ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Bhiwandi Again

IN just about a week of communal violence in Bhiwandi and in Bombay city and some of its suburbs a total of 210 persons have been killed and 686 injured. (This is according to official figures available at the time of writing, which are generally regarded as substantial underestimates,) In terms of the number of people killed, the toll is thus more or less equal to that in a year and a half of violence in the whole of Punjab. As a report elsewhere in this issue points out this was one communal carnage that had to occur. A series of events had been leading up to it, among which were Shiv Sena leader Hal Thackeray's state-wide tour, the agitation jointly launched by a number of Hindu organisations to secure permission lor the taking out of the Shiv Jayanti procession in Bhiwandi on May 3, the government's decision to permit the procession which was promptly hailed as 'a triumph of militant Hinduism' in posters appearing all over Bombay, and the anxieties and fears generated by these developments among the Muslims as well as the overt responses of sections of the community, such as the alleged garlanding of a photograph of Hal Thackeray with shoes in Parbhani. But while the violence was basically communal in nature, many other factors evidently contributed to it. For instance, in the massed attacks on the 'bastis' of powerloom workers from Andhra and UP en the outskirts of Bhiwandi, there is evidence of large-scale participation by people from the nearby villages and the motivation appears to have been to drive away 'outsiders' who are regarded as having settled in areas which the villagers see as having once 'belonged' to them. In Bombay city and its suburbs, the violence was generally the work of smaller groups and was very often inextricably mixed up with the activities and avocations of the lumpen elements who predominate in the city's expanding slums thanks to the appalling living conditions, lack of regular employment opportunities and consequent all-round brutalisation. Another important factor in many of the violent episodes was the attempt to drive away hutment dwellers through terror and arson, so that the land thus cleared could in due course be appropriated for high-profit construction.

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