Nearly 11 years have rolled on when Hindus and police personnel played the dance of death in 1989 and the Muslim community was at the receiving end. An entire village Chanderi was emaciated in one night, in the full view of a police force.
Only a Muslim mother of two, Malika Begum, is the lone survivor to tell the gory saga. Deserted by her husband, she is penniless and has to beg for survival.
Bhagalpur, famous for Tsar and silk clothes, hosts an estimated 150 thousand Muslims in a city of 500 thousand. Generally, Muslims who live here are farmers and cultivate land. The city is educationally and financially more backward than other districts of Bihar. This is a mixed Hindu-Muslim village where until the 1989 massacre, both groups lived in peace and amity.
But on October 27, 1989, when rumours of a reported killing of Hindus (later found to be false) reached Chanderi, the situation changed. First, the Hindus protested against the Imam coming from another village Rajpur to conduct Namaz (prayer). Then the people of a few houses living in the village on the periphery of Chanderi were burnt and two people were killed.
According to official reports, the district magistrate came to Chanderi around 4:30pm with the ASP, Sunil Kumar, and an Army contingent under Major General P S Virk. The Hindu mob of Farakka, Mokalkah and other surrounding villages trying to storm Chanderi, disappeared at the sight of the army.
Thinking that the situation had normalised, the district magistrate left for Bhagalpur and the army remained. When Major Virk came to the village, he found nearly 70 Muslims huddled together in one house. After their houses were burnt, they had taken shelter in the house of Minnat Mian.
At 10.30 pm, the BDO and the officer in-charge of Sabaur police station, Kailash Chaudhary, came to the village. Major Virk later told the special ADM that he had left the village after these officers assured him that food and protection will be provided to the Muslims. It appears that no steps were taken to protect these people, because the following day, when they were brought out of the house on the assurance that they would be safely escorted to the Rajpur village, they were attacked from two sides.
Sixty of them were killed and their bodies thrown in the pond. Other barely managed to escape. One of the persons who had a miraculous escape was Malika Begum who survived in the pond, even though one of her legs had been amputated with the sword.
"This riot is not only confined to Bhagalpur town but has spread out to the countryside areas... the number of innocent children, uninvolved persons, unarmed passengers and unoffending wayfarers slaughtered and massacred estimated in crores (thousands). Crores (thousands) of mosques, kiosks, Imambaras, Madrasas and tombs are vandalized and torched. Thousands of families have become homeless. The people now have no food to eat, no clothing to put on. This is not merely a riot but a savagery and holocaust," a recent report compiled by a group of organization investigating the incident said.
"Even a Hindu magistrate, Mr. Ashok Kumar Singh, Special Additional District Magistrate, has said, "The riot of Merath, Maliana and Jamshedpur is nothing in respect of tyranny, sensation and expansion of riot [the] in Bhagalpur."
The report of a three-member inquiry commission that looked into the riot is gathering dust and the culprits are still at large.
According to a report released by the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind last week, the loss of life and property as the result of Hindu attacks is as follows: No. of afflicted people - 1,05,000, No. of affected families - 14,500, No. of Muslims killed - 976, people disappeared - 106, houses reduced to ashes - 2,994, houses ransacked - 6182, shops burnt - 891, mosques demolished - 42, tombs belonging to Muslims pulled down - 10, Islamic schools dismantled - 9, Iamambaras belonging to Shia Muslims destroyed - 6, No. of looms belonging to Muslims robbed or burnt - 3,042, No of Muslims arrested - 1614, Non-Muslims killed - 42 and houses belonging to non-Muslims blazed - 214.
The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, India's largest Islamic organization, commenced relief work under the leadership of state president Maulana Muhammad Jafar, who is at present national general secretary. Many squads comprising Jamaat cadres were pressed into service and two trucks were purchased for deportation of relief goods. The relief work is still going on.
(Muhammad Faheem is a freelance journalist living in New Delhi, India. He is a regular contributor to iviews.com.)