The story Thackeray
never wanted told
By: A Mid Day Correspondent
When then Mumbai mayor Chandrakant
Handore asked Mahanagar reporter Yuvraj Mohite to accompany him to Bal
Thackerays house on January 8, 1993, it was journalistic curiosity
that made Mohite accept the offer.
Little did Mohite know that
he would get himself a scoop that would later become a headache for
Handore and the basis for an attempt to prosecute Thackeray for his
alleged role in the 1993 riots.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief
Minister Chhagan Bhujbal told a Muslim delegation on Saturday that if
Handore testified against Thackeray, then the state would go ahead with
the Srikrishna Commissions recommendation to bring Thackeray to
book for his alleged role in the riots.
It was 7 pm, January 8, 1993.
A sense of imminent trouble was enveloping the city after the demolition
of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. Mohite did the civic
beat for his newspaper and, after hunting through the Brihanmumbai Municipal
Corporation (BMC) headquarters for a story, was about to call it a day.
As he walked to the exit
of the BMC headquarters opposite CST, he stopped at the mayors
chambers. Handore had just finished discussing the tension in the city
with Chief Minister Sudhakarrao Naik. He thought of asking the Shiv
Sena, Bharatiya Janata Party and Muslim leaders to issue a joint appeal
Mohite suggested a memorandum,
signed by the leaders of different political parties. Mohite prepared
the memo with Handores help. The first signatory was former underworld
don Haji Mastan, who was then leading a political party.
At 8.30 pm, they reached
Matoshree, Thackerays residence. Mohite remembers, I was
instructed by Handore not to reveal my identity as a reporter as that
could create problems. They were ushered into the Shiv Sena chiefs
room. After greeting them Jai Maharashtra, Thackeray and
Handore talked about the situation in the city.
Mohite says, All the
while, the conversation was being interrupted by telephone calls the
Sena chief was getting. He was talking on several phones at a time,
and as I listened I realised that he was directing Sena activists to
attack Muslims. Sarv landyana maroon taka, he said. He told
the callers to see that not a single Muslim lived to give evidence in
Didnt Thackeray become
suspicious of the unidentified man accompanying Handore? Mohite says,
He was suspicious. I was just a few feet away when he was talking
on the phone. He asked me my name. I told him. But before he could ask
for more information, his attention was diverted by another phone call.
Mohite adds, I heard
him mentioning the names of localities like Mazagaon. In the next few
days, I realised that places mentioned by Thackeray in his phone conversations
figured prominently in the riots.
Some of Thackerays
worst abuses were allegedly reserved for A A Khan, then additional commissioner
of police (north), who the Sena chief said was killing Hindus. Mohite
remembers, Thackeray was saying, Tyala Allahcha gharat patva.
(Send him to Allahs house.)
Meanwhile, Mohite was taking
notes. Uddhav Thackeray told him to stop writing.
After they left Thackerays
residence, Handore asked Mohite not to report what he witnessed at Matoshree.
Mohite called up his editor, Nikhil Wagle, who called up then minister
of state for home, Babanrao Pachpute. That was past 11 pm. Wagle asked
Mohite to hold the story for a few days, after which it was published.
Later, Handore, a former
Republican Party of India member who had won the election to the BMC
on a Congress ticket, called his decision to take Mohite to Matoshree
Mohite testified to the Srikrishna
Commission on June 22, 1997.
Published In Mid Day