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Thursday, May 22, 2014

22 मई 1987, मेरठ के हाशिमपूरा मोहल्ले से PAC के जवानो नें 42 मुस्लिम नौजवानों को अगवा किया व बाद में गोलियों से भुन कर नहर में डाल दिया। मई 2000 में इन जवानों ने आत्मसमर्पण किया पर जमानत पर छोड दिये गये। वर्तमान में ये केस दिल्ली की तीसहजारी अदालत में लंबित है। एक RTI के अनुसार इन जवानों को कभी भी सेवा से निष्कासित नहीं किया गया था व इनकी सर्विस फाईल में भी कहीं इस घटना का जिक्र नहीं है।

22 मई 1987, मेरठ के हाशिमपूरा मोहल्ले से PAC के जवानो नें 42 मुस्लिम नौजवानों को अगवा किया व बाद में गोलियों से भुन कर नहर में डाल दिया। मई 2000 में इन जवानों ने आत्मसमर्पण किया पर जमानत पर छोड दिये गये। वर्तमान में ये केस दिल्ली की तीसहजारी अदालत में लंबित है। एक RTI के अनुसार इन जवानों को कभी भी सेवा से निष्कासित नहीं किया गया था व इनकी सर्विस फाईल में भी कहीं इस घटना का जिक्र नहीं है।

By Darshan Desai

A media frenzy next year will mark the 10th anniversary of the horrifying Gujarat riots. But few will remember that 2012 will also mark 25 years after the shocking Hashimpura massacre in which a reserve force of the UP police rounded up 42 people and allegedly shot at them with impunity. After 23 years of research and investigation, former SP Vibhuti Narain Rai’s forthcoming book will for the first time tell the complete story
[IMG]/images/stories/hashimpura_massacre.jpg[/IMG]At a programme commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Hashimpura massacre
A  little over six months from now, the media will be bracing for a ritual that  one could easily describe as ‘anniversary journalism’. By the calendar, 2012 will  herald the 10th anniversary of the Gujarat  riots and 10 years of Narendra Modi in office -- both obviously don’t need any  introduction. Newsrooms of 24x7 TV channels, newspapers, magazines, and now  websites, will be agog with discussions and brain-storming sessions on how to  handle the anniversary. Intellectuals, activists, NGOs will plan  demonstrations, hog websites/edit pages with comment pieces, and organise  seminars across the country. It will also be election year in Gujarat, but that  may not be newsworthy as Narendra Modi will more than match Sheila Dixit for a  third successive run as chief minister of Gujarat,  unless the BJP decides to pitch him at the national level.

Between  all the hype and the hoopla, another anniversary -- and a longer one in timespan  -- will struggle for print space and time slot. The 1987 massacre of Muslims in  Uttar Pradesh, arguably shouting distance from New Delhi, where 42 people were  summarily picked up from Hashimpura town near Ghaziabad -- dotted at present  with flashy malls and multiplexes -- and killed one by one at almost  point-blank range by a group from the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), a  reserve force of the Uttar Pradesh police.

The  two killing sites, by the side of water canals leading to Delhi, on the night of May 22/23, 1987 may be  smaller in spread and toll, but were arguably worse than Gujarat 2002 in their  intensity, ferocity and impunity. In Gujarat,  the police turned a blind eye to marauders; here, a special arm of the police  planned and executed the murders. And how! Muslims were thrown out of a PAC  truck like gunny bags and, as they fell, were showered with bullets until they  died.

All  this happened against the backdrop of communal violence in neighbouring Meerut district that had started  four days earlier, on May 18. Meerut  has a long history of communal violence. Even before Independence,  this and the surrounding districts of Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, Panipat and Karnal were  fortresses of the Muslim League and Arya Samaj. Soon after Partition, a large  number of refugees settled in Meerut.  The district emerged as a key centre of electoral politics for the Jan Sangh  and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The  ’70s saw regular communal riots in Meerut;  it was in this decade that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) came into existence.  This paved the way for the emergence of a new trend of communal polarisation  across the country, which was more pronounced in Uttar Pradesh. The Ram  Janmabhoomi movement -- the key programme of the VHP -- hopelessly polarised the  Indian middle class. By 1985, the programme had gathered aggressive momentum  and rath yatras were being taken out across virtually every nook and cranny of  the country. During the yatras, riots occurred in areas and villages of Uttar  Pradesh that had been insulated from them even during Partition.

