lit before the Mosque.  An enthusiastic officer immediately extinguished it under his boots.  This was sufficient excuse – the Ganesh Idols were put down on the streets.  The Mandal leaders demanded an apology from the concerned officer without which they would not lift the Idols.  I learnt of the demand at the other end of the procession.  I sent a wireless message that the officer should give a written apology.  Even this did not satisfy them.  They were now insisting on an apology by the D.C.P.  I immediately reached the spot and gave the apology.  The mob now demanded a written apology from me.  This was too much.  But it was their day and I gave a written apology.  The procession moved.

Had anything untowards happened in the procession due to the scheme, my superiors would not have spared me.  Within 21 days of the procession the 2 ringleaders who made me give a written apology were detained under the National Security Act.  The visible effect was that the following Mohurrum, Id-E Milad and Shiv Jayanti processions got over within the time limit stipulated by the police.  Usually Ganesh processions would start at 4 PM and go on till 8 the next morning.  In the third year of the scheme, the same precession started at 4 p.m. and was over by 9 p.m. the same day.  The procession time was thus reduced by 11 hours.  7 jute bags full of Gulal was usually thrown in Shiv Jayanti procession, which dropped down to just 25 KGs.  More importantly it wasn’t thrown on innocent bye passers.  Communal leaders of both the communities were enraged.  They were prosecuted under the National Security Act.

In the 1989 Shivajayanti precession had 75 decorated trucks.  One of the trucks was full of children, with no adult to take care of them.  I told the Mandal chief “Either get the boys down or send up an adult.  The children may touch the electric wires and meet with an accident”.  The gentlemen retorted, “How the hell are you concerned?  They are our children.  It’s not your business even if they die”.  My subordinates were annoyed by this reply.  My bodyguard surged forward to nab him.  I stopped him.  For this was their day.  The truck owner thought that with a lakh & half people in the procession to back him the arrogant police wouldn’t dare to touch him.  We only noted down the truck number.  After the procession was over, we started booking the owner of the truck under the Motor Vehicles Act every month.  The truck owner got tired of the monthly prosecutions.  Seeing his plight truck owners in Bhiwandi decided not to get involved in the Shivjayanti processions to avoid complications with the police.  Ultimately nobody was willing to spare his truck for the following year’s procession. The procession organizers approached me. I secured an autorickshaw for them. That year instead of the usual 75 trucks the procession had only one rickshaw.

As a result of my scheme, processions got over in time.  Provocative acts ceased.  The spraying of Gulal on bystanders stopped.  Processions no longer lingered in front of the places of worship of the other community.  Drunkards making scenes and indulging in obscene dances became fearful of the law.  In short, when incidents of provocation of the other religion were stopped the level of communal tension in Bhiwandi reduced immediately.  The local religious leaders realised that police were not opposed to their procession but only wanted to curb the unsociable activities in the procession which actually helped in preserving the sanctity of the procession.  They now heaped praises on my scheme.

On one hand we started action against the mischief mongers and provocateurs in the communal processions through the “One day is yours the rest are ours” scheme and on the other hand we also established a line of communication between Hindus & Muslims by bringing them together through the Mohalla Committee.  Vested interest in communal tension however had survived.  They had not given up their efforts.  It is these few people that spoil the hearty environment in the city. 

Once we had assembled all respected citizens on the eve of the Shivajayanti procession.  One elderly doctor said, “Muslims not only in Bhiwandi but all over India were traitors.  They ought to be taught a good lesson.  Hindus should unite come out on the streets against them.”  This very gentleman had taken lead in 1970 riots.  The Madan commission had held him responsible for the riots.  I rudely rebuked him in my speech.  “I advice all those thinking of taking to the streets to fight communal battles to think ten times before doing so.  We the police will not think twice before shooting such rabid communalist in their own houses. The doctor and other communal leaders were stunned by my threat of bullets.  After the meeting some people remarked that it was not proper to talk of shooting down citizens.  I however repeatedly confirmed our resolve to shoot down instigators of communal violence.  My message got through to most people.  Eventually the people hailed my threats.

I was on patrolling duty in Thane and Bhiwandi during the riots that took place there in 1984.  I was one of the officers sent there from other cities to help the local authorities.  The air was thick with speculation about the exact cause of the riots.  Three different reasons emerged.  The first one was put forward by the government.  It said that a foreign power had a hand in causing the riots.  The second reason, put forward by the senior officers from Mumbai was that the mafia of Mumbai had a hand in causing the riots.  The third opinion, one that all of us officers present at Bhiwandi held was that the criminals and goons from the Hindu and Muslim communities had clashed causing the riot. 

But later when I studied the Bhiwandi riots in detail, the real cause I discovered was surprising and was a paradigm shift for me.  When I carefully read the case diaries of the investigation of the murders of Tulsi’s son and Chandi and Shanu’s husbands, I came across things that I could not believe.  And this is how the idea of setting up Mohalla Committees came to me.  I met Chandbi and Tulsi again after reading the case diaries.  I asked Tulsi, “Tell me something, who were the people that killed your son Hira?”  She stared at the roof and thought hard.  After a while she said, “Saheb, there were a lot of people.”  “Can you remember any names?” I asked.  “Saheb, many years have passed but I haven’t forgotten the names of the killers. Gani, Abdulla and Mohammed.”  The case diary attested her statement, for it carried these same names.  “Where were they from?” I continued with my probing.  She replied immediately, “from here itself.  From around our house.  From our neighbourhood.”

I put the same questions to Chandbi.  “Chandbi, who beat up your and your sister’s husband, poured kerosene over them and put them on fire in front of your eyes?”  Lost in thought, digging earth with her toes she replied, “There were a lot of people.”  “Can you remember the killers?”  I prodded.  She said, “Govinda, Hari, Sitaram.”  By now I had an inkling about what the answer to my next question would be.  “Where were they from?”  “Sir,” she said, “they were from around here.  From my Mohalla itself.”  Again the case diary bore her out.