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Hashimpura verdict: Why Muslims feel let down after acquital of 16 PAC men

Lucknow: The acquittal of 16 personnel of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel allegedly involved in the killing of 42 persons in Meerut district on 22 May 1987, has caused wide resentment among leaders of the Muslim community, who feel that the case was not fought by the prosecution strongly enough.

In the order acquitting all the 16 accused, the additional sessions judge Sanjay Jindal of Tis Hazari Court in Delhi observed that there did not appear enough evidence to connect the accused with the incident. The five witnesses, the verdict mentioned, could not identify the accused.

 Hashimpura verdict: Why Muslims feel let down after acquital of 16 PAC men

Disappointed. Reuters

The riots in Uttar Pradesh in 1987 marked a particularly volatile political and communal climate in Uttar Pradesh after the then Central government headed by Rajiv Gandhi ordered the unlocking of the disputed prayer site in Ayodhya. Meerut was the epicentre of riots to control which state police, PAC and even the Army personnel had been deployed.

Vibhuti Narain Rai, then superintendent of police, Ghaziabad, remembers the Hashimpura incident as a "nightmare". In an article which first appeared at IndiaResists.com, he quotes Babbudin, a survivor stuck amid a pile of freshly-shot and bleeding bodies in a stream to recreate what could have happened on that fateful night.

According to what Babbudin told him and others accompanying Rai, "that day during the regular checking around 50 people were made to sit in the PAC truck they all thought that they were being taken to a station or a jail. The truck was taken off the main road about 45 minutes from Makanpur and stopped at distance down the road. The PAC men leapt down from the truck and ordered them to get down. Only half the people had hardly got off when the PAC men started firing on them. The people still on the truck took cover. Babbudin was one of them. He could only guess what would have happened to the people who got off. The sounds of the firing probably reached the neighboring villages as a result of which noises started coming from them. The PAC people again got on the truck and sped off towards Ghaziabad. Here it came to the Makanpur stream and the PAC again ordered everyone to get off.

"This time the horrified prisoners refused to get off so they were pulled and dragged from the truck. The one who came out were shot and thrown in the stream and the ones who didn't were shot on the truck and thrown off." According to Rai, the location of the first incident could be the stream near the Muradnagar station on Meerut-Ghaziabad road. This was later found to be correct.

An administrative officer who was posted in Meerut at that time admitted that the incident had indeed taken place. "Most likely it was a retaliatory act on part of PAC personnel after two of them were attacked and dragged by a rioting crowd three days before the killings. The area was already struck by sporadic riots, curfew and there was strong resistance from the local populace to police patrolling," said this officer now on the verge of retirement in Lucknow.

In 1988, the then Congress government in Uttar Pradesh ordered an inquiry by the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) whose report submitted to the state government in 1994 was never made public. In 1995, some victims moved the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court to make the report public and prosecute those indicted in it. The CB-CID filed charge-sheet against 19 PAC personnel and between 1997 and 2000, the court issued 23 warrants summoning the accused policemen. In May 2000, however, 16 of the 19 accused surrendered in groups.

In 2001, the Supreme Court transferred the case to Tis Hazari Court in New Delhi after a petition by the victims' dependents. In May 2006, the court framed charges against the accused PAC men for murder, conspiracy to murder, attempt to murder, and tampering with evidence under various sections of the IPC.
Athar Husain, a Muslim community leader who heads a thinktank Centre for Objective Research (CORD) feels the verdict presents us with a catch-22 situation. "If the entire episode is viewed with the single objective of delivering justice, then justice has not been done, whatever the grounds such as the culprits could not be identified because of darkness, etc. For the victims and their dependents, it means gross disappointment. For the perpetrators, it is an indication that one can get away with an incident of this magnitude," Husain said.

It is one such example after which the demand for a comprehensive law on communal violence could be raised again, Husain said. Maulana Kalbe Jawwad, a prominent Shia cleric, feels such incidents indicate that no government is the well-wisher of Muslims.

Reports from Meerut and elsewhere in the state say that the dependents of the victims are a disappointed lot, saying they were denied justice after so many years. Lucknow-based IPS officer Amitabh Thakur has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav requesting them to provide justice to the victims of Hashimpura. He said the recovery of bodies was "an undisputed fact" and yet, "even after 28 years, our vast and huge criminal justice system has not been able to find out who committed this grotesque crime".

The special public prosecutor has indicated that the verdict may be challenged in a higher court for which the relevant process would start soon.

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Updated Date: Mar 23, 2015 07:19:19 IST