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Mohsin Sadique's Murder And The Solapur Jigsaw

By Siddharthya Roy

25 June, 2014
The Citizen

The murder of 28 year old computer technician Mohammad Mohsin Sadique Shaikh, on Monday the 2nd of June 2014 in Pune has been called shocking by many on more accounts than one.

For one the crime was a ghastly violent one. After being severely with hockey sticks and thick wooden staves, his head was smashed in with a heavy stone to finish the job.

Secondly, despite its proximity to Mumbai which has seen repeated communal violence, the biggest one being the 1992 riots which killed many hundreds and displaced over two million people; and despite being a well known hub of extreme Hindu Right wing groups, Pune has little history of communal riots. So the hate crime enacted at around 8:30 pm in the Hadapsar area of the city, wherein two dozen odd motorbike riding people bludgeon a young man tod death is a troubling exception.

But what seems to have struck people most is the sudden and unfortunate tragedy that befell a random innocent citizen. As was his daily routine Mohsin came back from work, freshned up and went for the Isha Namaz and collecting his tiffin from the mess next door was headed home for dinner with his roommates when this gang of two dozen odd men bellonging to a hitherto unknown group, the eponymous Hindu Rashtra Sena, came riding on eight motorbikes and even though completely unprovoked, chose a man randomly picked out from the street and bludgeoned him to death. The randomness of the killing and the question it entails “who next?”, has been hard to digest for many.

A couple of days preceding Mohsin's death, fake profiles were used to post defamatory of Shivaji and Bal Thackeray. On expected lines, Hindutva parties like the Shiv Sena were 'offended' and taking to the streets damaged public buses and private vehicles in many cities of Maharashtra including Pune. There was an effort to project Mohsin's death as a reaction to the defamatory Facebook posts and some TV channels and Twitter handles celebrated the killing in cricketing terms saying the killing was a “First wicket taken, many more to go”.

While the TV channels stopped airing this wrong news after Mohsin's family got in touch with them through the Pune police, Pune's first time BJP MP Anil Shirole went on record saying, “There are bound to be repercussion”.

Fact is the posts were made from a fake profile and far from knowing who has made the posts, the cyber crime divisions of the police are still engaged in a long drawn process to retrieve information from the US based corporation.

Mohsin was kiled simply because he 'looked Muslim'. In fact Mohsin's roommate, another Muslim, who was with him when he was attacked managed to escape with his life because unlike Mohsin he didn't sport a beard or wear a prayer cap and didn't 'look Muslim'.

There is no record of Mohsin participating in any political or religious activism and/or organisation. There is no information to suggest that the boy did anything other than pursue a career in Pune and take care of his aging parents who lived in his hometown Solapur. By all accounts, he seems to be nothing but the unfortunate victim of a story that has little to do with him in person.

But three days from Mohsin's death when I arrived in Solapur trying to piece together a story about Mohsin the person, what I found out was while Mohsin was very much a random and unwitting victim of a story he had no part in scripting, he may well be on the way of becoming the centerpiece of a larger story unfolding in his hometown.

The first thing Salim (name changed), a hardy young working class boy from Solapur is my liaison responsible for taking me to Mohsin's family and be my guide for the day, does is show me cuttings from the local newspaper.

The previous night (5th of Jun), a woman travelling in an auto rickshaw to her home in a working class colony called Nai Zindagi, which ironically enough means 'New Life', was pelted with stones by unidentified people. They picked her because she was wearing a burqa and hence, like Mohsin, was identifiably Muslim. And the night preceding that, a young rickshaw driver Kasim, was stopped by five or six unidentified young men and given a roughing up for being a Muslim.

A little after noon, I join Mohsin's father, brother and a group of grieving relatives and visitors in the unkempt yard of their home in Postal Colony. Mohsin's mother has taken to the bed with grief and is in no position to talk.

Mohsin's father was a migrant worker in Saudi Aramco before being sacked. Following this he returned to India and set up a small shop with a payphone and a photocopier in a Hindu locality. Mohsin did college during the day and manned the shop in the nights. His mild and soft spoken nature so enamoured him to the neighbourhood that when in 2002 Solapur saw rioting in tandem with the Gujarat riots, it was Hindu women who came out from the houses next door and stopped an irate mob from burning his shop down. This, when three other shops belonging to Muslims next to his were gutted.

Six years back, pooling together a good part of his savings Mohsin's father sent him to Pune where he was to complete a Microsoft certification (which he did) and get employed in an American call center. Following US president Obama's curtailment of outsourcing, Mohsin moved to his last job as a computer technician owned by a Marwari gentleman.

Speaking to Mohsin's father it isn't difficult to see where Mohsin got his mild and good manners from. After Mohsin's body was brought to Solapur, his funeral procession spontaneously began attracting large restive crowds. Sensing rising tensions building up, Mohsin's father rushed the last rites and finished the burial.

