Families of Hashimpura mass murder victims get justice after 31 years
After 31 years, which included two state ordered probes and a long legal battle, families of about 40 Muslim men who were victims of custodial killings, have received justice.
The Delhi high court on Wednesday convicted 16 former members of the UP Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) for killing 38 innocent and unarmed Muslim men in the Hashimpura area of Meerut city in 1987. Earlier reports had stated that 42 people were killed. However, after carefully perusing all documents on record, the Delhi high court concluded that 38 people were killed. The court sentenced the accused to life imprisonment (the remainder of their lives) and directed them to surrender on or before November 22.
The accused were sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs 10,000 for abduction and kidnapping.
The court also awarded them five years rigorous imprisonment for attempt to murder and three years for disappearing the evidence of offence. A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel held that the deaths were a “targeted killing of persons belonging to one minority community”.
“We are conscious that for the families of those killed, this is perhaps too little, too late. They have had to wait for 31 years for justice. The monetary compensation they have received cannot make up for the lives lost. This case points to the systemic failure that results, not infrequently, in a miscarriage of justice,” the court held, upturning a lower court’s acquittal of the accused in 2015.
The massacre occurred during communal riots in Meerut.
On May 22, 1987, over 40 Muslim men were rounded up by the PAC 41st battalion led by platoon commander Surender Pal Singh (now deceased), packed into an official truck, driven a short distance and shot at. The bodies were thrown in the upper Ganga and Hindon canals. Five survived the shooting. Of the 38 killed, only 11 bodies were recovered.
A charge sheet was filed in a Ghaziabad court in 1996, in which 19 were accused. Upon an appeal by the victims’ families to the Supreme Court, the case was transferred to Delhi’s Tis Hazari court in 2002. Charges against the accused were finally framed in 2006. During the trial, three of the accused died.
“What I respect is the dignity of the victims that they had shown. There was no “tamasha” despite the inordinate delay. While accepting the ways of the system, sometimes they were frustrated but that did not lower their faith in the system,” said senior advocate Rebecca John for the National Human Rights Commission, which filed an appeal after the lower court acquitted the accused in 2015.