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Remembering the Uphaar tragedy: 'Everyday we live the same pain'

June 13, 2013 17:45 IST

On the sixteenth anniversary of the Uphaar fire tragedy, the families of the victims held a prayer meeting in memory of the 59 people who died in the theatre in Delhi and vowed to resolutely continue their fight for justice.

The Association of Victims of the Uphaar Tragedy, which has been spearheading the legal battle, said families of the victims have waited too long for justice and the government must ensure that the guilty are punished.

"Today is my birthday. I had given money to my son to go watch the film that day. Nobody in my family, neither my wife nor my son, wish me now. Today I only got a message from the bank wishing me. We used to celebrate my birthday every year," said Amrit Sehgal, who lost his 31-year-old son in the tragedy.

The prayer meet was held in Smriti Upavan at Green Park Extension, opposite the site of Uphaar hall.

"My grandmother is over 65 years old. She has to live alone. That is the plight of losing a young son," said Surabhi Parashar, who had lost her maternal uncle in the fire.

"It has been 16 years and my mom hasn't seen a film. She is apprehensive even when I ask her to go out for a film," said Parashar.

Kanwal Bhalla, who lost her husband in the fire, recounted the difficulty of raising her two small children and how they suffer "the pain everyday".

"I was in the hall with my husband and our daughter. I was holding his hand when it happened. I saw everything. Everyday we live the same pain," she said.

Neelam Krishnamoorthy, president of AVUT, who lost her two children in the fire, expressed her "frustration" over the delay in justice to the victims of the famililes and wondered whether the guilty will be punished in her lifetime.

A number of family members of the victims said no changes have taken place in terms of fire safety measures in public buildings despite the tragedy.

Fifty nine people had died of asphyxia on June 13, 1997 during the screening of Hindi blockbuster movie Border.

"There have been no changes. People are still dying in fire incidents," said Sehgal.

Echoing his views, Krishnamoorthy said, "In India, there is no value for human life. Everything in the country has gone up except the value of human life."

The Delhi high court had on December 19, 2009, sentenced the owners of Uphaar Cinema -- Sushil and Gopal Ansal -- and former Delhi Fire Service staff H S Panwar to one year jail terms.

Three others -- gate keeper Manmohan Unniyal, Delhi Vidyut Board employees Brij Mohan Satija and Bir Singh – were awarded two-year jail terms.

The appeal against the high court's judgement is pending in the Supreme Court.

On June 13, 1997, during the screening of Hindi film Border, a fire had engulfed the theatre, killing 59 people and injuring many in the subsequent stampede.

Image: Photographs of those who died in the Uphaar cinema fire | Photograph: Dijeshwar Singh/ Saab Pictures

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