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After 20 years, Hashimpura survivors find hope in RTI Act
Bobby Ramakant in New Delhi | May 25, 2007 17:50 IST
On Thursday, two survivors and many members of the families of those killed on May 22, 1987, came to Lucknow to file 615 applications under the Right to Information Act, 2005, at the office of the director general of police demanding critical information pertinent to the case.
The Hashimpura massacre occurred during the communal riots that broke out in Meerut in May 1987. Apparently, the immediate provocation was the Rajiv Gandhi-led government's decision to open the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid for worship by Hindus. Curfew was imposed and PAC personnel conducted a search-and-arrest operation in several Muslim localities in the city.
On May 22, 1987, they booked hundreds of Muslim youth from Hashimpura, though there was no rioting in that area of Meerut city. Also there were Hindu localities in Hashimpura as well, which weren't affected by PAC's operations.
About 50 of them, all Muslim and mostly daily wage labourers and poor weavers, were taken by the PAC in a truck from Hashimpura mohalla in Meerut to the Upper Ganga canal in Murad Nagar, Ghaziabad. Instead of taking them to the police station, they then shot some of them, one by one, and threw them into the canal. Twenty years later, out of 164 witnesses, only three have given statements in the court.
The RTI Act gave a beacon of hope to the people impacted by the Hashimpura massacre who have been striving for justice for the past 20 years. They are asking the State to tell them why the PAC accused have not been suspended from service while being prosecuted for custodial murders. What departmental proceedings and disciplinary action, if any, was initiated against them? Why was there a delay of almost a decade in even chargesheeting the PAC accused? Why were most of those indicted by the crime branch-central investigation department report let off the hook? They are asking for the CB-CID inquiry report into the PAC killings to be made public.
Zulfikar Nasser, one of the survivors of Hashimpura Massacre, narrated the blood-curdling experience of seeing two persons being shot and thrown into the canal. "I was the third one in line. I was pulled out of the truck and as I fell down, I was shot," he said.
The bullet hit him in the underarm. He feigned death by holding his breath. The PAC personnel threw him into the canal, said Nasser. He escaped, concealing himself in bushes. He heard relentless cries for help and sounds of bullet shots. "I could hear thuds after the bodies of 15 or 16 persons were thrown into the water."
In 1988, the state government ordered an inquiry by the CB-CID. Its report, submitted to the government in 1994, was never made public. In 1995, some of the victims moved the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court to make the report public and to prosecute those indicted in it.
The CB-CID filed the chargesheet only against 19 of the PAC personnel although 66 PAC personnel were indicted by it earlier.
Between 1997 and 2000 the court issued 23 warrants summoning the accused policemen but none appeared.
Finally, 13 years after the massacre, 16 of the 19 accused surrendered in groups in May 2000. Although their bail applications were initially rejected by the chief judicial magistrate, the accused managed to obtain bail from the court of the district judge, Ghaziabad.
In 2001, the victims filed a petition before the Supreme Court asking for the case to be transferred from Ghaziabad to New Delhi as the conditions there would be more conducive to the trial.
The Supreme Court transferred the case to Tis Hazari in New Delhi. In November 2004, the government appointed Surinder Adlakha as special public prosecutor.
Finally, in May 2006, the court framed charges against all the accused PAC men for murder, conspiracy to murder, attempt to murder, tampering with evidence etc under Sections 302/ 120B/ 307/ 201/ 149/ 364/ 148/ 147 Indian Penal Code.
Maulana Mohammad Yamin, president of Hashimpura Legal Advisory Committee, said, "This case is the first instance in which those who were appointed to keep the peace carried out attacks in cold blood."