Tyagi's troubles

Print edition : September 01, 2001

ALMOST a decade after the murderous Mumbai anti-Muslim pogrom of 1992-93, one of its central figures is at last facing justice.

On August 14, the Mumbai Police arrested its former Commissioner of Police, Ramdeo Tyagi. A first information report (FIR) filed on May 25 charges Tyagi and 14 serving police officials with the murder of nine innocent Muslims at the Suleiman Bakery on January 9, 1993. Tyagi's arrest came a day after the Supreme Court rejected his application for anticipatory bail, arguing that he was being held responsible for errors committed by his subordinates. The Bombay High Court had earlier rejected a similar appeal.

Tyagi and his unit had surrounded and then attacked Suleiman Bakery during the riots, claiming that terrorists holed up inside had opened fire on them. However, as the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry found, no weapons were recovered from the nine dead men. All that the police found, by their own account, was a case of single AK-47 assault rifle bullet, which was most likely planted. More important, Justice Srikrishna noted, several victims seemed to have been shot in the back while attempting to escape.

Legal proceedings are likely to centre on Tyagi's direct involvement in the killings. The Mumbai Police's own FIR of January 1993 asserts his involvement, rendering Tyagi's current claims of innocence a little mystifying. Special Public Prosecutor P.R. Vakil says that while none of the witnesses at the time recognised Tyagi, for the good reason that none knew him, a survivor has now identified the then-Joint Commissioner of Police. Formal charges are likely to be filed soon, perhaps shortly after August 29, when Tyagi's incarceration in police custody is due to end.

It is unlikely that the case will see rapid movement. For one, Tyagi had himself hospitalised hours before his arrest, complaining of cardiac trouble. So far, proper interrogation has not been possible, rendering his arrest futile. The Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance has also sought to communalise the issue, claiming that the arrest was carried out to "celebrate Pakistan's Independence day". What is heartening, however, is that Maharashtra at last has a government that is moving on riots cases, however slowly.

Praveen Swami

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