With reddened eyes and a quiver in the throat the greying man tells me “Our Mohsin has gone. And we know what it feels like to lose a child to stray violence. His mother (a heart patient) is still delirious and there’s no telling if she'll come out alive. I don't want to see anymore Mohsins in Solapur no matter what their religion. Politicising his death will lead to more”

Among the grievers is Sanjay Dabhade, a member of the Pune based National Integration Committee and two local Congress politicians Mr. Shaukat Ali and Ms. Firdaus Patel, both elected members of the local municipal corporations. Mr Ali says “We too agree with them that the matter should not be politicised but the fact is with the Modi government coming to power, some youngsters have become emboldened and they think they can get away with all this violent bullying”

Ms Praniti Shinde, sitting MLA from Solapur City Central and daughter of former of Congress strongman and former chief minster of Maharashhtra, Mr Sushil Kumar Shinde, is more reserved in her reaction, “Well I'm doing all I can to help Mohsin's family but whether the others (BJP, Sena etc) is up to something, I can't tell”. Citing work, she excuses herself from being asked anymore details or specifics about what steps will be taken to help Mohsin or prevent further escalation of the situation and later does not respond to calls.

Ms Shinde's seat was earlier with CPI(M) man and long time union leader Narsayya Adam. We are told over phone that he has submitted a letter to state minister R R Patil, but neither him nor any other memeber of the Party have officially visited Mohsin and efforts to reach him have also failed.

On our way back to the main city, Salim takes me to a ground very close to Mohsin's home -- a barren gorund with an Idgah at one end.

“We play kirkit (cricket) here everyday sir” he tells me. “Last year just before ramzan, at dusk, when we were winding up our game collecting our bats and wickets, a few men rode in on motorbikes and tossed bones and meat of pigs on the Idgah. Before we could react they had made off”

Despite their young age, showing wise restraint and without telling anybody, the boys had simply thrown away the flesh and bones and cleaned the Idgah and told no one in the community. Acting on second thoughts, they did go to the police and reported the matter but they too had adviced that the mater is best hushed up.

“Some people in the police are also trying to provoke us sir” he says.

“How so?” I ask.

“There is a mosque inside the police headquarter campus sir. Its 140 years old while the headquarter is around 70. But they shut the mosque saying its a security threat and terrorists could come in and attack the police. But you know sir they have a mandir inside the headquarter and even outsiders are allowed to go offer puja in there. Doesn't the police face any security threat from those worshippers? Isn't this discrimination tantamount to saying only Muslims are terrorists? We had written so many times to the police, the MP, MLA and everyone but they just don't listen. Sushil Kumar Shinde was the police minster (home minster till the Congress led alliance left office in the elections gone by) still he did nothing about it”

Residents in Shastri Nagar (a Muslim neighbourhood) are more direct.

“If there is a riot, the Congress won't save us. Nobody will” says a Muslim woman and mother of three who rolls beedis for a living. Her thoughts are echoed by others in the neigbourhood.

Solapur Lok Sabha seat has been a Congress stronghold and they have won 17 out of 19 times. The Solapur City Central assembly seat with its strong Muslim population has also been held by CPI(M). But this time around BJP's Sharad Bansode deafeated Shinde by nealry 15000 votes. Moreover NOTA polled higher than the national average and Muslim localities saw a dip in the voting percentage. All of this adds up to clearly show a disillusionment among Muslim voters with the secular alternatives they have hitherto voted for.

Besides being a member of the National Integration Committee, Sanjay Dabhade is also one of the main leaders of the Committee for the Anihilation of Caste and has been instrumental in the movements about the caste killings in Sonai and Kharda. He says, “The killing of Dalits in Maharashtra by the Maratha andpowerful OBC groups is not something that's different from what we are seeing here. Fact is divisive politics and violent majoritarianism is paying off so well in every corner of the country that every powerful majority is doling it out to the disempowered minorities. The powers that be are trying to tell us that the idea of an inclusive democracy is a bad idea. Present day India is being projected as this jungle where only those with money, muscle and majority will survive”

While it may be too early to take a call on whether there will be communal for sure, the political air in Solapur is tense. With nearly 40% Muslim voters in Solapur and the state assembly elections just round the corner, the Muslims are wary that all of these stray episodes may well be adding up to a widespread communal flare up.

N.B : At the time of filing this story, the Anti Terrorist Squad of Maharashtra Police has confirmed reports that the outbreak of violence following the Facebook posts does not appear to be random or sporadic and instead looks preplanned. Additionally on the 8th of June rumours of Ambedkar being mocked on Facebook led to stone pelting at the Slopaur State Transport bus depot and most trading areas like Navi Peth remained shut. An arrest too was made by the Solapur police in this connection.

Author is reachable on [email protected]. Article originally carried in The Citizen (http://www.thecitizen.in/tears-of-restraint-in-solapur-counter-punes-hate-crime/).



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