Hundreds of residents from Muslim-dominated Hashimpura walked next to walls plastered with posters screaming “Qatil Kaun (Who are the killers)?” and offered prayers on Friday in memory of those killed in an alleged communal massacre exactly 28 years ago.
Local residents from this neighbourhood in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut district say police personnel dragged 47 young men out of their homes on May 22, 1987, herded them on a truck to the outskirts where they were shot and the bodies dumped in canals.
However, five of the men survived and exposed the bloody act, they say.
A court in the national capital two months ago acquitted 16 members of the state's Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), offering benefit of doubt to the accused due to lack of sufficient evidence. The Uttar Pradesh government on Friday approached the Delhi high court, challenging the acquittal .
The alleged killings took place at the height of Hindu-Muslim riots in Meerut.
"Four others and I had a miraculous escape in the shooting while 42 others were not so lucky," said Hashimpura resident Zulfikar Nasir.
Nasir was among those who gathered for special prayers in this locality of 700 families, recited the Quran and offered sweets to children, as they resolved to continue their fight for justice.
"It has been a long saga of grief and despair for the entire locality," said Mohammad Naeem, another avowed survivor.
The Samajwadi Party (SP) government alleged there were lapses in the trial court order and it also overlooked the statements of survivors, while the administration announced financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh each to families of those killed in the violence.
Speaking to HT, Uttar Pradesh’s additional advocate general, Zafaryab Jilani, said the appeal was likely to come up for hearing in the Delhi high court next week.
Most Hashimpura residents are weavers and were traditional voters of the Congress, but some have shifted loyalties to the Mulayam Singh Yadav-led SP over the years.
"It was Mulayam who offered Rs 5 lakh as compensation to each victim’s kin when he came to power," said Mohd Arif, a local resident.