Black Friday is a powerful movie. It is based on a book by S Hussain Zaidi and explores the story behind the Mumbai (then Bombay) blasts of 12 March 1993. The movie was well received by the critics but didn’t enjoy commercial success. Here is an excerpt from the rediff.com review:
The movie begins with a bang as the cacophony of Dalal Street’s hawkers and stockbrokers is stilled by the first of the 12 bombs going off at the Mumbai stock exchange. The terrifying silence after the explosion as the camera catches the blood-smattered aftermath sets you for a truly great reality cinema experience that rarely flags for nearly two and a quarter hours.
Some of the things that stood out for me in the movie are:
The Role of Police: It seems that the local police was complicit in atrocities against Muslim victims of the riots following Babri Masjid demolition. This has been the common thread in all the major riots in India. This has led to a lack of faith of Muslims in the sytem to give them justice or protect them at the first place. In the movie, Muslims fleeing Bombay were most afraid of the police than anybody else. Indian citizens in general tend to have more faith in the army than the local police to control riots. One of the reasons is that Indian army does not have communal ovetones. The other reason is that when they go out to control law and order situation in riot-hit areas, they are outsiders and don’t have a nexus with the local politicians and other criminals. However, when they stay too long at a place they seem to develop the police mentality as in Kashmir and Manipur. Another important fact is the absymally low percentage of Muslims in police force. All the policemen investigating the riots are non-Muslims. It becomes much easier for the rabble-rousers in the Muslim community to portay it as ‘us versus them’ battle.
Misuse of Religion: Religion has been used and abused by opportunists of every religion for personal and political gains. Be it jihad to justify acts of terrors or the harline Hindutva agenda, the gullible follower has been made to believe that he is doing a service to his religion by playing in the hands of opportunists. Tiger Memon lost his business, that too the smuggling business, and converted his personal revenge into a holy war for Muslims terrorized during the riots.
Complicity of the System: The unloading of the RDX was done with the complicity of customs officials and other government agencies. As long as they get their share of the deal, it is not a problem for them. It is unthinkable that arms and ammunitions can be smuggled into without the knowledge or involvement of government monitoring agencies.
Lack of Justice for Riot Victims: While the Bombay blasts have been investigated diligently and convictions have been obtained against the accused, the Shri Krishna Commision Report has not made much of a headway. The report that indicted top Shiv Sena leaders for murder and mayhem and was a ray of hope for victims of riots seems to have reached a dead end. Successive Democratic Front governments (Congress and NCP) have not done much in this regard and incidents such as these force Muslims to perceive the system as being against them. The erstwhile Sena chief-minister of Maharastra is on the record saying that he would prefer to resign than take any action against Bal Thackeray or Shiv Sainiks.
Use of Torture to Obtain Information: When Rakesh Maria, Additional Comissioner of Police and person at the helm of investigations of Bombay blasts, was accosted by reporters about the allege human rights abuse during interrogations, his response was that the people died during blasts were innocent and hence if a few innocents are caught during the process, it is price worth paying. Also, use of physical and psychological torture to obtain information from the arrested is something even a lot of Americans find acceptable including many in the current establishment. To expect higher standards in India on such issues will be too much of an ask. However, it certainly blurs the line between the terrorists and the people pursuing them.