Sunday, October 05, 2008

Malegaon Bomb Blast: The Smell of Blood is Still in My Head

Azmi Farzan: The youngest victim of Malegaon bomb blast

The deadly bomb blast which ripped apart the bodies of believers on September 29 has left a deep scar on the psyche of the town. Without losing any time, I was at Bhikku chowk, the epicentre of the blast, which resembled more like a battlefield than an ordinary chowk in a Muslim neighbourhood. The members of leaderless Muslim community were busy helping the injured in their own individual way. A few emotional Muslims protested against the police claim that it was a cylinder blast. It hurts me deeply that a stone-pelting incident can alter the destiny of my community. Clashes between Muslims and Police followed. Police first-lathi-charged and then opened fire. People fell like a pack of cards.

From Bhikku chowk I rushed towards Noor hospital like a madman searching for sanity. Police bullets seem to have an ingrained bias against Muslims. Bullets chase Muslims till death. As I entered the hospital to inquire about the injured, I could hear the gunshots being fired outside (in Mushawerat chowk). With each shot, I trembled with rage and fear. Each shot increased my heartbeats. The palpitation was so seismic that I feared that my heart would jump out and leave me dead. On one hand Dr. Saeed Faizee, Dr. Sohail and Dr. Faisal continuously worked to restore the faith of Muslim community, outside the naked dance of official bias was at play. Where was the humanity of the people?

The scene at Faran hospital – where the majority of the injured (58) were brought – was chaotic. Curios onlookers and some family members of the injured were caught in the mêlée outside the Faran hospital. As I entered the hospital the smell of fresh blood became unbearable. It is still in my head. The injured were being treated by Dr. Saeed Farani and his dedicated team of doctors. The entire hospital was in collective mourning. The cry of a toddler will haunt me for the rest of my life. It could have been my nephew or anybody else’s. A bared burnt back of a bearded old man almost brought me to the brink of cry. But then the call of my métier restrained me. I made sure that tears didn’t spill out of my eyes. In the operation theatre, I saw an open surgery being performed on one of the injured. The ruptured veins of his left foot were a terrible sight to behold. I could stop there while beholding the sanguine scene or gently pass out. The sight of the three dead bodies neatly lined one after another froze my soul. I felt as if I was in the awesome presence of death. As I clicked their pictures, a thought crossed my mind: Is it fair for a journalist to take pictures of the victims mowed down by flying balls, nails and bullets? It was a call of the conscience. In the spilt of a second, I decided to go ahead. I thought I was Muslim as well as a journalist. The job of a journalist is not to write but to communicate. The Muslim in me thought that I must communicate to the world that my own community has been hit in its own backyard. Not once, but twice.

When the guns fell silent, I returned to Bhikku chowk at 3am. Uninformed media persons were orchestrating the official line that the bomb blast site is below the building where Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) once had its office. But nobody bothered to say that the bomb blast site is rather in front of a Police chowky as well. These are matters of perception.

Why was Bhikku chowk chosen for the blast site? Bhikku chowk represents a strong Muslim identity where Muslims from all diverse sects and walks of life gather for a cup of tea or socializing after traweeh prayers in Ramadan. The attack was on Muslim identity. Why can’t the security agencies accept that there is in essence a turf-war going on between communalists of different faiths in the form of bomb blasts? It is unfortunate that in this war Police often seem to be on the side of the majority community. It is a bitter truth albeit uncomfortable.

Next day, home minister RR Patil uttered the usual platitude of repeated bombings of recent past. “It was an attack on national integration.” I am sorry, Mr. Patil. Bhikku chowk is not the place for bridging the gulf that has divided two communities. It is a traditional Muslim ghetto. The attack was on Malegaon’s Muslim identity and not on national integration. There were eyebrows raised when I bluntly asked him ‘How many people have died in the police firing.’ He paused for a moment; Nikhil Gupta, Nasik SP, bent and whispered something. “Nobody has died in the police firing. Police had fired 58 rounds in the air so no one was injured,” Patil claimed. This goes against the public perception and a doctor’s claim in Malegaon. According to Dr. Saeed Farani at least 3 persons have been injured in the police firing. The actual figure is obviously higher but nobody is willing to say because the town is reeling under fear.

Each Muslim mother in Malegaon is praying lest her son becomes a “suspect.”

Things will never be the same in this forsaken corner of Maharashtra but this much is certain: Indian Muslims will not allow India to become another Pakistan.


Free and Footloose said...

Some questions for you, Sunday Gentleman:

Why do most Muslim countries consider conversion out of Islam a punishable crime? (Some even have provision of death sentence)

Why are Arabic countries so openly hostile when it comes to granting citizenship to non-Muslims?

Why were Indian Muslims utterly silent when Satanic Verses was banned? Did they not think the ban endangered freedom of expression?

If Muslims consider themselves as one single community (Ummah), then aren't Indian Muslims equally responsible for anti-India deeds of Kashmiri terrorists, Paki Terrorosts or the Taliban?

Anonymous said...

I saw this article of yours on my favorite news site

Firstly, Kudos to you for bringing out what you witnessed in Malegaon.

It hurts me as a true indian that a simple psychological craving called Religion which man has invented for his own well-being has come back to haunt him in unknown ways...

India is now in a peculiar situation. On the one hand, we have the dalits who have been oppressed for centuries under the rule of all "great" dynasties...On the other hand, we have people of Islam and Christian faiths being demonized...Islam in the name of Jihad and Christianity in the name of Proselytism...

