Kamar mein lungi mooh mein paan, bhago saale Pakistan!
(Lungi tucked at waist and paan in your mouth, buggers run to Pakistan!)
Musalmanoon ke do hi sthaan, Pakistan ya kabristan
(Muslims have only two places to live in: Pakistan or the graveyard)
Twenty years ago, I heard these slogans for the first time. I was 21, and in the final year of graduation.
These slogans were being hurled by a mob of Shiv Sainiks led by the local Shiv Sena corporator outside our home. After an hour, a group of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh volunteers in khaki shorts joined the chorus.
Our family was one of the ten Muslim families living in the northwest Mumbai suburb of Malad, surrounded by at least 10,000 Hindu families.
On December 7, 1992, the day after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, riots erupted all over Mumbai. The city cooled down temporarily after a fortnight. But a month later, the riots began once again. This time around, the riots were bloodier, murderous.
Muslim homes and shops were targeted systematically in the second round of riots. My writer-poet father, who is always immersed in his books, could not believe what was happening to Bombay, as it was known then, and did not know what to do about his family’s safety.
One night, a Muslim acquaintance came home and told us not to worry. He told us he had a ‘ghoda’ with him. My innocent father didn’t know what the man meant, and asked him what he would do with a horse at this time when riots raged through our area.
My father asked me if I had seen a horse in our building. I nodded no.
The acquaintance then took out a ‘gun’ and told us this was the ‘ghoda he was speaking about.’ My father almost fainted; he had never seen a gun in his life.
The acquaintance told us not to worry and said he would “fire one round in the air and the mob of 1,000 Hindus would run for their lives.” Even if the mob did not run away, he declared, “We will surely kill five of them and get shahadat (martyrdom).”
My dumbstruck father did not want to listen to the acquaintance’s boasts and asked him to leave.
Just then, my grandfather’s home in the same area was attacked by rioters….
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