Remembering Bhagalpur massacre

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October 24 marks the anniversary of the Bhagalpur massacre of 1989. In the violence that continued unabated for almost 2 months, around 1000 people, mostly Muslims were killed.

The precurser

The cause of the riot was radicalisation of Hindus masses for Ram Janmabhumi movement by the VHP. It was the same year that the VHP was able to lay the foundation stone for Ram Temple on a land next to Babri Mosque. The atmosphere was filled with communal hatred and distrust because of the movement.

The Trigger

On October 24, the Ramlila processions going to Ayodhya were planned to proceed through the Gaushala area. One of the procession coming through Nathnagar when arrived at Tatarpur, a Muslim majority area, started hurling communal provocative slogans. The procession was being escorted in the presence of the then Superintendent of Police, KS Dwivedi whose roles in handling the riots were questioned on many counts . The Muslims of the area protested and asked them to take alternate route to Gaushala to avoid any violence. While discussions were going on, crude bombs were thrown on the procession injuring some policemen. This is considered as the trigger point of both the rumors and the violence that followed.

Like any other anti Muslim riots that happened recently, the Bhagalpur pogrom had 3 similar distinct features.

1) False propaganda- one rumor stated that nearly 200 Hindu university students had been killed by the Muslims, while another rumor stated that 31 Hindu boys had been murdered with their bodies dumped in a well at the Sanskrit College. Later it was found that there were 12 bodies, all from the family of Mohammad Javed, a Muslim.

2) Provocative slogans- Some members of the procession passing through Muslim areas shouted slogans such as “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan, Mullah Bhago Pakistan” (India is for Hindus, Mullahs go away to Pakistan), “Babur ki auladon, bhago Pakistan ya Kabristan” (Children of Babur, run away to Pakistan or to the graveyard) & Baccha baccha Ram ka, baaki sab haraam ka” (We are all children of Ram, the rest are illegitimate)

3) Role of Police-The initial days of pogrom was carried out with total protection of the State Police. The role of the then SP , KS Dwivedi in anti Muslim riots was so open that the Chief Minister asked him to hand over charges to Ajit Datta on October 26. Surprisingly, The then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, acting on demands of the Murderous mob, overruled his transfer. On same day, In Nayabazar area, 18 muslims including 11 children were murdered in full public view. Kids were beheaded & breast of many women were chopped off.

The chanderi massacre

In Chanderi village, the hindu mob pretended to save Muslims who had taken refuge in a house. When the Muslims after trusting their words came out, they were attacked. 61 Muslims including children & women were killed & their bodies were mutilated. One of the lone survivor from the same village, Mallika Bano recounted the horror of that day. On October 27, some 3 days after the riots began in other part of the city, Muslims were stopped from offering Namaz in the village mosque. When protested, the Muslims were beaten and out of fear they took refuge in the one of a large house belonging to Sheikh Minnat. The mob kept on looting the houses and putting them on fire. The same night, Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry Regiment reached the village but rather than rescuing the trapped people,they promised on coming back next day. The next early morning, the village head and other Hindu neighbors came and promised a safe Passage to the trapped Muslims. While going out for safe location, they were all attacked and cut to pieces. Mallika recounts as to how her cousin of age 3-4 years was tore to two pieces. She and four of her cousins forcefully took refuge in a Hindu neighbour’s house but those people called the murderous mob to take away these girls. Mallika saw her two cousins killed there in the house itself. She jumped into a hyacinth pond but her leg was out, it was chopped off. The mob thought her to be dead and left. She was later rescued by the army unit.

The Logain Massacre

At the Logain village, 116 Muslims were killed by a 4000-strong mob led by the police officer Ramchander Singh. Their bodies were buried and camouflaged by the plantation of cauliflower and cabbage saplings to hide the evidence. This came to be knows as cauliflower massacre.

According to official figures 1,070 people were killed & 524 injured. 11,500 houses in 195 villages were destroyed, displacing 48,000 people. 600 power looms and 1,700 handlooms were burnt to ashes. 68 mosques and 20 mazars were destroyed +

According to the PUDR ( People’s Union for Democratic Rights) report, 93% of the dead were Muslim. The Bhagalpur Silk industry that was primarily lead my Muslims also suffered deadly. It was also an economic devastation for the Muslims.