Dark days of Mumbai chronicled in book
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
New Delhi, Apr 17: Khatun Bi is one of the many real-life protagonists of the recently launched book 'Riots and After in Mumbai: Chronicles of Truth and Reconciliation'.
The 65-year-old victim of 1992-93 Bombay riots might have a foggy memory about everything else but she clearly remembers the day when she had to hide neck-deep in a gutter as rioters violently raided the streets of Mumbai. Dipped in muck and her own fear, that day will always remain a living nightmare for Khatun Bi.
It is 20 years since and the hustle-bustle of the ever increasing fast-paced life in Mumbai seems to have muffled the shrieks of the riots. But the question is - has the city's ability to "move on" eased the pain of the riots’ survivors?
Raising this very question, author and journalist Meena Menon has brought out a book on how Mumbai has dealt with the riots over the years.
Menon in the book has narrated the lives and emotions of several riot victims who have remained on the fringes over the years trying to put back together their life.
"The whole idea initially was to see how people survived. For many nothing had changed and they had moved on in life with an open wound. It was traumatic in many ways but they have survived with dignity even though they did not receive help from anyone," Menon said.
Chronicling a century before the most recalled 1992-93 riots in Mumbai, Menon begins her book with the first sectarian rioting between Hindus and Muslims in Mumbai in 1893. Providing an extensive data base from the archives, the author has dealt with the subject of riots in the western metropolis emphatically.
The book combines historical records and personal interviews of both Muslim and Hindu riot victims to provide a synoptic record of events.
Menon began researching in 2005, not with the intention of writing a book but as part of a fellowship programme. However, six months later the idea to bring it out as a book seemed just right.
"The first big communal riot in Mumbai happened in 1893 and I wanted to use it as a starting point. So there was a lot to do... Research, going through archives and interviews with people. So it took close to four years to complete all that and then a year to get it published," said Menon.
A major theme of the book is displacement and the creation of separate townships or ghettos for Hindus and Muslims after the riots.
"There was a huge polarization in the city after the riots. People felt safe by living with their own community. However, some of the Muslim ghettos have become back places for police to pick up terrorist suspects. So even though it has been years now since the riots, the fear among these Muslims has not really subsided," Menon told PTI.
Menon has been a journalist since 1984 and has worked for various publications. Although she refuses that she approached writing this book as a journalist, she does agree that her background helped her in getting the needed sources and information for it.
"I had the backdrop of covering these riots as a journalist, so it was an advantage for me to be already aware of what happened in that period. Also, it gave me access to people, to events and to records which were all much needed for the book. Menon says, "But it is not really a follow up to what I covered during the riots. The kind of extensive work needed for a book is far different from writing a piece of article for a newspaper. It is rather a continuation of my own curiosity to see the impact of the communal carnage in present day lives of people."
Despite such a dark history, Menon gives Mumbai credit for having survived despite differences and conflicts amongst its people.
"There is definitely a divide in the minds of the people, and in some places even physical divide. But even in my book I have said that at the end of the day people are still living together. Mumbai is a city of contradictions. If there is divide, there is also unity," Menon quips.
The most memorable aspect of bringing out the book, Menon says, was to interact with "people having golden hearts".
"People were so willing to share. There was so much generosity of spirit. They use to entertain me even amidst their busiest days. There was so much dignity and grace. I was overwhelmed. Without them, this book wouldn't have been possible," she fondly says.
Describing the 1992-93 communal carnage as "the riot in Mumbai's history", the author-cum-journalist hopes this page of history never repeats.
Menon has divided her 266-page book into sections, beginning with history of the metropolis, chronicling communal riots in Mumbai, emergence of ghettos, displacement and polarization, loss of livelihood, perception of justice and then her conclusion of the book.
Brought out by Sage Publication, the book is available at book stores at Rs 595.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 17 Apr 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 17 Apr 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 18 Apr 2012 00:00:00 IST
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