Almost a month after communal riots tore through Machchli Bazaar in Dhule, Maharashtra, Jebunissa says she still hears the sound of guns firing. One wall of her modest home has a jagged hole where a bullet fired by cops deployed to control riotous mobs hit. On a shelf inside, every utensil has a hole, made, she says, by bullets that flew in.
On January 6, the day of the communal violence that left six people dead and many injured, Jebunissa's children were at home when the police firing began. "Once we heard the firing, we quickly got our children inside. But the police fired inside the house which left these bullet marks on the utensils," she alleges.
There are other residents of the narrow bylanes of Machchli Bazaar who allege that the police stood by and watched as mobs selectively attacked and ransacked homes and looted shops that belong to Muslims.
"They were watching the tamasha
while our homes were being attacked. They did nothing to stop the vandalism inspite of our repeated requests to do so," said 37-year-old Anjum Ahmed, a local vendor.
A social activist Mohd Zaid said, "Policemen were as responsible for violence as were the rioting mobs."
Video clips have surfaced that purportedly show policemen damaging property and even firing above the waist during the Dhule riots. The police manual says that cops, when forced in extreme circumstances to fire in order to restore law and order, have to shoot below waist level to ensure minimum casualty. Two constables, allegedly caught on video damaging property, were suspended earlier this week and a judicial inquiry is on.
The District Magistrate, Prakash Mahajan, strongly denies these allegations and says, "Both communities have suffered losses. Wait for the inquiry. We will know if the police helped the mob."
The trouble began that day with an altercation between two groups at a restaurant. One said the other had not paid a bill for food. Soon the area turned into a battlefield, with mobs on both sides pelting stones. The authorities say 40 homes belonging to Muslims were completely destroyed and 17 homes belonging to Hindu families were damaged.