More than three decades ago a barbaric act took place – one that remains widely unknown to the people of India. On May 22, 1987, 42 innocent Muslims living peacefully in the Hashimpura locality of Meerut city of Uttar Pradesh were killed in cold blood allegedly by personnel of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC).
As per reports, about 45 Muslim men from Hashimpura were rounded up and taken in a PAC truck. Forty-two of these men were killed in two massacres in the nearby Ghaziabad district. One of these massacres took place along the upper Ganga canal near Mudranagar and the other one along the Hindon canal in Makanpur, at Delhi border. These mass killings have since been known as Hashimpura massacre.
Incidentally, it was the time when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India. In the seat of the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh was Vir Bahadur Singh, another Congress leader.
Initially, in 1996, a full nine years after the incident, Uttar Pradesh’s Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) had filed a charge-sheet against 19 policemen. Three of these policemen died during the trial. Later, in 2002, the case was transferred from Ghaziabad’s court to Delhi by the Supreme Court after families of victims filed a petition. But the charges were framed only four years later in 2006.
Eventually, almost three decades after the killings, in 2015, a trial court in Delhi gave “benefit of doubt” to 16 policemen accused in the case and acquitted them. The court cited “want of sufficient evidence regarding their identity” as the reason behind acquittal of the accused. The verdict came as a shock to the families of the victims.
A 2015 report from NDTV quotes Zulfikar, a survivor of the killings, recounting the horrific incident:
“Two people died before me. I was hit as well but the bullet hit me in the arm pit. I fell and pretended to be dead. They threw me in the canal with other bodies, from where I escaped.”
Zulfikar was only 15 years old at the time and alleged that everyone was shot in cold blood by the police. Angry over the verdict of the court, he asks, “Did no one kill 42 men in 1987?”
In an article about the massacre, Vibhuti Narayan Rai, the then superintendent of police, Ghaziabad, U.P., wrote:
“There are some experiences that stick with you throughout your life. They always stay with you like a nightmare and sometimes are like debts on your shoulders. The experience at Hashimpura Massacre was such an experience for me.”
In fact it was Rai’s book, ‘Hashimpura 22 May’ (Penguin 2016), which brought to surface the chilling story of that day in 1987. On that day it was he who had helped those who survived the alleged massacre.
He was the one who had filed the first FIR in the case and was extremely disappointed by the court’s verdict. Rai condemned probe agency for the dismissal of the accused which according to him was the outcome of a “shoddy probe”.