By Qurban Ali
This year marks the 34th anniversary of the ghastly killings of Hashimpura Mohalla and Maliana village of Meerut district in which more than a hundred twenty Muslims were killed by the U.P.s notorious Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and other custodial killings of more than 12 Muslims in Meerut and Fatehgarh jails. There has been no justice even after three decades.
The events that led to the horrendous Meerut riots in April-May-June, 1987 were as follows: On 14th April 1987 when the Nauchandi fair was in full bloom, communal violence broke out. It is said that a police Sub Inspector, on duty, was struck by a firecracker and as he was drunk he opened fire, killing two Muslims.
Another incident is also reported to have occurred on the same day. Muslims had arranged a religious sermon near the Hashimpura crossing close to the location of another function, a Mundan in Purwa Shaikhlal of a Hindu family. Some Muslims objected to film songs being played on loudspeakers which led to a quarrel.
It is alleged that the Hindu side fired first. The Muslims in return set some Hindu shops on fire. 12 people, both Hindus and Muslims were reported to have been killed. A curfew was imposed and the situation was controlled. However, tension prevailed and both sides succeeded in causing further trouble and starting three-month-long intermittent rioting in Meerut which resulted, according to government estimates, in the death of 174 people and injuries to 171. In fact, the loss was far more grievous. According to the various studies and reports it can be safely asserted that the rioting in Meerut during these three months actually left 350 dead and property worth crores destroyed.
On 17th May 1987, the incidents that led to the riots and then to the Hashimpura massacre and Maliana carnage took place in Kainchiyan Mohalla. By the next day, the riots had spread first to Hapur Road and Pilokheri and then to other areas. On 19th May a curfew was imposed throughout the city. To an estimated 60,000 strong local police, 11 companies of PAC were added. After the armed police established ‘law and order’, the character of the riots completely transformed.
In the initial phase, the riots were a confrontation between Hindus and Muslims, in which mobs killed each other. It is said that more Hindus appear to have been killed in this phase. But later on, after 22nd May, the riots ceased to be riots and became Police-PAC violence against Muslims. On that day PAC indulged in large-scale arson, looting, and burning in Hashimpura and proceeded the next day on the outskirts of the city in Maliana on 23rd May 1987.
One of the most shameful chapters of human callousness and the biggest event of custodial killings in independent India was enacted in the Hashimpura area. It would appear by then that sufficient contingents of police and PAC had been inducted into Meerut. It was not clear but it seems that some decision was taken at the ‘top’ to spread terror in the Hashimpura area. Pursuant to this on May 22, Hashimpura was surrounded by the PAC and the Army. The PAC then forced all residents out of their houses to the main Road. Then a house to house search was conducted. All residents were lined up on the main road and about 50 of them were asked to board a PAC truck. Another group of 324 were arrested and taken by other police vehicles.
What the police did in Hashimpura is something that can never be lived down and the shame of this will continue to haunt any civilized Government. The way the residents of Hashimpura were treated was shameful. Hundreds of people were taken out from the locality and asked to sit on the road. Army personnel segregated men over 50 years of age as well as those under 12 to one side of the road and dumped the rest into waiting trucks. Out of 42, only 6 persons were traceable, others seem to have vanished into thin air.
They were arrested together and taken in a truck to Muradnagar and when the truck reached the upper Ganga canal, they were shot by the PAC and their bodies thrown into the canal. More than 20 bodies were found floating in the canal. The second installment of the same incident took place after an hour or so at the Hindon river near the Delhi-U.P. border where the rest of the Muslim youth arrested from Hashimpura were killed on the point-blank range and their bodies dumped in a similar manner.
The then central government headed by Rajiv Gandhi ordered a CBI inquiry in the abduction and shooting of people at the Ganga canal. CBI began its inquiry on 28 June 1987, and after a thorough inquiry submitted its report. However, the report was never made officially public.
A Crime Branch-Central Investigation Department inquiry headed by Jangi Singh, DIG Police, Uttar Pradesh began its probe into the Muradnagar canal incident on 4th June 1987. Its report was submitted to the state government in October 1994 and it recommended prosecuting 37 PAC personnel and police officers.
On 1st June 1995, the then Mulayam Singh Yadav’s government of UP gave permission to prosecute 19 out of 37 of those accused. Finally, it was in 1996 when a charge sheet was filed with the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Ghaziabad under Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
It was Mayawati’s government which on 20 May 1997, gave the permission to prosecute the remaining 18 officials. Bailable warrants were issued 23 times followed by non-bailable warrants 17 times against these accused but none of them appeared before the court of law until 2000.
In the year 2000, 16 accused PAC men surrendered before the Ghaziabad court, got bail, and went back to resume their service. Disappointed with undue delay in the proceedings of the Ghaziabad court, kins of the victims and survivors filed a petition with Supreme Court praying to transfer the case to Delhi as the conditions in Delhi would be more conducive. The Supreme Court granted this prayer in 2002. Thereafter, the case was transferred to Tees Hazari court in Delhi. But the case couldn’t start before November 2004 because the Uttar Pradesh state government did not appoint a public prosecutor for the case.
Finally after a long legal battle the Additional Sessions Judge, at Tees Hazari Court, Delhi while delivering the judgment dated 21 March 2015, on the completion of trial of the accused, held that the evidence adduced by the prosecution was not sufficient to record the guilt for the offences the accused persons had been charged with. It was further stated that it was painful to observe that several innocent persons had been traumatized and their lives had been taken by the State agency but the investigation agency, as well as the prosecution, had failed to bring on record the reliable material to establish the identity of culprits. The accused persons facing trial are entitled to benefit of doubt existing in the case of the prosecution. With these directions, the Court acquitted all the accused persons of the charges framed against them.
U.P. Government challenged the verdict of session court in Delhi High Court and finally the Delhi high court on October 31, 2018, overturned trial court’s decision to acquit 16 policemen of charges of murder and other crimes in the 1987 Hashimpura case in which 42 people were killed. The high court convicted the 16 Provincial Armed Constabulary personnel charged, and sentenced them to life imprisonment. A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel of the Delhi high court termed the massacre as “targeted killing of unarmed and defenseless people by the police”.
While sentencing all the convicts to life imprisonment, the court said the families of the victims had to wait 31 years to get justice and monetary relief cannot compensate for their loss. All the 16 convicts have retired from service by then.
By the Delhi high court judgment on October 31, 2018, only half justice was delivered in the Hashimpura massacre case, but it still left many questions unanswered. What about Maliana where 72 Muslims were killed by the 44th battalion of PAC led by Commandant R D Tripathi on May 23rd, 1987?
An FIR on this massacre was lodged but unfortunately, there is no mention of the PAC personnel in the FIR. With a “shoddy” investigation by the State agency and a weak charge sheet by the prosecution, Maliana’s Muslims feel they will not get justice, just as the victims of Hashimpura got on 31st October 2018 by Delhi High Court.
The trial in this case has not even crossed the first stage. In the past 34 years, 800 dates have been fixed for the hearing, but only three of the 35 prosecution witnesses have been examined by the Meerut court. The last hearing was held almost four years ago. The case is pending before the Session court of Meerut.
The laxity of the prosecution can be gauged from the fact that the main FIR, the basis of the entire case against 95 rioters from the nearby villages, suddenly “disappeared” in 2010. The session’s court in