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I Would Have Sentenced Rajiv and Veer Bahadur to Death

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By Ilyas Azmi

As the news of the release of the perpetrators of Hashimpura mass murder became public, the scenes of 28 years ago started replaying in the minds of many people like me. It was merely three years after the departure of the British Raj that the shrewdest of the shrewd, Jawahar Lal Nehru, had, by making it a legal requirement for a Dalit to be a Hindu to avail of the provision of reservation guaranteed by the secular spirit of the Constitution, buried it so deep that he left no chance ever for it to come out of its grave.

Having been active in every national and popular movement launched in the country after the British had departed, I have the privilege to be an eyewitness to most of the incidents that happened then. The 1987 Meerut riot was one of those thousands of riots the foundation of which had been laid by Rajiv Gandhi on 1 February, 1986 by getting the lock of Babri Masjid opened.

On the pretext of Gomti river flood, Rajiv Gandhi went to Lucknow. There he removed the Chief Minister Narayan Dut Tiwari and replaced him with Veer Bahadur Singh. This is now no secret that Veer Bahadur Singh was contracted as Chief Minister with a certain task to perform. Only a few days later, Chairman of Waqf Board, Farhat Ali, was called from Allahabad to Lucknow. Veer Bahadur Singh pressurised him and tried to bribe him with the promise of making him India’s ambassador to the US on condition that Waqf Board [relinquished its claim to and] handed over the Babri Masjid [to the government]. But Farhat Ali was neither a religious professional nor a political leader who could have succumbed to the offer. What was said to him during the next three days, Farhat Ali had then narrated to me word by word.

Having failed the ‘Mission Waqf Board’, Rajiv Gandhi immediately sent a known Supreme Court judge to Faizabad and got the district judge, Krishna Mohan Panday, to agree to get the mosque lock opened through a court order. This should be borne in mind that [as his reward] the said judge of the Supreme Court never retired from service and continued acting as the chairman of one or the other commission until his last breath.

The 1987 Meerut riot, during Ramadan, was part of a series of several such riots that had broken out in different parts of the country after the reopening of Babri Masjid [for Hindu worship]. As per Congress tradition, Veer Bahadur Singh had hosted an iftar party at his residence and from Meerut he went straight to the iftar party. There, during the party, Veer Bahadur Singh’s PA informed him of two phone calls from Delhi which he ignored. While food was being served and Veer Bahadur Singh had hardly taken a bite, his PA told him that the Prime Minister was on the line.

Veer Bahadur Singh stood up and within moments, without even seeing off the guests, left for the airport. In Delhi, Rajiv Gandhi told Veer Bahadur Singh that the Muslims in Hashimpura and Imlian had become so rebellious that during the curfew they did not let the police enter in these areas and “this cannot be tolerated.”

Veer Bahadur Singh informed the Prime Minister that peace had been restored in Meerut. Yet, as ordered by the Prime Minister, next day he reached Meerut. There he met the commanders of different battalions of PAC. All of them told him that the PAC had already gained notoriety and since peace had returned to the city, nothing else could [or should] be done. However, the commander of 41 Battalion of PAC in Ghaziabad was willing to obey the orders. Therefore, he was given instructions in private.

Veer Bahadur Singh spoke Bhojpuri and used to stammer. The commander mistook Imlian for Maliana. Maliana is a village on the outskirts of the city around which temporary residential colonies had come up. During the riots not a single person was hurt here. But due to Veer Bahadur’s stammer the wrath that was to befall on Imlian moved to Maliana.

On 22 May, 1987, it was not only Hashimpura that witnessed massacre. During the day a company of PAC entered Maliana village and opened fire blindly, killing 62 people. Virender Sengar of weekly Chauthi Dunya happened to be in Maliana at the time. From there he reached Delhi and gave an eyewitness account to late Javed Habib. Javed Habib called for me. By the time I reached Zakir Nagar, Virender Sengar had left for somewhere else. Javed Habib narrated the story to me on the basis of which I wrote an article and through the help of some of my people in Bombay got that published in daily Inquilab.

