After the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, there were riots across the nation. But the most sharp reaction came from the financial capital of the country, then known as Bombay, and it claimed more than 900 lives.
The 1992 Bombay riots wracked the city, thousands fled in fear and even after 25 years the memories of the destruction remain firmly etched on the minds of the people.
Life in the 1992 riot hit areas may have moved on the there is still no closure. The Supreme Court still has to give its final say on some cases related to the Mumbai riots.
Behrampada, a predominantly Muslim slum near Bandra, became a name synonymous with mayhem during the riots. Not much has changed in Behrampada even after 25 years. The dingy lanes are equally stinky as they were 25 years ago, the open drains continue to flow amidst multi-storey shanties, open cables hang in middle of the slender lanes.
The only visible change is the dish antennas atop every shanty. Amidst the green flags, one can also see posters of Bal Keshav Thackeray and Uddhav Thackeray wishing 'Eid Mubarak'.
No one would have imagined this 25 years ago, but today the Corporator of Behrampada belongs to the Shiv Sena, a party that referred Behrampada as 'mini Pakistan'. Mumbai may have always lived in small ghettos, but the the 1992 riots only deepened it.
Liyaqat Ali has been staying in Behrampada for half a century now and for him the riots have alienated the Muslims. "After the riots, we have accepted everyone from other communities but when we want to shift to neighbouring areas like Kherwadi we are told that Muslims are not allowed there", he told India Today.
"One of us had bought a flat there but he was asked to sell it off. Our new generations then have no option than to leave this area and stay far away in areas like Mira road, Nala Sopara", he added. It's not only the alienation, the memories of riots still shake up people like Shaikh Zakir.
In his small 10 x 10 shanty, Zakir and his wife Saira Bano get goose bumps when they recall the days of 1992 riots.
After the riots flared up, he was picked up from Behrampada by the police. Zakir, who used to sell mops at the Bandra signal, claims that he wasn't even aware of any riots. What followed was unimaginable for the family, with the sole bread earner behind bars Saira Bano had to beg to feed her small baby.
Zakir fought a court battle for 18 years before being acquitted. Now, 25 years later, even a slightest of reminder of the harrowing times has the family in tears.
"My family lived like beggars, they asked for food from mosque and I had to pay Rs 1.5 lakhs for bail. Ask anyone in the mohalla I'm a clean guy. Whenever I remember the past I get tears in my eyes. I always thought that once I'm free, I will leave Mumbai forever but Alhamdulillah, everything is fine today," Zakir tells as tears roll down his cheeks. Zakir and his family still lives in the trauma.
More than 2,200 cases were registered during the riots but almost 1,300 cases were closed and labelled as "A Summary"- true but undetected. Most of these cases were related to Behrampada.
Although there were convictions and acquittals, the sense of closure still eludes the Behrampada.
Ahmed Shaikh, who runs a computer institute for youngsters in Behrampada, wants the youth to move on. Though he believes in looking forward but the fact that justice was delayed and subsequently denied angers him.
"I was hardly one-year-old when the riots took place. But even today I see many who were responsible (for the riots) roaming freely. Our elders tell us that these are the guys who were involved. Due to delayed justice people are angry but how to vent it out? People are so upset that they do not even want to talk about it" says Ahmed.
But if Behrampada saw attacks on the minority community, the Gandhi Chawl in Jogeshwari area or Radhabai Chawl as it is referred to became a symbol of minority aggression. A mob torched a room here killing 6 people from the Hindu community. That room still lies vacant as a testimony. For some time an NGO called Yuva Sanstha ran a computer institute here but that too has shut down.
Unlike Behrampada, a majority Hindu population lived in Radhabai Chawl before the riots, but the incident changed the picture. Almost all the Hindu families fled the locality, and only a few returned.
Kantibhai Solanki and his family returned, albeit with fear in their minds, and now Kantibhai's is the only Gujarati Hindu family living in the vicinity. Kantibhai, who used to work in the BMC, fled with his family to his native place near Valsad in Gujarat. He returned only after things normalised. The Radhabai incident dented the trust that local claims existed there for years.
Noorjahan says she had maximum friends from the Hindu community, but after the riots she was always seen with suspicion. "After riots there was mistrust, everyone looked at us with suspicion. We stopped talking with each other, people from the other community left the place. We came back but they never did."
It has been a quarter of a century since the horrific riots, people of Behrampada and Radhabai Chawl have moved on in their lives, but still when any communal flare up takes place in any part of the country, people here miss a heart beat. Some even allege that the system does not want them to forget.
But it seems that the riots have taught them a lot too, as youngsters like Humayun feel the need to bride the gap.
Humayun and his friends run an NGO that works in fields like healthcare, education in Behrampada. They have also made an attempt to bridge the gap. "Whatever happened was because of ignorance, they did not know each other's religion. We tried to make them meet and exchange greetings. No Hindu or Muslim religion teaches hatred. We got a good response", Humayun says as he is flanked by youngsters.
One Amiruddin too wants to change the current order.
"There was a loss of life in 1992 that's what I have heard. But, I want to change the identity of Behrampada. I want people from Hindu and Christian communities to stay here. Past is past and we should leave that behind. Whatever happened was bad but I want to request everyone to stay together in harmony. If we stay united then only our country will progress and soldiers who fight for us will feel proud", an excited Amiruddin said.
Mumbai has moved on, so has Behrampada and Radhabai Chawl, but as Nisaar Khan says they want to forget but the system does not allow them to.
So whenever there is a small communal flare up in any part of the country, Behrampada misses a heartbeat. 25 years may have gone by but the fear factors refuses to go.