With the help of Muslim youth I headed towards the mob alone, says retired ACP Madhukar Zende
Retired ACP Madhukar Zende recalls the aftermath of Babri Masjid's demolition when a violent mob threatened to torch a police van carrying an injured constable
Amid the much-awaited Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya, a former Mumbai Police officer recalls the ripples, caused by Babri Masjid's demolition, he witnessed in Mumbai.
Madhukar Zende, who gained fame after arresting the Vietnamese-born French national, Charles Shobhraj — wanted by seven countries — was the then Assistance Police Commissioner of Pydhonie division. Almost 27 years since the demolition, he remembers every minute of the riots that followed in Mumbai.
Talking to mid-day, Zende — who is holidaying in Singapore — described an enraged mob armed with petrol bombs, hockey sticks, rods, firearms, thirsty for blood, which had gheraoed a bunch of Mumbai police officers and staff taking an injured constable to the hospital on December 7, 1992.
"Civic officials had demolished illegal bookstalls on the footpaths at Mohammad Ali Road in December that year. Thankfully, no violence had erupted at that time. But after the demolition of Babri Masjid, a mob gathered near Minara Masjid at around 10:30pm on December 6, claiming that religious books had been desecrated under the garb of demolishing 'illegal bookstalls'," Zende said.
"They protested fiercely till midnight. We thought that was the end of it. But in the morning, crowds started gathering from all corners of Mohammad Ali Road, Bhendi Bazaar and other adjacent areas. They pelted stones and hurled petrol bombs on the police and ransacked shops," he added.
"In the melee, one of our constables was stabbed by an unknown protestor. The control room sent a police van for him. But the mob refused to let us take the injured constable and threatened to torch the van. Recognising the threat, a police officer contacted me immediately," said Zende, who was managing a police bandobast at some other location in the Pydhonie division. He was well-known among the people of South Mumbai.
Madhukar Zende (right) at Mohammed Ali Road back in 1992 (left) as he approached the mob gheraoing the police van. Behind him are Muslim youth who helped him calm the protesters
"With the help of local Muslim youth, I rushed to the location alone. The van had been gheraoed by the angry mob. As seen in the photograph, I was the only police officer tackling the situation. Behind me, Muslim youth were trying to pacify the protestors," he said. Zende succeeded in convincing the mob and the van rushed to a hospital.
Speaking on the Ayodhya verdict, Zende said, "Nothing good can come from hate speeches. Hundreds of people died for no reason. The riots erupted in Mumbai as a consequence of Babri Masjid's demolition, which had nothing to do with Mumbai in the first place."
Zende's courageous act was widely appreciated by politicians, senior police officials as well as the court, where a judge told him, "The photo speaks volumes... Wondering how you managed to head (into the crowd) all alone among the protestors to calm them down."
Zende, now 82, served Mumbai Police for 36 years. He is now enjoying his retirement.
Dec 7, 1992
Day the protests at Mohammed Ali Rd took place
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