One part of 41 battalion of PAC was sent to Maliana and another to Hashimpura. In Hashimpura a large number of residents were taken into custody and were kept in four different police stations. What happened to them and how they were treated there was similar to what I had been witnessing in Maunath Bhanjan and other places for years. In the evening, out of them 43 young men were selected and herded in four trucks. The destination of these trucks had already been decided. They were unloaded on the banks of Gang canal and Hindon river and shot. While their dead bodies were being thrown in the river, the latch of the back of one of the trucks was opened. The kidnapped youths therein jumped out together and tried to escape. PAC men showered them with bullets. Five of them were injured. They managed to jump into the river or were thrown into it by PAC men taking them for dead. On the banks of the river there are large member of villages of Muslims. One of the injured, named Zulfiqar, managed to reach one of those villages. The villagers took him to Delhi the same night. Another villager fished out four of the wounded and took them to Ghaziabad police station.

At that time Vibhuti Narain Rai was senior superintend (SSP) of police in Ghaziabad. He recorded their verbatim statements in police diary and got them hospitalised. On the other hand, at that moment Veer Bahadur Singh was asleep in UP Niwas in Delhi. He was woken up at 4 am and was informed that VN Rai had registered everything in police record. “Ei to gajab hoi gawa; Ei to gajab hoi gawa” [This is a disaster, this is a disaster] he screamed and ran towards his car barefoot. He reached Ghaziabad and suspended VN Rai and ordered heavy police vigilance around the hospital where the wounded were admitted so that no one could meet them.

In those days a bridge was being built on Highway No 24 in Masuri and due to that scaffoldings had been erected over the canal. Some of the bodies that came floating there got entangled in these scaffoldings. The residents of Masuri took these bodies out and performed their last rites. Perhaps when they had already buried them the news of it became public.

Later, after a long period, a magisterial inquiry was initiated. Uttar Pradesh has seen long spells of rule by Mulayam Singh Yadav and, later his son. Most of the 19 accused PAC men being from the ruling Yadav caste, the case was allowed to drift. During this long period, the state government had jumped out of the frying pan of ‘secularism’ into the fire of ‘socialism.’ The important thing is that the ‘socialism’ of Uttar Pradesh was ‘secular’ too, i.e.. karela woh bhi neem chadha [to make the matters worse].

The socialism of Uttar Pradesh is the rarest in the world and perhaps is the eighth wonder of the world. In this, no party rules but the Government is of a particular family and particular caste and no rule of law applies to it. If a large number of 19 accused of Hashimpura massacre belonged to the ruling caste, could any Government then dare plead its own case? Could it dare present evidences and witnesses in a court of law?

In Uttar Pradesh the fate of Congress Party got buried under the rubble of Babri Masjid. The martyrs of Hashimpura and Maliana were a big nail in its coffin.

 Congress, BJP, BSP and Samajwadi Party have some understanding among themselves on how to harm Muslims. The effortless election of Dimple Yadav from Kannauj is such a solid proof of what I am saying that after this only a mad person would ask for a proof.

The biggest truth of this tragedy is that Rajiv Gandhi had appointed Veer Bahadur Singh as a contract chief minister in order to make him perform a dirty job. Whenever Veer Bahadur’s conscience troubled him he used to open his heart to his friend Jai Parkash Shahi, a reporter who used the information for his exclusive reports. Congress high command realised that all these secrets were being given to Jai Prakash by Veer Bahadur Singh, as there was no other source that would have known the secrets discussed between the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister. As soon as the contracted assignments were accomplished, Veer Bahadur Singh was replaced with Narayan Dutt Tiwari. A few days later Veer Bahadur Singh was found dead in a hotel in Europe and soon Jai Prakash Shahi also died in a mysterious road accident. Are these mere coincidences?  The main accused of Maliana and Hashimpura were not even suspended from their posts on the basis of those exposures.  If I was the judge I would have still given them a few years in prison and would have tried Veer Bahadur Singh and Rajiv Gandhi, the real killers, and awarded them death sentences.(Translated and slightly abridged from daily Sahafat, Delhi, 9 April 2015, by urdumediamonitor.com)

Ilyas Azmi is a former Member of Parliament
and a leader of Aam Aadmi Party

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

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