These are dark times...with fanaticism taking center stage..fascism finding it's way sneakily into every living room and peoples minds....

How soon people forget history...Third Reich and its atrocities...ghettos...Fountainhead of it emerged from talk of mythical "Aryan" purity and woman carrying "Aryan" sons...surviving on blood and the garb of nationalism...a deceit

hindu mahasabha...hindu nationalism...birth of BJP..RSS...VHP..bajrang dal...fringe elements who were unheard of during freedom struggle...who were untouchables till a few decades...had no thriving by showing fascist faces in other blood and gore...hatemongers...who survive by putting men against men..killing maiming children...raping women...all in the name of religion...

When sane voices are hardly heard nowadays in mainstream filled my heart with hope and happiness when you said: Indian Muslims will not allow India to become another Pakistan. My heart pours out for pakistan which has allowed itself to become a pawn in the imperialistic US designs..has now plunged into darkness...

I think you should modify the sentence to"Indians will not allow India to become another Pakistan"...hope india will come out of this dark time...

Free and Footloose said...

USA Deptt of State 2008 report on International Religious Freedom can be read at

The state of religious freedom in most Islamic countries around the world is terrible. Wonder what Indian Muslims have to say about this. Exerpts from the report:-
Saudi Arabia
There is no legal recognition of, or protection under the law for, freedom of religion. Sunni Islam is the official religion. Public practice of non-Muslim religions is prohibited. Conversion by Muslims to another religion (apostasy) and proselytizing by non-Muslims are both punishable by death.

The Constitution provides for freedom of belief and the practice of religious rites, although the Government places restrictions on these rights in practice. Islam is the official state religion, and Shari'a (Islamic law) is the primary source of legislation. The Government does not recognize conversions of Muslims to Christianity or other religions, and resistance to such conversions by local officials--through refusal to legally recognize conversions--constitutes a prohibition in practice. While there is no legal ban on proselytizing Muslims, the Government restricts such efforts.
The Constitution states that Islam is the official religion of the country. Anti-Islamic writings are prohibited. The law does not prohibit conversion from one religion to another but society traditionally does not tolerate converts from Islam to other religious groups.
Islam is the official state religion. Non-Muslims account for 2 percent of the population. The Government does not respect the right of Muslim citizens to change or renounce their religious faith. A child born to a Muslim father automatically is considered a Muslim. Non-Muslims may not engage in public religious expression and persuasion among Muslims. Conversion from Islam is punishable by death. Proselytizing of Muslims by non-Muslims is illegal. The law forbids non-Muslims from holding officer positions over Muslims in the armed forces.
Islam is the official state religion. The Government places certain restrictions on non-Islamic religious materials and proselytizing. Expression deemed critical of "Islam, the institution of the monarchy, or territorial integrity" is not permitted and may be punishable by imprisonment.
The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. 88 percent of the population is Muslim, 6 percent Protestant, 3 percent Roman Catholic, 2 percent Hindu, and less than 1 percent Buddhist. During the reporting period, the Government continued to explicitly and implicitly restrict the religious freedom of groups associated with forms of Islam viewed as outside the mainstream. The Government tolerated discrimination and abuse toward the Ahmadiyya. Unforced conversions between religious groups occurred, as allowed by law, but they remained a source of controversy.

Islam is the state religion. While the Government publicly supports freedom of religion, attacks on religious and ethnic minorities continues to be a problem during the reporting period. Sunni Muslims constitute 89.7 percent of the population and Hindus account for 9.2 percent. While the right to propagate the religion of one's choice is guaranteed by the Constitution, local authorities and communities often objected to efforts to convert persons from Islam.

The country is an Islamic republic. Islam is the state religion, and the Constitution requires that laws be consistent with Islam. A 1974 constitutional amendment declares Ahmadis to be non-Muslim. The law awards death for defiling Islam or its prophets. Muslim women may only marry Muslim men. The children of a Muslim man and a Muslim woman who both convert to another religious group are considered illegitimate and can be seized by the Government.
The law prohibits proselytizing by non-Muslims and places restrictions on public worship. The state religion is Islam. Converting to another religion from Islam is considered apostasy and is a capital offense. Hindus, Buddhists, Baha'is, and members of other eastern religious groups do not have authorized facilities in which to practice their religions.

An estimated 70 percent of the population is Muslim. Although there is no penalty for converting from another religion to Islam, converting from Islam to another religion is punishable by imprisonment and even death. The Government supports Islam by providing funds for mosque construction.

99 percent of the population is Muslim. The Government officially recognizes only three minority religious communities, Greek Orthodox Christians, Armenian Orthodox Christians, and Jews. No law explicitly prohibits religious speech or religious conversions; nevertheless, police occasionally prevented Christians from handing out religious literature. Proselytizing is often considered socially unacceptable.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and for the principle of separation of church and state. An estimated 90 percent of the population is nominally Sunni Muslim. The Constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, the Government and laws restricted these rights in practice.

The law prohibits the practice by citizens of any religion other than Islam. Non-Muslim foreigners are allowed to practice their religious beliefs only privately. Visitors must also refrain from encouraging local citizens to practice any religion other than Islam. The Government follows civil law based on Shari'a. Conversion by a Muslim to another religious group is interpreted as a violation of Shari'a and may result in punishment, including the loss of the convert's citizenship. The law prohibits public statements that are contrary to Islam. Family Law prohibits women from marrying non-Muslim foreigners but allows men to marry non-Muslim foreigners, as permitted by Shari'a.