Suleman Usman Bakery Case: And the TRIAL goes on…

The hearing relates to a 1993 raid on a Mumbai bakery, which left 8 unarmed Muslims dead, none of whom had a criminal record.
Justice Srikrishna had described the incident as ‘not becoming of the police force of any civilised, democratic State.’
Jyoti Punwani reports.

The Suleman Usman Bakery trial of the 1992-1993 Mumbai riots resumed on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, after a gap of 19 months, with retired assistant sub inspector Vilas Dhere deposing about the incident that took place on January 9, 1993.

Like other judges before him, Additional Sessions Judge B V Wagh, recently assigned to the court, expressed shock that the matter dated back to 2001, and was related to an incident that took place even earlier.

The incident relates to a raid on the Mohammed Ali Road-situated Suleman Usman Bakery. Led by then joint police commissioner Ram Dev Tyagi, the raid left 8 unarmed Muslims dead; none of them had a criminal record.

Five were employees of the bakery; one a teacher at the adjacent madarsa, and two had stayed back in the mosque on the ground floor since riots were on in the city.

The police claimed they raided the bakery because terrorists were firing on them with AK-47s from the roof of the bakery. However, neither any AK-47 nor any weapons were found during the raid, nor were any policemen injured.

The Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry into the 1992-1993 riots, after sifting through police documents and cross-examining policemen, including Tyagi, as well as survivors of the raid, rejected the police version as inspiring ‘no credence’.

Recommending ‘strict action’ against Tyagi in his Report tabled in 1998, Justice B N Srikrishna described the incident as ‘not becoming of the police force of any civilised, democratic State.’

Under pressure from the Supreme Court, the Maharashtra government filed a case in 2001 under Indian Penal Code Section 302 (murder) against Tyagi — who had by then retired from the Indian Police Service — and 17 other policemen. Two years later, 9 of them, including Tyagi, were discharged.

The court accepted Tyagi’s defence that though he had led the raid as part of his duty, he had neither ordered the firing, nor entered the bakery, nor fired himself. The others discharged with him had also not fired during the incident.

However, the court held that the remaining eight accused policemen who had actually fired, should face trial for murder because they had fired on unarmed men.

Trial against these accused began only in 2019, by which time, two accused had died.

***

On Wednesday, Vilas Dhere, who had travelled from Satara to depose, told the court he was a police naik attached to the Pydhonie police station in south Mumbai during the riots.

On the morning of January 9, 1993, while on patrolling duty between Crawford Market and Bhendi Bazar, he and his colleagues in Mobile Van No 1, were informed by ASI Nagre on duty at the Taj Book Depot, that firing upon them had taken place from the side of the Minara Masjid opposite them.

They passed on the information to the control room and Police Inspector Ingle of the Pydhonie police station.

As they continued patrolling towards Bhendi Bazar, Dhere and his colleagues saw a mob of 250 persons coming towards the Bombay Telephone Exchange. Since there was a petrol pump nearby, Dhere and another member of his team fired on the mob, to prevent anything untoward happening. They then deposited the empty cartridges at the Pydhonie police station.

Thereafter, they received a message to go to the Suleman Usman Bakery. When they reached there, Dhere said he saw Tyagi instructing some policemen outside the bakery. Dhere himself was stationed opposite the bakery.

Later, some policemen went inside the bakery and after some time, he saw them bring out injured persons from inside.

Dhere said he had witnessed no firing from the bakery.

***

Dhere is the seventh witness to testify in the trial. Four other witnesses have also been retired policemen.

One of them, who was on duty opposite the bakery from 10.30 am to 7 pm, testified that he saw no firing take place on policemen from the bakery.

Two eye-witnesses present in the bakery and the mosque on the ground floor have also testified.

One described how the police beat up bakery workers and shot dead one of them named Shamshad; the other described how police broke open the door of the mosque and the firing that took place after that in which people from the bakery and madarsa died.

All these witnesses had deposed before Additional Sessions Judge U M Padwad. During the lockdown, two new judges were assigned to the court.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

Source: Read Full Article