Ex-policemen killed 42 Muslims in 1987 communal riots in northern state of Uttar Pradesh
By Shuriah Niazi
NEW DELHI, India
It took the Indian legal system over three decades to convict the perpetrators of the country’s most shocking extra-judicial killings.
After 31 years, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday sentenced 16 former policemen to life in prison for killing 42 Muslims in their custody.
What later began to be referred to as the Hashimpura massacre occurred in 1987 in Meerut city of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
The accused had earlier been acquitted by a trial court but the high court quashed the judgement and convicted them for the killing of unarmed, innocent and defenseless persons.
In their ruling, Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel said the victim families had to wait for years to get justice and the court was conscious of the fact.
Zulfikar Nasir, an eyewitness to the massacre, said: “The victim families did not deter although the government and the police did everything to weaken the case.”
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, he said: “We were picked up when we were fasting. It’s a day I cannot forget. I still remember how we were treated.”
The massacre in May 1987 took place during communal riots in Meerut that continued from March to June that year and claimed nearly 350 lives.
On 19 May, after a brief respite in violence 10 people were killed. The army was called in to control the situation along with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC).
A cinema hall was torched by a mob the very next day killing 22 people. On May 22, allegedly 19 personnel of the PAC picked 45 to 50 Muslims from Hashimpura locality during a search operation, packed them in trucks, took them to the outskirts of the city and shot them dead, dumping their bodies in a nearby canal.
Four of those shot feigned to be dead and escaped. The survivors recounted the horrible tale and lodged a complaint at the local police station.
Babduddin, a survivor, recalls he was 17 years old then.
“I still remember when we were picked up from our house and taken in a truck. Then they started firing on us,” he said.
A few days later, the dead bodies were found floating in the canal and a case for murder was registered.