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Riots still haunt victims
By Syed Ubaidur Rahman
It was a well-planned secret operation. None would have ever known it. The unparalleled brutality unleashed on the innocent would have remained a secret forever had the PAC personnel not made a minor mistake on the fateful night of 22 May 1987 in the communally-sensitive district of Meerut.
In mid 1987, another bout of riots ravaged the communally sensitive district which witnessed the unleashing of terror for the sixth time in two decades. It was a major riot and the reports of the time suggest that more than a hundred and fifty people were killed in those riots that later turned out to be complete police brutality unleashed on the unarmed and innocent people. The PAC, deployed in the aftermath of the violence in the troubled city, let loose all its brutality on the innocent inhabitants of Hashimpura, a mohalla of Meerut city and Maliana, a small village some ten kilometers away from Meerut
On 17 May, a small incident that led to unforgettable riots took place in Kainchiyan mohalla under Kotwali Police station of the city. The very next day the riot had spread to Hapur Road and Pilokheri and several other areas of the city. On 19 May curfew was imposed on the whole city and a large contingent of police including 11 PAC companies were deployed in the city and suburbs.
In the initial phase the riots were of simple nature. It was a confrontation between Muslims and Hindus. Both the communities clashed and people of both the communities were killed and injured in these clashes. It also seemed from the outset that more Hindus were killed in the initial phase when both the communities were confronting each other. But later, from 22 May onwards, the riots ceased to be so simple an affair and were given a new face. Police, particularly the infamous Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), allowed itself to favour a particular community and started to fight openly against Muslims in the troubled city. The PAC indulged in large scale arson, looting and burning down Muslim-owned shops in Hashimpura area of the city. They also arrested a large number of people including children and women, tortured them and packed them off to different jails in Agra, Fatehpur, Mainpuri and other districts. A number of people were then picked up by the PAC, dumped in their trucks and taken to the Ganga Canal, where they were shot dead in cold blood by the PAC and thrown into the canal under the cover of darkness. Most of these 32 people, who were shot dead and thrown into the canal, belonged to the Hashimpura. A few days after this unparalleled brutality their corpses were discovered from the Hindon canal.
The real story in Hashimpura goes as follows: on 22 May five trucks of the PAC reached the Surajkund area of Hashimpura in Meerut around 2 PM. There were some other army vehicles also. They started searching Muslim houses. Till 4 PM they continued house searches. More than 400 people of the area were rounded up that sunny afternoon. After sometime they allowed the elderly, children, and women to go home, and ordered about 130 people to board four trucks. They were told that they were being taken to the Police Station (Kotwali) for interrogation. From Hashimpura one of the trucks sped up towards Ghaziabad and stopped near Abupur village around eight in the night. Two dozen young Muslims were shot dead in cold-blood and their bodies were thrown in the nearby canal. The other youths were shot dead at the Hindon canal near Makanpur village in Ghaziabad.
Further, on 23 May, the PAC indulged in arson, looting and burning, this time in Maliana, a village 10 kilometer west of Meerut city. At least 30 people including two children aged four and six years were killed on that day by the PAC. Some of the bodies were secretly disposed off. A lot of other people were tortured in different jails and police stations in and around the city. At least five people died in Meerut jail following severe torture by jail authorities and other jail inmates.
This caused major outburst by Muslim leaders all over India. Other secular forces also came out openly criticizing the pathetic behaviour of the state government. Press also played a major role in unravelling the facts.
The Uttar Pradesh government announced a judicial probe of the Maliana incident in the last week of May. Headed by a retired judge of the Allahabad High Court Justice Srivastava, the commission started its proceedings three months later. The government also ordered an administrative inquiry over the riots that took place from 18-22 May, thus excluding the incidents of Maliana. The panel was headed by Gian Prakash, former comptroller and auditor general of India. The panel was asked to submit its report within thirty days, which it did.
The state government promptly declared the report secret and said that its publication would be injurious to communal amity and public interest. The UP government first tried to freeze the report, but fortunately, a Calcutta based newspaper, The Telegraph, got hold of the report and published it in a series on the front page.
That was in late 1987. Since then the UP government has tried to shield the culprits in all ways possible. The government instead of arresting and punishing the uniformed perpetrators of the crime, has always tried to protect them.
A major recommendation of the Gian Prakash inquiry was to set up special courts to ‘speedily prosecute the guilty.’ But apparently this has never been followed till date.