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Meerut revisited - ii

Life has been unimaginably tough for the survivors of the dreaded 1987 riots in Meerut. Though it is 15 years when all the massacre and rioting happened and left more than four thousand people dead and thousands others with no hearth or home and none to take care of them, wounds are still afresh in their memories. S Ubaidur Rahman finds out.

Talking to people affected during those ghastly days is a frustrating experience. For, their best forgotten experiences and horrendous tales left anyone glib-less, searching for an excuse to wrap up the conversation that just not dwell as to how they suffered tortures, injuries, devastation and killings of their own flesh but also how miserably they were left to fend for themselves in such a communally charged atmosphere. And to top it all the whole establishment looked the other way when these godforsaken people suffered from frustration over denial of justice and slightest effort to get them rehabilitated. 

The people affected during those days sometimes refused to open up themselves for any questioning on their experiences saying it was useless to talk on those days now. There were others who pleaded not to be asked about their sons, fathers, wives and other relatives who were murdered by not only rampaging goons but also the people who are themselves assigned duties to defend their lives, the security men. 

Zulfiqar Nasir, a 15-year-old youth who was nearly killed by the PAC personnel along with fifty people who were butchered by them says that the mere mention of their names gives him sleepless nights. The people who were butchered by the PAC demons were not looting any property or killing anyone. They were in the confines of their houses in Hashimpura locality in the middle of the city when the PAC cordoned off the area and picked Muslim men from three out of four lanes of Hashimpura. They left the fourth one intact as it was inhabited by Hindu families. From these three lanes men in their seventies to as low as 10 and fifteen were towed away and then drove in four waiting trucks. Though only one truck was traced due to the chance survival of Nasir, three others remained traceless.

Nasir says that all those people were taken to Hindon canal near Murad Nagar and then lined by those PAC personnel. These people were then fired from pointblank and killed. Nasir says that it is just by chance that he survived as they had checked all the people fired at the place and anyone found alive was again fired at. Nasir who was just a 15-year-old youth says that then they dumped all of them in the nearby Hindon canal.

This massacre might have gone unreported had Nasir not survived. Nasir says that though he received multiple fire injuries from a close range but it was sheer Allah’s act that he survived. He says that it was a mere chance that he was conscious of what was happening and by another God-given chance he was able to get hold of a bush on the bank of the river. ‘ I then hid inside that bush while the blood was streaming out of my body like a water tap. Pain was as severe as death might be. But I was just able to hide myself. Otherwise they were there till they ensured that the water has carried them to a safe distance.’ 

‘Now it looks like I spent a whole eternity hiding inside those shrubs’ recollects Nasir. ‘I came out of the hiding only when I ensured that they had left the place believing that no trace of their massacre was left’ he remembers.’ These bodies were later traced near another bridge on the Hindon river and then fished out. 

The whole affair might have gone unreported had Nasir not survived to tell the story to the world. But then too nothing has been done to help either the families of those people killed so mercilessly or to punish those beasts who perpetrated it. 

Miserable are the lives of those who were left without their husbands and sons. They still remember them day and night. They have reasons too. They were the only earning members in their families, and their deaths have left these people’s lives unsettled for generations to come. Hajira whose husband and son were among the victims of the massacre has never been in her senses since she lost her life mate and son. ‘mere liiye duniya usi din khatam ho gayee thi jis din unko police pakad ke le gayee thi’ (life for me ceased to be anything when they were taken away from the house), she says. 

Her relatives say that they have not seen a trace of happiness in her eyes since then. She fears to step out of the house, they add. It is not the fate of just hers but scores of other women who are suffering from more or less similar fate. 

There are several Hajiras in the vicinity says Ghufran Alam, now a middle ranking BSP leader. He too suffered enormously. He adds that nothing has ever been done to redress their grievances. Compensation announced by the government has eluded most of the victims. And justice has been made a thing to laugh at. 

Rashk-e-Jahan, whose name means envy of the whole world lost her husband who was killed by the PAC men at the bank of Hindon canal. She is alone in the whole world with no one to support her. The septuagenarian lady still wails day and night remembering her husband, say her neighbours. 

This correspondent also came in contact with people who were taken to other places by the PAC on similar missions. Ghufran, a young boy of almost 18 years at the time of riots says that he was carried by the PAC personnel to Fatehgarh prison. He says that there were almost fifty men on the same vehicle that carried him to the prison. Though these people were not killed like what happened to other victims near Hindon river, the jail authorities incited the Hindu prisoners and security personnel posted there to attack these people. Ghufran says that other Muslim prisoners who were there were sent on daily work at fields, to allow the security men and other prisoners to attack them. He claims that scores of men were killed there too. A large number of others sustained grievous injuries. He too was severely injured. But it was he who managed to bring back those people from there to Meerut. 

Sixty six PAC personnel were held responsible for the pogrom at Hindon river. But apparently no case was initiated against them. Frustration is the expression on every face. Denial of justice is the worst thing done to us says Ghufran. He says that though thousands of people were killed and PAC people were directly indicted in the barbaric Hindon killing of Hashimpura residents nothing has been done to them. When told that there were proceedings continuing against 17 people, he says that these people are just the lowest rung people there, many of whom working as safai karamcharis with no obvious roles in those acts. But even those people are roaming scot-free. Despite the court ordering confiscation of their properties, no action has been taken by the government, he says ruefully.

Cases are continuing in different courts but without any aim to punish the people involved in worst communal riots and communal killings in the country' says Haji Yaqub, a former deputy mayor of Meerut Municipal Corporation and senior Bahujan Samaj Party leader. He says that the apathetic behavior shown to Muslims and their treatment by the government and the media following the riots in the city has left a deep scar in their hearts. 

Yaqub is among the few people who have been relentlessly assisting Maulana Yamin with money to pursue the riots cases from session courts to high court and Supreme Court. There are others too who have been assisting with small amounts in pursuance of cases. Though 15 long years have gone with no trace of justice, these people are giving spirited fight in pursuit of justice.

'I was merely 15 when they took me along with others to kill at Hindon rivers. Now even 15 years later I still feel the shrieks of people being killed by those demons in the uniform of PAC. It is just not possible to forget those moments. The eluding justice might have disheartened me, but I have not lost my faith in the court of law. Justice will be delivered sooner or later.' Says Nasir.

But others are not so optimistic about that. 'Law and judiciary have been sleeping all these years. Why it fails to give justice to Muslims whenever they face similar situations.' says an aggrieved Hajira. 'It is just farce. It has failed to come to our rescue.' says another old lady who lost her son at the hands of PAC personnel. 

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