Meerut continued to witness riots at  regular intervals through the ’80s. The May 22/23, 1987 Hashimpura massacre was  thus an intrinsic part of a heinous project that began in the ’70s and  continued through the ’80s and into the following years till Gujarat 2002. The  polarisation process did not spare even the government machinery and police  force.  

So,  in 2012, it will also be 25 years of India’s  most horrifying custodial killings since Independence.  But, while it may not get the same media space as 10 years of Gujarat, a book coming  out around the same time, by a senior UP IPS officer who was then a  superintendent of police, will not only retell the story of the Hashimpura  pogrom, it will reveal for the first time why it happened and who instigated  it.

It  is ironical that the offences lodged by Vibhuti Narain Rai -- the author of the  book -- back in May 1987, are still stuck in the courts though they are now in  the final stages, after a very shoddy investigation by the UP CID that tried its best not to reach the real  culprits, whilst helping those who were booked. First, the case went on  endlessly in a Ghaziabad court; later, following  orders from the Supreme Court, it was transferred to a Delhi court.

And  yet, the court cases do not answer why innocent people, unknown to their  killers, were picked up randomly and shot. Gujarat  knows the whys and hows of what happened in 2002, since it enjoyed 24x7 media coverage  and support from alert and committed activists. But Uttar Pradesh doesn’t, and  basks in the glory of its avowed Ganga-Jamuna tradition.

After  23 years of research and investigation, Vibhuti Narain Rai, now vice-chancellor  at Mahatma Gandhi  International Hindi  University, Wardha, in Maharashtra, has the answers to why this massacre  happened. Was it the decision of a sub-inspector of the PAC to plan the  gruesome incident? Was there political complicity? What was an army major doing  at the spot when he had no business being there? Weren’t senior officials of  the state aware of the atrocity?

What  is extremely poignant is that even now, 25 years down the line, the  investigators are simply not aware or don’t wish to reveal the motive behind  the crime. This book explains it all. And yet, ironically, it will have no  political (more specifically, electoral) significance despite the fact that  2012 will also see elections in India’s  most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, where the massacre took place.

Vibhuti  Narain Rai is an acclaimed Hindi writer whose book [I]Curfew in the City[/I] was translated into six languages, including  English. At one time, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had demanded a ban on the book.

Here  are translated excerpts from the forthcoming book, depicting the brutality with  which the PAC executed the killings:

[I]Imagine  such a close encounter with death that when you open your eyes to bodies --  dead and half-dead -- you want to touch them to believe you are still alive.  When molten lead rips through your flesh and flings you into the air like a cotton  ball; there is no pain, no fear, not even time for memories to torment you.  There are rifles blazing around you and then there is the cacophony of abusive  screams from your killers. With numbed senses you wait for one of the bullets  whizzing past you to enter your body in such a way that you are tossed into the  air for a moment and collapse on the ground with a thud.   [/I]

[I]How will  you describe such a death? Especially when you are seeing your killers for the  first time, and despite racking your brains you just cannot figure out why they  would want to kill you.[/I]

[I]What would  have been the state of mind of Babudin, Mujibur Rehman, Mohhamad Naeem, Arif,  Zulfikar Nasir or Mohammad Usman when they saw their friends, relatives and  colleagues tossed into the air and then falling with a thud, convulsing and  writhing in pain, their senses so numbed that they could not even dare to do  the obvious -- run away? Everyone made an identical attempt to save their  lives. They all fell in different directions after being hit by bullets, but the  effort to protect themselves from impending death was the same. Both the  massacres where these 42 people were forced out of the PAC truck and killed happened  on the banks of canals, and in both canals the water flow was rapid.[/I]

