India still remembers the ghastly scars that have been left by the 2002 riots in Gujarat. Just last month, the country observed the 15th anniversary of the riots that had officially killed more than 1,200 people across the state.
Ehsaan Jafri, Zakiya Jafri, Zaheera Shaikh, Bilkias Banu, and of course Qutubuddin Ansari — these are some of the faces that became prominent during the timeline of Gujarat riots.
This is not a story of Gujarat though. This story is of Bhagalpur, Bihar, where a major riot broke out in the year 1989. It is during the time when Ramshila Poojan procession was being carried out across the country to lay the foundation of Ram temple in Ayodhya at the place of Babri Masjid. The riot that began in Bhagalpur spread like wildfire across the hinterlands, and more than thousands were killed.
One of the victims in this has been Malka Begum. In an exclusive with BBC, Malka shared her horrifying story of the day and nights of the Bhagalpur riots.
A resident of Chanderi village, Malka was 16 or seventeen years old at that time.
She witnessed, each one of her family members being killed in front of her eyes. A total of 66 people were killed in the village and their bodies were dumped into a pond. The rioters did not spare even the children. They were cut into pieces with sharp weapons.
Malka says that the rioters attacked them with the sword in which one of her legs was cut off. The rioters thought she was dead and thrown her into the pond. She was suffering so much in pain, that she wished a snake in the pond bites her to get rid of the suffering. However, she managed to hold herself and survived the plight.
However, her grief is more for her friends than the rioters. She says during then riots; she had gone to her childhood friend’s place to seek help. The Hindu friend of Malka did not just ban her from entering the house, but even told the rioters that Malka was there.
According to Malka, her friend screamed, “Come quickly, even here is a Muslim is hidden.” Though her life was saved, what followed was a long-drawn legal battle.
Though her life was saved, what followed was a long-drawn legal battle.
Whoever’s name she took in the court started threatening her to drop the case. Even when this did not work, they advanced her with Rs 10 lakh to close the case. Despite coming from an economically backward family, Malka chose to stand against them and refused the money they had offered.
When the legal battle was going on, Malka got married to a soldier who was serving in the Kashmir.
They also had two children — daughter Fatima and son Imtiaz. But fate had some other plans for Malka, After only three years of marriage, her husband left her and ran away with the government’s compensation Malka had received.
But among all these severities, she didn’t lose her hopes. She kept on fighting.
The trial court finally sentenced 16 people under the Chanderi massacre case which the Patna High Court also upheld.
The court finally sentenced 16 people to the Chanderi massacre case which the Patna High Court has upheld.
Malka Begum’s testimony played a significant role in this judgement.