The Meerut riots are perhaps the most sordid chapter of police brutality in the history of independent India. But more shameful than this is that even after 26 years, not a single culprit has got punishment. And even more shameful than this is that even till now, nobody knows why and on whose orders Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) jawans performed the dance of death in Maliana and Hashimpura in Uttar Pradesh. Which officer or leader gave the approval for it? Why were those responsible not sent to jail? Is it possible such a major incident happens in a State, and the Government doesn’t get to know the reality even after 26 years? When this orgy of death took place in Meerut, then the entire media in the country was silent. At that time it was ‘Chauthi Duniya’ newspaper which had revealed the truth of Hashimpura to the whole world and till today this newspaper has been bringing new information related to these riots to its readers. In this report we are exposing how an investigation into the riots by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) constitutes a most shameful chapter.
The way the Government has failed to dispense justice in the Meerut riots case is not only shameful, but also extremely painful for the affected families. The CID investigation, at the Government’s bidding, of the Hashimpura riots did not do its work in the right manner. The truth is that this is a blot on the name of the investigation itself. Who did this investigation, why could this investigation not be conducted in the right manner, what was the conclusion of this investigation and why were big offenders and criminals let off? Before delving into this, let’s find out what happened in Hashimpura on that ill-fated day of May 22, 1987.
Riots were taking place in Hashimpura. There was a curfew. People remained inside their homes. At around 2 in the afternoon the Army and the PAC, on the pretext of conducting a search, entered the locality. The jawans of the PAC entered each and every house and asked all the male members to come out. After they had come out, the PAC brought all of them onto the road with their hands raised like criminals. It seemed as if the whole locality had been arrested. The PAC made the elderly and children sit separately and able-bodied men separately. After some time, the elderly and children were allowed to go. At around 8-8:30 at night, a PAC truck arrived. The door at the back of the truck was opened and people present on the road were herded into this truck like sheep and goats. PAC men stood behind the truck with their rifles and then they were made to sit inside the truck. After this the truck started moving. Anybody who wanted to turn and look behind to see where they were going was beaten with batons. The truck kept moving, kept moving for a very long time.
The truck stopped at Gang Nahar (Gang Canal) at Muradnagar. There was complete silence here. The PAC jawans got down. The lights of the truck were switched off and one by one people were asked to climb down from the truck. Whoever came down was shot by PAC jawans and the corpse flung in the canal. One after the other, everybody was being killed. When the people sitting in the truck comprehended this and realised that everyone is going to be killed in the same way, a stampede broke out inside the truck. Seeing this, PAC jawans started firing bullets inside the truck itself. Some people jumped out and attempted to run away, but the PAC jawans shot them while they were trying to flee. The PAC intention was clear: not even a single person was to be left alive. When the PAC thought everybody had been killed and their bodies thrown in the canal, they sat in the truck and left. What the PAC didn’t know was that during the stampede 3 persons had got away. It was those three persons, namely, Zulfiqar, Naeem and Baba who narrated the entire reality to the world.
In Meerut, a tense atmosphere is quite a common occurrence. At that time too because of some minor incidents, the atmosphere was tense. During this period, a couple of people were injured by a PAC vehicle. That became the ‘immediate reason’ for sparking off the Meerut riots. Within 2 days, violence erupted in different parts of Meerut. Because the matter started with a PAC vehicle, the PAC role in the Meerut riots became one of teaching a lesson to Muslims more than that of stopping the riots. News also came that in Hashimpura, the nephew of some BJP leader had died. He was standing on his terrace and got hit by a bullet. People’s belief was that the bullet was fired from the side of the other community. It was the next day that the PAC carried out the slaughter of Hashimpura men. Whether there was any relation between the death of the nephew of the BJP leader and the actions of the PAC is not included in the investigation report. During interrogation all these aspects were not probed.
In the investigation carried out at the Government’s behest, the names of only those people came out who had been in that PAC unit. Several of them have died. Most have retired. Court cases are continuing against them. The unfortunate thing is that from 1987 till today almost 26 years have passed, but the cases have not reached any logical conclusion. The people who were involved didn’t get punishment. They were certainly suspended for sometime, but were again reinstated.
Actually, the interrogation that the CID carried out is the worst example of investigation. The investigation of the riots was conducted in a very inept manner. The Congress Government dealt with this matter in a very light manner. Till now nobody knows on whose orders and according to which plan this most heinous custodial killing in independent India was done. Security forces deployed to contain the riots enter some locality, take men out of the house, make them sit in a truck, take them 50 kms away, shoot them one by one, throw their corpses in a canal and no senior officer even gets any hint of it! This is not something that can be believed.
Making a plan and taking a decision to kill so many people cannot be the work of any junior officer in a security force deployed in an area. A junior officer cannot dare to get something so major executed. An officer of sub-inspector rank can’t have the courage to hatch a plan of killing 40-50 people. This can only mean that the PAC unit deployed in Hashimpura was following the orders of senior officers — those officers who were not themselves present at the scene of the crime. Nor can the doubt be dismissed that those senior officers made the plan of such a big incident and executed it under some political protection. If this was done by senior officers, then why didn’t the former Government mete out punishment to them? After the incident, all those involved from the PAC and the Army should have been arrested. But no such thing happened. The Government gave the responsibility of investigation to the CID and the CID very conveniently targeted junior officers. It didn’t take pains to find out who was behind this incident, the hand of which senior officer or politician was involved.
