In yet another instance which recapitulates "justice delayed is justice denied," a case filed on ghastly killings in Hashimpura Mohalla and Maliana village of Meerut district in which more than a hundred twenty Muslims were killed by the Uttar Pradesh's Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and other custodial killings of more than 12 Meerut Muslims, is yet to find the justice even after three decades.
Today marks the 34th anniversary of this horrendous incident.
What happened during April-May-June, 1987?
On 14th April 1987, communal violence broke out when the Nauchandi fair was in full spirit. It is believed that a police Sub Inspector who was drunk, on duty, was struck by a firecracker, soon after which, he opened fire, killing two Muslims, reported The Milli Gazette.
Another incident is also reported to have occurred on the same day. Muslims had arranged a religious sermon near the Hashimpura crossing close to the location of another function, a Mundan in Purwa Shaikhlal of a Hindu family. Some Muslims opposed to movie songs being played on loudspeakers led to a fight, resulting in the death of 12 people.
Both Hindus and Muslims were reported to have been killed in the fight. Later, a curfew was imposed and the situation was regulated.
But the tension prevailed and both sides succeeded in causing further trouble and starting three-month-long intermittent rioting in Meerut which resulted, according to government estimates, in the death of 174 people and injuries to 171.
According to the various studies and reports it can be safely asserted that the rioting in Meerut during these three months actually left 350 dead and property worth crores destroyed.
On 19th May a curfew was imposed throughout the city. To an estimated 60,000 strong local police, 11 companies of PAC were added.
Initially, the riots were only a confrontation between Hindus and Muslims, in which mobs killed each other. But later on, after 22nd May, the riots were believed to have turned to Police-PAC violence against Muslims.
On that day, PAC indulged in large-scale arson, looting, and burning in Hashimpura and proceeded the next day on the outskirts of the city in Maliana.
On May 22, Hashimpura was surrounded by the PAC and the Army. The PAC reportedly then forced all residents out of their houses to the main road, followed by which they conducted a house to house search. All residents were lined up on the main road and about 50 of them were asked to board a PAC truck. Another group of 324 were arrested and taken by other police vehicles.
The truck reportedly reached the upper Ganga canal, where they were shot by the PAC and their bodies thrown into the canal.
The then central government headed by Rajiv Gandhi ordered a CBI probe into the abduction and shooting of people at the canal. CBI began its inquiry on 28 June 1987 and submitted its report, which was never made officially public.
What happened next?
On 1st June 1995, the then Mulayam Singh Yadav's government of UP gave permission to prosecute 19 out of 37 of those accused. Finally, a charge sheet was filed in 1996 with the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Ghaziabad under Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Mayawati's government, on 20 May 1997, gave permission to prosecute the remaining 18 officials. Bailable warrants were issued 23 times followed by non-bailable warrants 17 times against these accused but none of them appeared before the court of law until 2000.
In the year 2000, 16 accused PAC men surrendered before the Ghaziabad court, got bail, and went back to resume their service.
After this, the kins of the victims and survivors filed a petition with Supreme Court asking to transfer the case to Delhi. The Supreme Court granted this prayer in 2002. Thereafter, the case was transferred to Tees Hazari court in Delhi.
Finally, the Additional Sessions Judge, at Tees Hazari Court, Delhi while delivering the judgment dated 21 March 2015, on the completion of trial of the accused, held that the evidence adduced by the prosecution was not sufficient to record the guilt for the offences the accused persons had been charged with. The Court acquitted all the accused persons of the charges framed against them.
The Uttar Pradesh government challenged the verdict of the session court in Delhi High Court which overturned the trial court's decision to acquit 16 policemen of charges of murder in October 2018 and sentenced all 16 to life imprisonment, reported The Wire.
By this judgment on October 31, 2018, of the Delhi High court, only half justice was delivered in the Hashimpura massacre case. What about Maliana where 72 Muslims were killed by the 44th battalion of PAC led by Commandant R D Tripathi on May 23rd, 1987?
The trial has been going on in a session court on the Maliana case in Meerut for the last 34 years. According to the petitioners, key documents pertaining to this case, including the FIR, are missing. And more than 800 dates have been given since proceedings began.
After the announcement by the Uttar Pradesh government for a judicial inquiry on the Maliana incidents, under the Commission of Enquiries Act, 1952 in the last week of May 1987, the Commission headed by Justice GL Srivastav, a retired judge of Allahabad High Court started its proceedings three months later, on 27 August 1987.
Now, a PIL has been filed before the Division Bench of Allahabad high court by a writer and former Director-General of UP police, Vibhuti Narain Rai IPS, a victim Ismail, who lost his 11 family members at Maliana on 23rd May 1987 and a lawyer MA Rashid, who conducted the case in a Meerut trial court, seeking a fair and speedy trial by SIT including adequate compensation to the families of victims.
On April 19, 2021, the Allahabad High Court directed the UP Government to file a counter-affidavit as its reply to public interest litigation seeking re-investigation into the alleged killing of 72 Muslims by U.P. PAC on May 23, 1987, in Meerut's Maliana village including other custodial killings during the riots in Meerut, the same year.