- Subhash Gatade
Wait for justice to victims of Hashimpura has become much longer.
After around 28 years of the gruesome massacre allegedly by the personnel of the much feared PAC ( Provincial Armed Constabulary) for its biased approach , the Delhi court acquitted all 16 accused on ‘benefit of doubt due to insufficient evidence, particularly on the identification of the accused’.
There have been very few massacres in post-independent India which have shaken the civil society to the core and have propelled it to come forward and raise its voice. And the Hashimpura killings happen to be one such episode. One still remembers the words of the well-known journalist Nikhil Chakravarty who had visited the place along with few likeminded individuals and in his scathing write-up condemning the incident had compared the event with
“Nazi Pogrom against the Jews, to strike terror and nothing but terror in a whole minority Community”.
In fact, inquiry reports by organisations like the People’s Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL) and the People’s Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR) had clearly revealed that it was a case of barbaric cold-blooded murder by the PAC personnel. And forget public intellectuals or even reports by various civil liberty organisations, even the 1994 confidential report of the CBI had thrown light on the sordid saga.
“On 22nd May 1987 around 8.0 pm. they herded 40-42 ‘rioters’ in PAC Truck No. UR 1493 at Hashimpura overtly for taking them to Meerut Civil Lines or Police Lines. However, the Platoon Commander S.P.Singh drove to the Upper Ganga Canal Muradnagar(Ghaziabad) ignoring their protests. On reaching there they started to unceremoniously shooting them down. When a few tried to escape they were shot down on the spot and their bodies were cast into the Canal. Rest of them were taken to the Hindon canal and there the sordid show was reenacted . ‘’
But as the survivors of this case and their silent supporters are trying to pick up pieces from the decision of the courts’ and have expressed their resolve to continue their fight for justice, perhaps all these words provide no consolation.
The day after the judgement one could witness anger on the streets of Hashimpura and many protesters even raised black flags on their houses and also took out a procession. One of the survivors of this incident even expressed his disillusionment with the words that ‘Muslims can never get justice in this country.’
Looking back the massacre also happens to be a case where one finds all the mainstream political parties which ruled UP during this period of 28 years colluded in one way or the other to save the perpetrators and thwart the process of justice. You name a party and you can discover the sinister pattern of connivance between the different actors in the state – ranging from the polity to the executive.
It has been repeated umpteen times but one can once again take a recap of how the incident unfolded before us.
It was a period when the Hindutva Supremacists had started their mobilisation around Babri Mosque. During that period there was a communal conflagration at Meerut (Hashimpura comes under this district) there 28 years ago when the Congress ruled both in the State and the centre. Both Police and PAC pickets were posted there to bring the situation under control when the incident was executed.
Vibhuti Narayan Rai, who happened to be Superintendent of Police, Ghaziabad, UP then, has written in detail about how the whole incident came to light.
Babbudin told us that when that day during the regular checking around 50 people were made to sit in the P.A.C. 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 P.A.C. leapt down from the truck and ordered them to get down from the truck.Only half the people had hardly got off when the P.A.C. started firing on them. The people still on the truck took cover. Babbudin was one of them… The P.A.C. people again got on the truck. The truck reversed and again sped off towards Ghaziabad. Here it came to the Makanpur stream and the P.A.C. 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.
When there was uproar in a section of the media and opposition parties raised their voices, the State Govt. initiated enquiries and had also the incident looked into by the CID. But this internal investigation was completed only in 1993 -six years later. Its Findings came one year later. As if this delay was not enough it was further compounded by procrastination in implementing the action recommended. Orders in the matter were issued only in 1995 and 1997.Even in this Order action was recommended only against 19 officials as against 66 recommended in the CID Report. Interestingly there was no compliance of the court’s summoning order followed by bail able warrants six times and non-bail able warrants 17 times between January 1997 and April 2000. Although all of them were in active service then, they were declared as ‘absconders’ by the government.
When the matter ultimately came before the trial courts the accused started “exerting pressure and influence” to stall the proceedings in Ghaziabad which prompted the Hashimpura Advisory Committee to approach the Supreme Courts for transfer of case to a court in Delhi. It is a different matter that despite transfer (2002) it took four more years for framing of charges since there was lack of will on the part of the UP government to promptly appoint competent Special Public Prosecutor in transferred cases
Even after transfer of cases to the Delhi courts doubts were raised about convicting the guilty. This was because of the fact that many eyewitnesses of the whole incident were long dead and while the killers of the Muslims were openly moving about, the few surviving witnesses lived constantly in danger to their life.
With this judgement of the courts the fears have come true.
It is indeed galling to find that, even more than sixty five years after the formation of Indian Republic Hashimpura is not an exception. It is not just a synonym for massacre. It is a tendency. There is nothing new in such massacres which are well thought-out handiwork of those at the helm of power and capital for their political and economic objectives .In the event the Constitution becomes a Parody. The rules made under the Constitution only sub serve their interest.
There are very many ways in which India is presented and projected to the outside world. For some it happens to be the biggest democracy in the world, while for others it is one of the fastest growing economies of the world, which has now ‘arrived’. But rarely does anyone talks about its being a ‘land of mass crimes’ where the perpetrators of such crimes have always gone unpunished.. And the targets of such mass crimes are – mainly the religious minorities or people on the lowest rung of social matrix or the toiling masses of the country.
The scenario needs to be drastically changed if India wants to emerge as humane society.
An important component to make it happen is that all the justice and peace loving people and formations compel the Indian government to formulate suitable domestic legislation to comply with international legal norms as far as UN Convention on Genocide is concerned. It need be underlined here that India has signed the said convention way back in 1959 but there is still absence of suitable domestic legislation to not only prevent and punish genocide, but also designate a tribunal for the trial of those charged under the same act which has created a strange situation where the ability of the Indian criminal justice system to dispense justice – when it comes to mass crimes – seems to be in grave doubt.
It is worth emphasising that the said Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (in article 2) defines genocide as:
…any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
One can easily gather that if genuine democracy loving persons are able to overwhelm the powers that be on this issue, we can easily do away with the stigma of covering up of mass crimes or metamorphosis of riot organisers or murderers into respectable politicians.
Lastly, Hashimpura reminds us about a rhetorical query by second century Roman Satirist Decimus Junius Juvenals wherein he asked ‘Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes’? (Who will guard the guards themselves ?)