The astounding fact is this that a senior Muslim police officer was heading the CID team carrying out investigation of the Hashimpura slaughter. It is said that when he summoned senior officers for questioning, they would not come. In this incident, the Army too had a role, but not even 1 Army Officer presented himself before the investigation team. Two senior IPS officers were called for a lie-detector test, but they didn’t come. Even more surprising is the fact that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi himself kept tabs on information about the investigation, yet inspite of this the investigation team conducted a half-hearted investigation. The big and real culprits were saved and all the blame came on those people who were only following the orders of their senior officers. What kind of an investigation is this, in which even a forensic check of the weapons used in the massacre could not be done. Those weapons were proof and evidence, but it is a matter of bewilderment that within a few days of the incident those weapons were returned to the PAC and permission to use them again was given.
According to Police Superintendent V.N. Rai, posted in Ghaziabad at that time, identification of the real culprits of Hashimpura could not be done and no one was sentenced because there was lack of will power in the Government. If it would have had will power, then everything would have become known. V. N. Rai did quite a lot of research on the Hashimpura massacre and is aware of all the aspects. He is also writing a book on Hashimpura. He says that at the Centre and in the State, a Congress Government was there at that time and amongst the top leaders there was no communal disaffection, but one section of the Congress party wanted to cover up the matter. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and former Chief Minister Vir Bahadur Singh had other priorities, because of which the culprits got away. Recalling the riots, Rai says that it was one such period in which the communal face of the media was also seen. A national newspaper was the first to receive news of Hashimpura. In that newspaper, there were several ‘big’ veteran journalists, but even after getting complete information, they didn’t have the courage to publish it in the paper. They say that ‘Chauthi Duniya’ newspaper was the first to show courage and place the entire story of the riots before the world. After that, the ‘Asian Age’ newspaper lifted the news from ‘Chauthi Duniya’ and published it.
The matter of Hashimpura first reached the Ghaziabad court. Here the case continued to crawl. Then Iqbal Ansari took up this matter and appealed in the Supreme Court and was successful in getting the case transferred to Delhi, because of which its pace quickened. But, here too various kinds of hindrances cropped up. A dispute arose over the appointment of the public prosecutor, with many people saying that his appointed was done through wrong means. The witnesses who were supposed to come to court didn’t come. Witnesses from the Army didn’t even reach the court till the very end. Somehow or the other the court hearings continued. Presently, the matter of Hashimpura is in the final stages. It can be hoped that a decision in this matter will come in 3-4 months.
If the meaning of justice delayed is justice denied, then we can say that injustice has been done to the Muslims of Meerut. The most painful tale of these riots was written in Maliana and Hashimpura. The crime of those in khaki uniform reminds one of the Nazi army of Hitler. Even the soul shivers hearing the truth of Maliana and Hashimpura. This is such an unbelievable black mark on the law and order system of the country. The culprits who fired bullets on unarmed and innocent people are roaming around freely and those who have lost a part of their souls are stumbling from here to there.
Maliana: No Hope Of Getting Justice
During the 1983 riots of Meerut, Maliana remained calm. Here Hindus- Muslims have always stayed together, but in 1987 a rumour suddenly spread that arrests will be made in Maliana. The rumour proved to be true when police-PAC surrounded the whole village at around 11 and in the name of conducting searches, took people out of their homes. PAC jawans started firing bullets. The firing lasted for 3 continuous hours. Police-PAC and rioters first looted the house of Sattar, son of Mohammad Ali. To spread terror, the police set fire to a house. With the house, 6 members of the family living in it were also burnt to ashes. Before everyone’s eyes, 100-125 houses of Maliana village were torched. Around 73 people were killed, although Government figures mention a much lesser number. Apart from people of nearby places, there were rioters from outside as well. Immediately after the incident Mohammad Yakub filed an FIR in the police station. He thought that at least the rioters should get punished by law, those police-PAC personnel who have taken the lives of innocent people, they should get punishment. But he didn’t know that a wound deeper than that of the riots was going to be inflicted in the struggle to get justice.
In the Maliana riots, an FIR (First Information Report) was filed against 93 people and 75 people were made witnesses. Today so many years have passed, but till now no action has been taken in this matter. After 20 years of the incident, summons came from court that hearing of this case is going to take place. The people of Maliana reached court, hired a lawyer. Whatever they could do, they did. On the first day itself, the lawyer of the opposing side said that in this case there is no FIR. Till there is a certified copy of an FIR, till then the case cannot go on. Upon that, the Judge questioned where the FIR was. This should have been the responsibility of the police, but the police raised its hands helplessly.
Then the people of Maliana went to the police station and asked for a copy of the FIR filed on May 23, 1987. The SHO said we don’t have it. We only keep records of 5 years. We submit all documents in court and get it signed. Now neither do we have any record and nor can we tell anything. It is really unfortunate that till now nothing could be found out about that FIR. However, the Judge gave permission for testimony without an FIR. It was a fast –track court, so every week there was a hearing, but for 1 year the testimony of only 1 person kept happening. Then after 1 year another person’s testimony was presented. If the testimony continues to be presented in this manner, then by the time a decision comes 75 years will have passed. 25 such years have already passed. Till then neither will any culprit survive and nor any witness. The matter was then transferred from the fast-track court to another court. Here again the same question arose : where is the FIR? And the Judge clearly said that without an FIR, hearing will not take place. The matter was put in ‘pending’. Neither has a copy of the FIR been found and nor is any hearing of the case taking place.
The media of the country knows the reality of the Meerut riots, political parties that have become secular for the sake of
Muslim votes know it, social workers bragging about fighting for riots know it, the police knows it, the administration knows it, the State Government knows it, the Central Government knows it, but everybody is silent. No one is there to bring justice to the Muslims of Maliana. In the case of Hashimpura at least a hearing took place and there is hope of a decision in some months from now. But for the people of Maliana, even the hope of getting justice has ended.