Look into my eyes and say I am not guilty!

This is a true story. Every word written here is true. It is about communal violence. The story published here is a part of an article that was published in the Diwali number of ‘Nava Manus’ in 2005. Nazim Ali Kadri used to work in the same industry where I also worked.
11th January 1993. Some miscreants broke open the roof of Nazim Ali Kadri’s house. Some were banging his door from outside, trying to force it open. Kadri did not open the door. The communal riots [following Babri masjid demolition] in Mumbai had taken a violent turn. It looked as if the riots were subsiding but the Kadri family lived in fear. He realized that his worst fears had come true. He hid his daughter in the toilet and locked it from outside.
The mob entered, they assaulted Kadri family with swords and knifes. Kadri’s wife intervened and tried to stop them but she too was not spared. They stabbed Kadri’s college going son.
Kadri ran to Dr. Badwaik’s Hospital carrying his son in his arms. He met a nice man in the rikshawala who took them to hospital although both Kadri and his son were bleeding profusely. They moved from Badwaik Hospital to Government Hospital in Mulund and from there to Sion Hospital on the same day for medical attention.

Kadri’s wife was so worried about her husband that she did not move away from his bed in the Sion hospital at all. Terror had gripped them and they were still trying to come to terms with the reality. Kadri moved from the Hospital to his brother’s home in Police quarters at Naigaum [in Mumbai]. He was safe there.

As soon as I learned about Kadri’s ordeal, I went to see him. I can never forget my meeting with Kadri. He was staying with is brother in his police quarters on second or perhaps on the third floor. It was not a very well illuminated drawing room, paint had lost its colour and shine long back and was sparsely furnished. It was a very depressing milieu.

Kadri was sitting on a mat. He was wearing a lungi and had covered his body with towel. I had gone without informing him, he did not know about my visit. He saw me and was moved to tears; he could not speak for quite some time. I also did not know what to say to him. Kadri in that state with wounds everywhere on his body was not a sight I could bring myself to see. Both of us sat there without speaking a word. Not a word exchanged but both of us were fighting back our tears.

Kadri was surely among the most courageous men I have met.
“Sir, they attacked us very badly”, Kadri said and turned around to show his back to me. I could see several hits of the sharp blades of weapons. A baked potato has deep cuts; Kadri’s back reminded me of it. At least twenty five cuts I thought I saw. No, there is no exaggeration in this; I saw a quite a few cuts on his head too. I wondered how he survived that attack, only Allah can tell us I said to myself.

I have seen the Hindu-Muslim violence very closely as I used to stay at Kalyan. I have seen houses set on fire. I have seen families leaving their homes and fleeing Bhiwandi. But nobody known to me was ever injured. Unless somebody close to us is injured we tend to be indifferent to violence around us. [Perhaps it suits us to be indifferent which is so unfortunate!]

Kadri’s wife was not at home when I reached their Naigaum house. She was at their neighbour’s place. She returned hurriedly as soon as she came to know about my arrival. She went to kitchen and brought a jug of water and placed it between Kadri and me. She was returning to kitchen when Kadri called her back.

“Wait, do not go” he said. Turning to me Kadri said, “Look at her wounds”. Kadri’s wife showed me wounds around her neck, cheeks and on forehead. There were wounds on her back too. The assailants had hit her with meat chopper.

During the strike at our factory I had heard a word used commonly by our workmen; it was ‘Half murder’. I thought it was funny and had laughed heartily wondering how a murder can be ‘half’. But now I was seeing what the workmen meant when they said ‘Half murder’.
Kadri’s wife refused to return to their home in Bhandup, Mumbai. Kadri accepted her decision and looked for another residential accommodation.

Seeing his plight I felt that he needed financial help. I spoke to the union committee. I suggested that all employees including managers can contribute some amount. Nobody from union said no but they did not say yes either. If staff and workmen had collected some amount to help him I could have obtained some help from the management too. But all union committee members maintained studied silence. The irony is that Kadri was a member of that union [interestingly that was Bharatiya Kamgar Sena, a Shivsena Union] and was also a shop steward for several years.
The company provided some financial help. But my failure to persuade the union committee members to help Kadri makes me sad whenever I think of it.
* * * * *
January 11, 2004. It was sheer coincidence that Kadri had come over to my residence to meet me. Down with slipped disc, I was at home for almost two months. He had come to know of my illness and he came over to see me. We discussed about our days at the factory. Suddenly Kadri exclaimed “Oh, it was exactly ten years ago that we were assaulted”. And we remembered our meeting at his Naigaum residence.

“Did you know the assailants?” I asked him. The answer shocked me.

“They were not our neighbours and I did not even know them, they were strangers to us,” Kadri said. He continued,”You know that I had shifted my residence to my brother’s place at Naigaum after the assault on us. Everyday I would commute to work by ‘local’ train to Bhandup from Dadar. One day I boarded a local train and saw who was seated in front of me. He was the same person who had assaulted me and my family! He saw me; he was surprised, his eyes almost popped out. He grew uncomfortable, got up and moved out and got down at the next station.

“He could not sit there and look into my eyes! Guilty mind,” Kadri said!