Hyderabad: In the knife-edge hours and days following the Babri Masjid demolition, when the police were ordered to open fire and baton-charge unruly mobs, an officer who was in the thick of things learnt a rare lesson: A moment of kindess can move mountains.
That is the one memory former DGP, Anurag Sharma, who as deputy commissioner of police of the tense South Zone, that covers the Old City, was battling to keep the peace in the 1990s.
Sharma credited his then boss, M.V. Bhaskar Rao, Hyderabad police commissioner in 1992, with allowing him to tackle the situation independently according to the situation without waiting for orders.
“We were in anticipation of largescale violence in the Old City after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in view of the communal riots earlier on,” Sharma said.
300 armed police pickets guarded the Old City. “For the first time, we deployed the Greyhounds, the elite force trained to combat Naxalites, to patrol in the narrow bylanes of the South Zone.”
Sharma said the police had to open fire in the air at many places, and thrashed mobs of both communities at a number of places between December 7 and 22 in South Zone. It was satisfying that the police had succeeded in minimising casualties and damage to public property, Sharma said.
But the most memorable moment had occurred earlier on. “On the evening of December 7, 1992, we were all tired after thrashing mobs and opening fire at many places. When I reached Talabkatta, one of the most communally sensitive places, I noticed that A and B Colonies of Amannagar had been barricaded. I was not in a mood to either the thrash those who put them up or open fire as I was damn tired,” he recalled.
Annoyed, he asked Ayub Khan, assistant commissioner of the City Armed Reserve, about it. After asking people, Khan reported back that the locals had put them up to protect themselves from mobs.
Sharma recalls, “I told the ACP it was looking awkward, as if they had isolated themselves from this society. I ordered the team to remove the barricades. Ayub Khan asked me for some time so that he could persuade the locals to remove the barricades themselves. By the next morning, he had succeeded.”
Sharma added: “This experience taught me a lesson that persuasion is more useful many times than using force.”
Another cop who came with a memory, albeit of a different kind, is Sudheep Lakhtakia, former DGP of the National Security Guard.
Lakhtakia was DCP, West Zone, injured during the stone-pelting in Tappachabutra area of Old City along with Kesava Reddy, then principal of the Police Training Centre at Amberpet while they were on patrolling.
After the demolition of the Babri Masjid, curfew also clamped in Tappac-habutra, Asif Nagar, Humayunnagar, Habib-nagar, Kulsumpura, and Mangalhat police stations of the West Zone.
Lakhtakia, recalled, “We were patrolling Tappachabutra. As soon as our advance party crossed the area, a huge mob surrounded us and started pelting stones at our vehicles. We started a lathicharge and opened fire in the air. Kesava Reddy and I sustained injuries.”