“The ghastly incident [of the Hashimpura Massacre] had stirred the conscience of the nation, as the outrage it caused in the average citizen was more than that felt against terrorist violence, as the killers in this case were those who were supposed to be protectors.”
~ Idbal A Ansari, Indian academician and activist, in an article, Hashimpura massacre trial after 19 years - Failure of all organs of state, written for the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Bulletin, October 2006.
The massacre of almost four dozen Muslims hailing from the Hashimpura locality in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh on 22 May 1987, is considered as a black mark on the protective machinery of India. The incident occurred at a very sensitive time in India, when Hindu-Muslim riots had affected various areas in the state after the Ram Janmabhumi-Babri Masjid demolition. It has been more than 25 years since the dreadful, spine-chilling incident, when the police executed innocent Muslims and threw them into the water. This horrifying event is still regarded as worse than the Gujarat violence of 2002, and the only one of its kind after India’s independence.
The Incident on 22 May 1987
When the Hindu-Muslim riots in Meerut started on 19 May 1987, several armed officials were called in to control the situation. The armed officials included army men, Uttar Pradesh Police Force, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC). Three days later, some officials from the PAC force rounded 644 people from different Muslim localities in Meerut. After selecting 42 of the sturdy youths from the crowd (coincidentally most were from the Hashimpura locality), they packed them inside a truck, owned by PAC. Thereafter, they drove the truck to an unknown place. The officials next began shooting them one by one. But when the others protested, they open fired on all of them. Many of the men died on the spot.
The PAC personnel then took the truck to the Upper Ganga Canal in Muradnagar, about 35 km away from Delhi, and they dumped the dead bodies in the canal. Those who were still alive, were either brutally beaten or shot at again, until they found them floating down the waterway. None of the family members of the victims knew what had happened until later.
After the heinous incident, the bodies were found in the next few days. Most of the victims had died sustaining gunshot wounds or brutal beating. Only five survived – Zulfikar Nasir, Iqbal, Mujibur Rehman, Babuddin, and Mohammad Naim. Following the massacre, there were protests to bring the victims justice. The then Chief Minister Veer Bahadur Singh, was forced to order an inquiry. The Crime Branch’s Crime Investigation Department took up the case. However, they left the case hanging for six years, after which they produced a report. Although, the government filed a case against some PAC jawans and the court issued warrants, the accused did not appear before the court.
Meanwhile, the victims were allegedly threatened by the police that if they named any official they would be poisoned or killed, while still in the hospital undergoing treatment for their wounds. Initially, they were scared, but as years passed by people came to know the reality of the brutal killing by the supposed ‘protectors’ of the nation. Thereafter, several articles were written in newspapers, petitions were filed by human rights organisations, and protests organised.
One of the significant protests was by Subramanian Swamy, a national leader belonging to the Janata Party. He sat on a week-long fast in view of demanding justice for the victims of the Hashimpura massacre. Also, he publicly demanded a probe into the role of the then Minister of State for Internal Security, P Chidambaram. The court dismissed this as “it would further delay the trial.”
A renowned political journalist, Nikhil Chakravarthy raised his voice and compared the incident to the brutalities on the Jews by the Nazi, “to strike terror and nothing but terror in the whole minority community.”
Despite the demands and demonstrations, somehow the case was not taken up, witnesses did not turn up, and evidences were tarnished to protect the culprits. The government did offer the victims compensation, but according to their families, the money never reached them.
The Never Ending Trial
Many years have passed since the incident, governments changed and the officials responsible for the Hashimpura massacre continued getting promotions; yet no concrete verdict was given by the court. Every time there was media uproar over the 1987 massacre, the new government would issue inquiry, which would eventually phase out. Mohammad Naim, one of the survivors of the Hashimpura massacre, sadly states, “We just get dates in courts. I am tired now. I have neither the money nor energy. Still, I hope we will get justice.” Several activists are still trying to get justice, for the victims believe that the Hashimpura massacre will soon become a forgotten case if nothing is done about it sooner.
The massacre and the subsequent attempts to bury the case have scared the Muslims in west Uttar Pradesh. According to one of the Hashimpura locals, Moinuddin, who was arrested on the night of the massacre, believes that the government did not “recognise us as Indians. Else the case would’ve been decided long ago.”
Also on this day:
1772 – Raja Ram Mohan Roy, founder of the Brahmo Samaj, was born
2010 – Air India Express Boeing 737 flight, crashed upon landing at Mangalore in India, killing 158 of the 166 people on board
2012 – Flinder Anderson Khonglam, the 18th Chief Minister of Meghalaya, died
Hashimpura massacre trial after 19 years - Failure of all organs of state, article by Iqbal A Ansari in PUCL Bulletin, Oct, 2006.
Meerut riots of May 1987, PUCL report by Justice Rajindar Sachar, Shri Inder Kumar Gujral, Prof A M Khusro, Prof Dalip Swamy, and Prof K C Gupta, Sep 2006.