22 May 2007 marked the 20th anniversary of Hashimpura massacre when 40 Muslims from Hashimpura, Meerut were killed in cold blood by the personnel of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC). Even by the gory standards of police brutality in India this episode stands out in many ways. Apart from the fact that 40 poor Muslims were shot-dead for being Muslims, it is the fight against the system, to get justice, stretched over 20 long years that makes the massacre even more heart-wrenching. As the victims and their families wait for justice, not a single accused has been convicted. Khabrein.info writes about the episode:
On that tragic day, May 22, the PAC personnel cordoned off Hashimpura — located in the middle of Meerut Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and picked about fifty innocent Muslim men between the age group of 70 and 10 from three out of four lanes of the locality. The fourth lane inhabited by Hindu families was left. Nasir was one of them. Nineteen PAC personnel, under platoon commander Surinder Pal Singh, took about 50 Muslim youths, most of them daily wage labourers and poor weavers, in a PAC truck from Hashimpura to the Upper Ganga Canal in Murad Nagar, Ghaziabad, instead of taking them to the police station. They shot them dead in cold blood and threw their bodies into the canal. The PAC personnel then drove ahead in their truck to the Hindon Canal in Makanpur and shot dead several other Muslim youths they had taken with them. Two of the persons who survived the Hindon Canal massacre and managed to escape lodged an FIR at the Link Road Police Station. One of the four others who managed to escape the massacre at the Upper Ganga Canal filed an FIR at the Murad Nagar police station. [Khabrein.info]
The reality is that there were survivors of the carnage who faked death, managed to escape and lived to tell the tale. But they still are waiting for justice. Imagine what would have happened if there were no eye-witnesses.
Zulfikar Nasser, one of the survivors of Hashimpura Massacre, narrated the blood-curdling experience of seeing two persons being shot and thrown into the canal. “I was the third in line. I was pulled out of the truck and as I fell down, I was shot,” he said. The bullet hit him in the underarm. He feigned death by holding his breath. The PAC personnel threw him into the canal, said Nasser. He escaped, concealing himself in bushes. He heard relentless cries for help and sounds of bullet shots. “I could hear thuds after the bodies of 15 or 16 persons were thrown into water.” [TwoCircles.net]
Consecutive UP governments have turned a blind eye to the whole episode. The PAC personnel accused in the massacre are still on duty and carrying arms. The fact that 18 rifles used to kill the Muslims were later redistributed among the PAC personnel shows utter callousness on the part of the government. Moreover, subsequent governments over the years exploited the incident to send a ‘message’ to the Muslim community by deploying PAC in riot hit areas. It was manifested again during the communal riots in Aligarh last year when four Muslims were shot dead:
While the police have shrugged off allegations of targeting a particular community, the fact that all those killed or wounded by police firing were Muslims suggests more than mere coincidence. Senior police officers admit that all four fatalities, and most injuries, “were caused by single entry-exit wounds, probably caused by .315 or .303 calibre rifles that are standard issue for the PAC.” Ã‚Â All wounds were also above the waistlines of the victims, suggesting that the PAC were shooting to kill, rather than to disperse the crowd. [Kafila.org]
Sachar committee reported the low percentage of Muslims in the police force and this percentage goes down significantly in the case of PAC. It seems that it is fair game to kill Muslims as has been evident by recent killings in Hyderabad. Last year it was Bhiwandi, Vadodara, Delhi, Lucknow and Aligarh. Fellow blogger Adnan is justifiably angry at this growing trend of police bias against Muslims:
Water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas are not considered. And when bullets are fired, they are hit at chests, never at legs. The argument of cops is often that in ‘surcharged circumstances’ the firing becomes inevitable. Really! At least in the recent firing in Hyderabad, everybody is aware and we have seen on TV screens how people were targeted and murdered by this brute police force. [Inscribe]
In spite of this long wait for justice for Hashimpura victims, there has been some positive movement on the case after it was trasferred to Delhi.
After 19 years of the Hashimpura massacre, finally in May 2006, the Court framed charges against all the accused PAC men for murder, conspiracy to murder, attempt to murder, tampering with evidence etc under Sections 302/ 120B/ 307/ 201/ 149/ 364/ 148/ 147 Indian Penal Code. [TwoCircles.net]
It is admirable that the victims still have faith in the judicial process and are following the due process despite all the hurdles. Hopefully the newly elected Mayawati government will extend full co-operation to the investigation and make sure that justice is delivered to the victims and the guilty are punished.