The families of the 1987 Hashimpura massacre victims could not hold back tears on Wednesday after the Delhi high court sentenced 16 ex-policemen to life imprisonment for killing 38 people from the Muslim community.
The high court verdict, which reversed the acquittal of the men from Uttar Pradesh's PAC, brought relief to some. But others felt that the life term awarded to them was not enough.
Zulfikar, an eyewitness in the case, alleged that after the massacre, they were harassed not just by the police but also the state government.
"The police and the government always tried to weaken this case, but we were not deterred and continued fighting. Finally, justice has been done today," he said.
"It would have given us more relief if the accused had been sentenced to death," Zulfikar added.
He said they will fight the case even if it goes to the Supreme Court.
The killings took place 31 years ago.
A little over a month after communal riots broke out in Meerut on April 14, 1987, the PAC and Army personnel carried out searches in Hashimpura and some other Meerut localities.
The PAC personnel allegedly shot dead 38 men from Hashimpura and dumped their bodies into Muradnagar Gang nahar and the Hindon river.
Zulfikar, Babbudin, Mujib-ur-Rehman, Mohammed Usman and Nayeem survived the massacre on May 22, Hashimpura residents said.
Usman said people were picked up by the military from their homes on the pretext of a search operation and handed over to the PAC.
"We were six brothers and our father. Fifty men were picked up in the evening, the children were spared, and were taken away in a PAC truck," he said, showing a bullet mark on his back.
Expressing some disappointment over the court's verdict, he said, "It would have been far better if those evil people were sentenced to death."
Zarina lost her husband Zahir Ahmed and son Javed.
"I have counted the days since the massacre. My husband and son were killed by police personnel. I had a four-day-old son in my lap then. The accused should have been awarded death sentence," she said.
Jamaluddin, who lost his son Kamruddin in the massacre said, "Never before have I seen or heard of such a long fight for justice. We got justice after a long fight. The trial court's order, which acquitted the accused, only rubbed salt on our wounds."
Nasim Bano and Amir Fatima shudder when they recall the day when their brother, Siraj, was killed.
They said their family was ruined. Their father died of grief, their mother became mentally unstable and though she was cured, she too died soon after.
With the family's breadwinners taken away, the four sisters survive on whatever little they earn by stitching clothes.
Nineteen people were named as accused in the case and charges were framed against 17 of them for offences of murder, attempt to murder, tampering with evidence and conspiracy, by the court here in 2006.
Of the 17 accused, 16 were acquitted while one died during the trial.
The trial court acquitted the 16 surviving accused in March 2015 giving them benefit of the doubt regarding their identities.
This decision was challenged in the high court by the victims' families and eyewitnesses who survived the incident.
The high court termed the massacre "targeted killing" of unarmed people by the police.