The victims and survivors of Hashimpura massacre who were tormented by horrendous torture which completely changed their lives are hopelessly living in an unending wait for justice since three decades. Time has marked an impact on most of them and to and fro court trails have left a deep imprint on their mind.
Most of the victims, survivors and their relatives have lost their faith in the justice delivery system but are unwilling to give up before a long drawn fight. Hajra Bi, who is 75 now, calls herself a young beautiful woman while her husband and all children were alive. Wrinkles on her face today not only depict her age but a tragedy which changed the lives of many like her.
The void in my family after the 22nd May 1987 incident cannot be filled in easily, yet I try to remain as normal and cheerful as I can in a bid to forget those horrendous memories. We have not received any state compensation as of now and will even if we do, nothing can heal our wounds except justiceHajra Bi
On being asked, how she views justice, the reply was prompt, “I want death sentence for all those involved in the heinous crime which took my son away from me.” Hajra today is forced to live a life sans happiness and peace.
The locals here internalized the pain and suffering so much so that as soon a stranger walks in the narrow and shanty lanes of Hashimpura, they approach you asking if you are a media person and will have to narrate everything once again in a bid to secure justice for their lost ones. Many men lurking around the lanes of Hashimpura have themselves been victim of the brutality unleashed three decades ago or their parents have been among them.
Walking past the lanes, an erring silence surrounds us, amidst the activities of a normal day, somewhere this silence in the locality has absorbed the absence of the 42 men who left this mohallah 30 years ago in PAC trucks never to come back again. However, there were some who survived the massacre, and had they not survived, the truth as they claim might not have ever come out in open.
Babuddin is one such survivor and witness in the case. Babuddin now in his late fourties was a teenage boy when the project called Hashimpura was executed.
I was very young then, I still remember how much did I shiver in fear when personnel’s of Provincial Armed Constabulary barged into our house and forced us to gather outside of the Hapur road with our hands up in the sky. Before we could understand that was happening, they loaded us in trucks as if cows and sheep’s are being loaded for some sort of a trade. The truck started moving towards Delhi but as it grew dark in the evening, they stopped at Gang canal at Murad Nagar in Ghaziabad, they started pulling us out of the truck and beating us mercilessly. Within minutes one of the shot at a young man among us in his belly and he died on the spot. And then there was indiscriminate firing inside the truck, I was hit by the bullet on my rib. I was presumed dead as my feet slipped into a canal full of blood. Had I not known swimming, I wouldn’t have been alive todayBabuddin
“I have tried again and again in years to come to terms with my memories but it just does not happen," Babuddin off and on breaks down while narrating the story to us.
1987 Hashimpura were one among the many outcomes of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s Gandhi's decision to open the locks of Babri Masjid which got demolished later in 1992. While 1992 witnessed major communal outbursts across the country, the 1987 had set the flame for 1992. After a minor clash between two religious communities in Meerut, PAC rounded up the entire Hashimpura and started a search operation in the homes of Muslims living over there. Following this, the massacre was executed.
Zareena, now seventy, reluctantly recalls the day and calls it brutal, so much so that since that day she claims to have lost faith and trust in anyone. With moist in her eyes and a low tune tells that her son was only 17 years old when he was murdered and his body dumped in the canal.
He was just 17, he had come back after alivida prayers when this incident happened, when he took him away, since then I am waiting for him to come knowing well that he is no more in this worldZareena
Nine men were picked from the house of Zareena and Hajra, they term the otherwise pious considered day as black Friday.
The locals here in Hshimpura allege that the operation was aimed to give a message to the Muslims, the message was they are second class citizens and state can do whatever they want to do with them with absolute impunity.
Nayeem, who also survived the massacre, points out that it happened during the Congress government in Uttar Pradesh, indirectly hinting towards a common perception among Muslims that Congress has resorted to witch hunt of innocent Muslims time and again for their political gains and success.
“ too often we term BJP as a communal party but that is only because we have never tried to understand that it is not just BJP but also Congress which has targeted Muslims and yet call themselves a secular outfit,” explains a politically sound Nayeem.
Recalling the events of that day, Hajra told us the PAC personnel who had come to conduct search operation were behaving like a mob, some of them were dancing and teasing the women in the houses.
“It was as if not the law protectors who had come to our house but dacoits who had barged in forcefully into the house. I can still remember that I how I trembled in fear after looking at their behavior. Since then I don’t trust these men in uniform, I get nervous every time I come across them," she tells.
The Hashimpura massacre brings to forth the difficulties involved in prosecuting police officials who are charged with indulging in crime. The trial in the case which began in 1996 is still pending in the High court of Delhi. In a surprising verdict in 2015, the trial court in Delhi set free all those being accused of the massacre.
Nayeem, a survivor of the massacre, was presented as a witness in the court claimed that it was impossible for them to identify these people after thirty long years.
The demand to identify them was unreasonable, even a layman would understand that after thirty long years identifying someone is not possible. Besides, it was pitch dark when the firing started; we were not in our senses then. How did the court even expect us to identify the perpetrators is beyond our understandingNayeem
Additional Session judge Jindal had said: “I give them the benefit of the doubt to insufficient evidence, particularly on the identification of the accused."
There were total 19 accused, three of them died during the trial.
Human rights lawyer and activist Vrinda Grover, who has been associated with this case as the victims’ lawyer, termed it as rare of the rare among criminal cases. “There was a nexus between the state and those responsible for the crime. Until and unless we contextualise the crime and the state’s role in the crime is not taken into consideration, it is almost difficult to deliver justice in cases like this.” To illustrate her point, she cites the case of Bilkis Bano. “In Bilkis’s case, justice was ensured because the case was contextualised and the court recognised the deliberate delay on the police’s part in registering the FIR.”
“In a similar manner, the court has to recognise the role of the state apparatus in the Hashimpura case and its aftermath, which led to the subversion of the process of justice,” says Grover. “There is a high chance of not just tampering with the evidence but also to discard and eliminate the evidence,” she adds.
She and other legal experts are of the view that a special set of guidelines for investigation should be laid out for the case in which the state is the prime party to communal and custodial killings.
Appellants’ lawyer John, in her appeal, has also requested the Delhi high court for the same.
“Hon’ble court lay down enforceable guidelines for investigation of custodial killings to be mandatory followed by the investigating agencies in the case of such offences,” reads the appeal petition.