Hashimpura Massacre: Who was responsible?

Who and what should be blamed for acquittal of all the 16 accused in the 28-year-old Hashimpura massacre case, in which more than 40 Muslims were killed on 22 May, 1987 by personnel of Uttar Pradesh’s Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC)? It is indeed a sad reflection on the long and winding nature of India’s judicial process, which does not guarantee justice for victims of such communally brutal incidents. Of course, it cannot be ignored that lack of sufficient evidence is adequate reason for the concerned judiciary to declare the accused as non-guilty. At the same time, 28 years is long enough time-period to destroy whatever evidence that may have existed regarding Hashimpura massacre. Even a few days or just a few hours may be sufficient to get rid of the evidence that may have earlier existed regarding involvement of the accused charged for Hashimpura massacre. Nevertheless, irrespective of whether the evidence was deliberately destroyed or not, it is indeed ironical that there prevails insufficient proof regarding who was responsible for Hashimpura-massacre at Meerut (UP).

But then there prevails yet another side to this case. Certain reports that the PAC men accused of Hashimpura-massacre were not suspended from service, were out of prison on bail and serving in their units. For a moment, if it is assumed that these 16 PAC men were not really guilty of the crime that they had been accused of, the question remains who were the real culprits? In the wake of that period being one when communal tension prevailed in the country, there must be some record regarding the policemen on duty from where Muslims were picked up, pushed into a truck, shot at point blank and then taken to Ganga canal, where they were thrown into Hindon river in Ghaziabad. If there exists no record of which trucks were used by PAC and other police personnel, deputed at that time for Hashimpura and identity of these officers, there must at least some record of other policemen  in service during that period in this and other adjoining areas.  

Of course, officers deputed for service in and around Hashimpura cannot be held responsible for having killed 42 Muslims only on ground of their being in service during that particular period and that area. It cannot also be ignored that officers on duty, including PAC and other police personnel, were responsible for maintaining peace in the area. So, how and why, despite their being on duty, did the Hashimpura-massacre take place? They may not be accused of having directly committed the crime. But the blame also needs to be placed on those who deliberately turned a blind eye to Hashimpura-massacre.

Perhaps, it is time that serious attention is paid to such criminal activities taking place despite it being a responsibility of posted personnel to prevent the same from being initiated. At this point, other instances of police choosing to look the other way when area is communally heated by rioters targeting Muslims cannot be ignored. This happened during the Gujarat-carnage. The 16 accused may or may not have been responsible for Hashimpura-massacre. But 42 Muslims could not have been killed by a lone gunman or only a few PAC men.

The hard fact that 28 years have passed by cannot be ignored. It is too late to prove as to which guns were used to shoot at Muslims in Hashimpura-massacre. Perhaps, the bodies were deliberately thrown in the Hindon River to ensure that crime committed is not immediately taken note of. And if this was the case, this only adds intensity to the degree by which legal action regarding Hashimpura case has been deliberately delayed. Shouldn’t some attention be paid to law process having been stretched to a time period long enough to ensure that evidence cannot be procured against whoever was responsible for the massacre?  

This, however, does not guarantee, whoever the accused may be, sufficient ground not to be held responsible for a ghastly massacre having taken place. And if records related to this massacre regarding those posted in this area are not in the required order, then this demands action against whoever was supposed to be responsible for this task. Just as the hard fact that Gujarat-carnage cannot be confined to history, the same may be said about Hashimpura massacre. Sadly, in both cases sufficient attention has not been paid to ensuring compensation for family members of the victims.

Besides, some attention should also be paid to policemen and other personnel being easy with their guns in fake encounters, without waiting for law to take its course, in targeting Muslims merely on suspicion of them being alleged “terrorists.” Till date, it is held by many that the 2008 Batla House encounter was fake, in which innocent Muslim students were targeted as “terrorists.”

The acquittal of the 16 men accused for Hashimpura massacre on ground of being insufficient evidence against them only adds credence to the demand for stricter action against those responsible for targeting Muslims and other innocent persons in fake encounters. 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 April 2015 on page no. 11

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