The Hashimpura massacre
So what about justice for 42 Muslims killed in Hashimpura by the PAC - 22 years ago?
Akash Bisht Delhi
Twenty two years have passed since 42 innocent Muslims from Hashimpura-Malliana locality in Meerut were packed in a truck, shot dead and their bodies disposed of at Hindon canal by the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), with a communal streak. The friends and families of the victims have since been running pillar to post in search of justice denied to them by successive governments and the judicial system. The cold-blooded massacre has long been erased from public memory, except for a bunch of lawyers, activists and journalists who have kept the hope for justice alive amongst the families of survivors and victims. While the perpetrators walk free with gallantry awards and promotions, family members still recount the night of horror that changed their lives forever.
After the Rajiv Gandhi government opened the Babri Masjid gates in 1987 allowing Hindus to worship there, riots broke out in Meerut and elsewhere. On May 24, 1987, several PAC men, known for their anti-minority communal stance, came to Hashimpura and randomly picked up 50 Muslim men, mostly weavers and labourers, and huddled them in a truck. The truck was then taken to Murad Nagar near Ghaziabad where some men were shot dead in cold blood and their bodies disposed of in the Upper Ganges Canal. The truck was then driven to Hindon Canal where the PAC shot several others. FIRs were filed by the survivors of the two massacres at two different police stations. Two men who were shot, and left for dead, miraculously survived. They are the eyewitnesses.
After immense pressure from media and civil society, the Congress government in UP ordered a Crime Branch Central Investigation Department (CBCID) inquiry. In 1988, the CBCID identified 13 of the 19 bodies and filed a chargesheet against 19 PAC personnel. The accused were government employees, so approval from the state government was needed to prosecute them. The chief judicial magistrate issued summons to the 19 PAC personnel. Undeterred, the accused didn't appear in the court. Later, six bailable and 17 unbailable warrants were issued against them, but to no avail.
The Supreme Court intervened and forced the accused to surrender. They soon got bail from the Ghaziabad district judge who said they are 'government servants' so they will not abscond. Later, on the victims' plea, the case was shifted from Ghaziabad to New Delhi, but the case didn't make any headway as the Congress and Janta Dal governments in UP delayed the appointment of a special public prosecutor. Additionally, the recommendations of Justice CD Parekh Commission on Meerut riots were rejected by the Kalyan Singh government. Even after 14 years, the case did not make any headway and the accused roamed free.
Exactly 19 years after the Hashimpura massacare, the Tis Hazari court in Delhi framed charges of murder, conspiracy to murder, attempt to murder, tampering with evidence etc., under various sections of the IPC. Most surprisingly, the prosecution evidence was not recorded though the witness/survivor Zulfikar Nasir was present in the court as the government failed to produce the case properly. Later, the court recorded the testimony of survivors, Zulfikar and Mohd Naeem, and announced a compensation package of Rs 4,60,000 for the 43 men killed by the PAC.
Twenty years after the massacre, in 2007, the victims and their relatives filed 615 RTI applications seeking information related to the killings. The state information commission revealed that these killings find no mention in their Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs). Instead, the ACRs of the accused had positive remarks about their honesty and good conduct. Even a CID enquiry didn't hamper their career growth.
The victims of Hashimpura still await justice, for the day when the perpetrators of this cold blooded crime will be booked. One of the survivors had told Hardnews earlier, "My parents died waiting for justice and I might also die waiting for justice; but I will fight till my last breath so that I can show my face to my brother when I meet him in heaven."
Hashimpura is not the only incident in the black history of independent India where Muslims (and innocent citizens of other communities) were brutally butchered and denied justice for decades. Post independent Indian history is known for many carnages and pogroms, with almost always, not an iota of justice.