Disclaimer: This blog is not about who was right and who was wrong during the 1992 riots. I just want to share my experiences then as a 5-year-old.
From the year 1991 to 1993, we were living with my maternal grandparents at Shivaji Park, Dadar, as my father had been transferred to Chiplun and subsequently transferred at Dahanu.
I was a 5-year-old happy-go-lucky, who stayed with her grandparents, parents and a younger brother. One fine day, I realised that things are definitely not as normal as they used to be. For the first time in my life, I heard the words Babri Masjid, Ayodhya temple, riots, curfew. My grandfather has a tailoring shop and we stayed barely 50 meters away from Shiv Sena Bhavan at Dadar. I remember the night when I realised, something wrong was happening and we were not safe. I suddenly woke up and heard my grandfather was telling everyone that people had burned down his friend’s shop. His friend was a Konkani Muslim.
I half heard the things and started crying loudly, thinking that our shop, which was right below the building had been burned. I still remember not sleeping that night and everyone promising to take me downstairs, to show that our shop was well intact. The 5-year-old me refused to believe the elders. I was too young and immature to understand, why there was a restriction on going outside the building gate, why there was police in a different uniform (the Armed Forces) with big guns walking around the streets.
We literally felt like prisoners, as the maximum that I could go was till the building gate. The only relief for fresh air was our building terrace, which was left open so that the residents could breathe. One evening, my father and I had gone upstairs on the terrace along with other building residents. I don’t remember if the curfew was imposed or it was a relaxation time. A big blue car was passing by in the opposite lane. Suddenly, one of the Army officials came and stood in front of the car and shot at the windscreen. I was literally frozen and refused to let go of my dad.
My father is 5ft 10 inches tall, well built and has a beard. Even though Dadar and Shivaji Park were predominantly a Hindu area, any person with a beard was held a suspect. My father, who was then working with the State Electricity Board, was posted at Dahanu. He would come back the same evening by the Saurashtra Express but would be stopped by a group of people because of his beard. They would let him go, only after he said “Jai Shri Ram”. Finally, he had to shave his beard. The consequence of that? My 2-year-old brother refused to look at him.
Every moment that we lived then was full of suspicion. Doors had to be thoroughly checked. Any knock on the door would scare us. But sometimes I feel, we were the least affected by the riots, our business suffered, but still, the fear that we were engulfed in was less. I heard stories from my mother on how the situation was in our Mahim House, where my Mama was staying. It was the centre point of riots. Even though none of the people entered our building, but there were goons, who regularly walked around the building to trouble the people. During that time the Hindus and the Muslim residents of the society would go to Dadar market, schools, banks and every other place together to protect each other.
Riots are bad for anyone. Politicians often use religion to divide us. But, many times, because of their ego, a lot of people suffer unknowingly.
It’s been 25 years since the riots, but memories are still fresh. Unfortunately, that is the impact of riots.