Bhiwandi, Jalgaon, Mahad, May 1970 Toll: 164 (Muslims: 142; Hindus: 20) Probe: The DP Madon Commission of Inquiry
Shiv Jayanti, the birth anniversary celebrations of Shivaji, used to be a private affair till 1964, when youngsters organised the first public ceremony in Bhiwandi. It excluded the Muslim community. Riots were sparked off in 1967, when participants in the Shiv Jayanti procession threw excessive gulal while passing the Nizampur Jumma Mosque. In subsequent years, the procession was barred from taking this route.
In 1969, the Shiv Jayanti Utsav Samiti split – 19 of its members formed the rival Rashtriya Utsav Mandal (RUM). “Out of these 19, the first 15 names were either members of the Jan Sangh or were pro-Jan Sangh,” the commission noted.
The commission established the link between the RSS and Jan Sangh: “A number of Jan Sangh leaders have been members of the RSS and have held important offices in it… Atal Behari Vajpayee, till recently the president of the Jan Sangh, has himself declared he was in the RSS.”
In 1970, RUM submitted a memorandum to the administration demanding that milch animals should not be slaughtered on Bakri-Id, which fell on February 12.
On March 11, Bhiwandi, for the first time, celebrated Shivaji’s death anniversary. The occasion was used to warn the Muslim community against beating drums on Moharram, due on March 19. Two days later, 45 persons petitioned the administration to disallow drums in the Moharram procession. Holi was to fall on March 22.
The commission observed: “That the Holi pits were widened and Holi fires blazed intensely only with a view to cause obstruction to the Moharram processions is quite apparent from the fact that after March 19, that is after the Moharram processions were over, the Holi fires which were lit were much less in intensity.”
In May, it was Shiv Jayanti again, and RUM stepped up its campaign to get the administration to allow it to take its procession through Nizampura. The Muslims protested initially, but relented when Dr BP Vyas, a local Jan Sangh leader and dominant figure in RUM, took upon himself the responsibility of restraining the marchers from shouting provocative slogans and throwing gulal at the mosque.
But the promise was belied, and the police arrested two participants who shouted provocative slogans. The others refused to budge until the two were released. The police agreed, but the procession continued to shout slogans. Insulted, Muslims started to pelt stones. And the riots began.
The RUM propaganda had attracted around 3,000 to 4,000 people from neighbouring villages, who joined the procession armed with lathis wrapped in the official RSS flag. “These police officers and policemen could not have been so naive as not to have seen through the ruse that Bhagwa flags were tied to lathis in order to circumvent the ban against the carrying of weapons…” commented the commission. “The evidence also leaves no doubt that these lathis were brought by the villagers at the instigation and instance of RUM.”
The commission was categorical: “The organisation which has both directly and indirectly provoked the disturbances which took place in Bhiwandi, Khoni and Nagaon on May 7, 1970 and thereafter is the Rashtriya Utsav Mandal, the majority of the members of which belonged to the Jan Sangh or were pro-Jan Sangh, and the rest, apart from a few exceptions, to the Shiv Sena.”
(Courtesy: The Hindustan Times, March 12, 2000)