The year 92 that changed my childhood , my life.

Mumbai, 1992.

This year changed my childhood and my life. As a 12-year-old student of St Xavier’s High School, Fort, I started the year on a great note by winning the under-12 Bombay School Football Championship. My game won me a place in the Bombay (Mumbai) District and the Maharashtra State under-12 football team. I was having a dream run till December 6.

7th Dec 1992 I remember that day vividly. It was a bright, sunny day and I was going through the motions as a standard six student. Students were overjoyed because the school had just announced that after the short recess, it would be a half-day. The joy, however, was short-lived. Within minutes, there was tension in the air as news of the Babri Structure [Masjid] demolition spread like a wild fire. I was too small to understand what the issue was, but looking at the frightened faces of my teachers, I could sense something was terribly wrong.     Image

On reaching home, I switched on the television and saw the religious structure being demolished by people carrying saffron flags. Chants of Jai Shri Ram and Har Har Mahadev filled the air. Those images stayed with me while I remained confined to my home because school was shut/closed {irregular}. When school reopened after the Christmas vacation, an incident left me devastated.

On January 6, 1993, some parents assembled outside school to take their children home. My mother was present too but, I had never seen her so shaken before. She was crying & so were the other parents. I did not know what was happening and why everyone looked so scared. My father told me riots had taken place near our house and that there was a fear of us being attacked.

On reaching home, my father closed the gate of our Chawl and told my mother: “Muslims from Bhendi Bazaar, Mohammed Ali Road and its surrounding areas are killing and looting Hindus and raping Hindu women.” His words sent a shiver down my spine. I was terrified. I did not know what was happening, but I was trembling. I fell asleep after having lunch, but woke up to a commotion.

From the balcony I saw people were running for their lives. A large group of bearded men wearing skull caps and pathani suits were brandishing sticks and swords. Shouting Allah-hu-Akbar, they began looting shops and setting them of fire. Our shop, too, was targeted and set ablaze. My father was fighting with my mother to allow him to go and save our shop – our only source of income. But my mother rightly feared for his life and did not allow him to step out.ImageImage

The group then set their sights on some residential buildings and set them on fire. They ran only after realizing the police vehicle and fire brigade had reached the spot. The respite was momentary. In the evening, another group of people came marching in our area. The police tried to calm them down, but to no avail. This horror went on for two days!

My parents stayed up all night to guard us. I was angry for another reason – I couldn’t go to school, I couldn’t play. My life came to a standstill. Around 10am on January 8, when Muslims returned to create havoc, the police constables were helpless. They couldn’t do anything. This time, however, there was another group which challenged them. Wielding swords and hockey sticks, these men ran towards the bearded guys following which they fled from the spot. This second group comprised Maharashtrians or Ghaatis as they were called. I knew some of them – Sanjay, Lukhiya and Babya – as they were gully cricketers from my area.

They started patrolling our area following which there was some calm. Yet, the story in our house was different. We were shattered and devastated. My mother took my sister aside and told her: “If a situation arose where your dignity would be in danger, commit suicide but don’t allow the Muslim shaitans to touch you.”

My mother provide food and water to the Maharashtrian youth patrolling our area till late night. Sanjay thanked my father and assured him nothing untoward would happen. “Sahebancha aadesh aahe tumhi ghabru naka aamhi jeev denaar pan tumhala kahi hovu denaar nahi. Jai Maharashtra.” (Saheb has ordered us to lay our lives but to protect Mumbaikars).

I asked my father about Sanjay’s words. He said Saheb has ordered them to protect Mumbai and Mumbaikars from Muslim fanatics. I wondered if Saheb was a top-level police officer or a military commander and these guys his assistants. My father told me: “Saheb is neither a police officer nor a military commander par saheb sabka baap hai. Yes, these guys are his officers and they are called Shiv Sainiks.”Image

Curious to know more, I asked him more about Saheb, but he asked me to sleep. I pushed him to at least tell me his name. “Bal Thackeray,” he said. “He is the Shiv Sena pramukh.” I was very impressed and the words Bal Thackeray have stayed in my heart and mind since then.

Once the Shiv Sainiks took to the road, there were very few skirmishes and the situation seemed under control. The arguments in my house, however, continued and after much deliberation, we left Mumbai for Gujarat on January 10. The local Shiv Saniks tried their best to stop us and even promised us protection 24×7. But my parents were concerned about our safety. The Shiv Sainiks were kind enough to help us by bringing a tempo, helping us with our luggage and even dropping us to the Borivli station from where we boarded a train to Rajkot. Sanjay and his group promised us as the train moved that they would look after our house and other belongings while we were away.

I stayed in Gujarat for six months and returned after the situation had eased despite the serial blasts by gangster Dawoob Ibrahim in the city. Mumbai was the same again, but for me, a lot had changed. I was detained in standard VI because of poor attendance. I missed making it to the state football team. My friends moved to higher classes while I lagged behind. I became the talking point in school for weeks; some boys even teased me by calling me a coward for running away to Gujarat. However, when I left for Gujarat, I was a helpless, frightened, 12-year-old boy, but when I returned to Mumbai, I was different. I was a 12-year-old Balasaheb’s ShivSainik, ready to face life the hard way.