Couldn’t perform son’s last rites, says father of Hashimpura massacre victim
Babudeen, Zulfikar Nasir, Usmaan, Naeem and Mujib-ur-Rehman know what a miracle looks like. On the night of May 22, 1987, they were left for dead near the Upper Ganga and Hindon canal, after members of the Uttar Pradesh’s Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) rounded men from their village in Hashimpura, Meerut, and shot 38 of them. These five survived.
Accepting the Delhi High court’s verdict on Wednesday, which sentenced 16 former PAC members to life imprisonment for their role in the custodial killings, Babudeen and Zulfikar said, “We waited for these words of justice for 31 years.
We are glad that at least the court found them guilty of killing innocent people and misusing their uniform.”
Recalling the events of 22 May, 1987, Jamaluddin, the father of one of the victims said over 700 male residents of Hashimpura were taken out of their homes that night. While many were sent to jail, a group of over 40 young and middle-aged residents packed into an official truck of the 41st battalion of the PAC led by Platoon Commander Surender Pal Singh, and taken to the bank of Ganga Canal in Muradnagar.
Babudeen, one of the survivors recalled that a group of the PAC personnel began to shoot at them and threw the bodies into the canal. As they started screaming for help, the personnel began to fire indiscriminately. The PAC personnel then drove the truck to Hindon canal in Ghaziabad and disposed of more bodies there, he added.
Babudeen who was 16 at the time, was shot in the chest and thrown into the canal. He was rescued by Ghaziabad policemen, who admitted him to Narendra Mohan hospital. “I am alive only because of the mercy and care of the then SP of Ghaziabad VN Rai and DM Naseem Zaidi.”
Vibhuti Narain Rai, who was the superintendent of police, Ghaziabad at the time, was one of the first policemen to reach the site. His book, Hashimpura 22 May: The Forgotten Story of India’s Biggest Custodial Killings, details the events of that day, and the subsequent investigation. Meerut, at the time, was reeling under communal riots, which had begun in April 1987. The Indian Army and PAC had been called in to maintain peace in the area.
Many in Hashimpura, a Muslim-dominated locality, who lost their kin in the shoot out, were not able to perform the last rites of the victims.
Of the 38 persons killed, only 11 bodies identified, while 22 bodies were not found. One of them was 18-year-old Kamruddin’s. His brother, Riyazuddin said that they were told that Kamruddin’s body had already been buried.
However, the family was not told where. Jamaluddin, his octogenarian father said, “I still have the pain of being deprived of performing my young son’s last rites.”Jamaluddin and Riyazuddin are glad that 31 years later, the Delhi high court eventually pronounced life imprisonment for the “inhuman” PAC personnel. They said had lost hope of getting justice on account of the inordinate delay in the legal battle, which only properly began in 2006, in Delhi’s Tiz Hazari court. In 2015, the lower court acquitted all the accused.
The families of the victims appealed against this order in the Delhi High Court. The National Human Rights Commission also filed an appeal.
Upset over the lower court’s decision, survivor Zulfikar Nasir formed the Hashimpura Insaaf Committee to bring the families of victims and survivors together.