After waiting 28 years for justice, families of the Hashimpura massacre victims are left disappointed and distraught at a Delhi court’s acquittal of all 16 PAC officials accused of shooting their kinfolk in cold blood on the night of May 22, 1987.
“We are disappointed as justice has been denied to us. I could not identify them before the court as they were wearing helmets. Also, two decades have passed since the incident. Only because of this one mistake, the verdict has been passed against us even though all other evidence was against them,” said Babuddin, a survivor and eyewitnesses to the crime.
Victims’ families, who were present in the court at the time of the pronouncement of the judgement, expressed disappointment over the verdict and termed it “unfortunate” and a “denial of justice”.
Two other survivors and eyewitnesses - Usman and Mujibur Rehman - also expressed disappointment over the verdict.
The victims’ advocate Rebecca John told HT that the verdict was “an appalling failure of the criminal justice system”.
“This was a brutal and heinous crime. Forty-two men died, 42 families were broken. They waited 28 years for justice and now we can’t even tell them who killed their children? As counsel for the complainant I’m shocked we still get verdicts like this,” she said.
The prosecution underscored though the accused have been acquitted in the case, there was no doubt about the occurrence of the incident in which 42 persons from the Muslim community were killed in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut in May 1987.
“The fact the court referred the case to the Delhi Legal Service Authority for rehabilitation of the victims shows that the incident is not in doubt, said special public prosecutor Satish Tamta. “I will submit my report. It is for the government to decide the further course of action as to whether the state wants to file an appeal in the matter,” he added.
The accused and their families, however, said they were relieved and welcomed the acquittal.
“I am satisfied justice is finally done. We faced trial for the last 28 years. During this period I failed to do anything for my family and children. I was a head constable at the time of the alleged incident. I am going to retire soon and I am still a head constable,” said 59-year-old Niranjan, one of the accused.
Another acquitted accused expressed similar views saying, “We had to face such a long trial. That itself was a punishment despite the fact that I was not even present on the spot at the time of the incident. However, I am happy that the court finally did justice to us.”
According to the prosecution, Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel had come to village Hashimpura in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut district on May 22, 1987, and picked up about 50 Muslims as a congregation of 500 had gathered outside a mosque.
The victims were shot by the accused personnel and their bodies thrown into a canal, it had said, adding 42 persons were declared to have perished in the massacre.
Ninteen people were named as accused and charges for offences of murder, attempt to murder, tampering with evidence and conspiracy were framed against 17 of them by the Delhi court in 2006 after the case was transferred to Delhi on a Supreme Court direction in September 2002. Three accused have since died.