[I]Every  survivor who hit the ground after being shot tried hard to pretend he was dead.  Most hung onto the canal’s embankments with their heads in water and their bodies  entangled in weeds to show their killers that they were dead and to have no  more gunshots fired at them. Even after the PAC personnel had left, they lay  still in the water, blood and slush. They were too scared and numb even to help  those who were still alive or half-dead. So much so that even after their  tormentors had gone, they considered every passing person a member of the gang.  Let alone seeking help, they squeezed their bodies further into themselves --  especially if the person was in khaki.  [/I]

[I]I met Babudin some three hours after he was shot. A frail, hollow-cheeked  boy of average height stood before us,  diffident and scared, like a sparrow with wet wings. His trousers were muddied  by slush from the canal embankment and his shirt was so wet you could extract a  litre of water from it. Shivers would occasionally pass through his body even  in the scorching summer. I noticed an uncanny coldness in his voice even though  he did have a stammer. His ennui was surprising considering he had grappled  with death at such close quarters and seen many others strewn all around him.[/I]

[I]A shiver  ran down my spine when he narrated his journey from Hashimpura to Makanpur in  such an impersonal manner. Two decades later, when I think of it, I realise that  when death hounds you it does scare you  but if it becomes your co-traveller for some time and then lets you alone, you  are filled with a kind of casual indifference.[/I]

[I]Babudin’s  clothes were drenched and there were faint crimson smears on them. On closer inspection  it was clear that his wet shirt was stuck at two bloody patches on his body. One  patch was behind his left shoulder near the waist; another was on the right  corner of his chest. It seemed the bullets had brushed past him at these two  places.[/I]

[I]He appeared  exhausted and sad but was able to walk on his own two legs. We were taking him  to Link Road  police station, but as soon as he took a  few steps his legs started trembling. We made him sit  on the culvert with the support of a police constable. The impact of  hanging on the weeds for hours was showing now. [/I]

[I]Though the  monsoons were still far away, the last week of May in Ghaziabad and the surrounding areas are  so humid that you are perennially drenched in sweat. We were all tired and  drained. Babudin occasionally shivered… [/I]

[I]After the  initial hesitation, Babudin recounted his tale. This time he was more  comfortable and confident. Perhaps the passage of time and the realisation that  our khaki was different from the khaki of his tormentors allayed his fears.  This time he was more coherent…[/I]

[I]And this  is why he did not miss out on a very vital and significant fact that shocked us  all -- the startling disclosure that a similar massacre had happened the night before and that the PAC personnel had  left many killed and wounded from among those who were on that truck. It so happened  that after picking them up from Hashimpura, the speeding PAC truck suddenly  turned right, parallel to a canal and some 50 metres from the main road.  Trundling over the gravel road for some  time, it stopped abruptly. Then, everything happened that was to happen in  Makanpur an hour later.[/I]

[I]Some  jawans sitting beside the driver jumped out of the truck. The sound of their  shoes hitting the gravel  made Babudin  and others suspect that something unexpected and terrible was in store for  them. Babudin had butterflies in his stomach and desperately felt like  relieving himself. But his sixth sense told him it was too late for anything  now. A few of the jawans came to the rear and opened the truck’s shutter that  covered one-third of the back and was tied with thick iron chains. Just as it  opened, other jawans hopped out too, leaving a couple of them inside. They  seemed to be in a tearing hurry and had no time to waste. The sound of their  shoes hitting the ground was frightening. Despite all his stoicism, I saw the  same fear on Babudin’s face that must have been on the faces of the others who  had been with him. Then, suddenly, a commanding voice from outside ordered them  to jump out -- Babudin felt something was terribly wrong. He tried to creep  further into the truck so that he would not have to hop out.[/I]

[I]Then all  hell broke loose. Since Babudin’s back was towards the rear door he could not  see anything. He heard people getting out of the truck, and then gunshots and  the choicest expletives from those firing. Perhaps the jawans’ screaming abuses  were meant to subdue their fears. [/I]

[I]Everything  was confusing but it was clear that they were firing at the Muslims jumping out  of the truck. All this and the deafening cries for mercy of those who fell to  the bullets. The jawans standing outside the truck ordered their colleagues  inside to catch those who hesitated by the collar and throw them out. They  pushed their victims with the butt of their rifles and by their collars; some  who were difficult to handle were virtually lifted and hurled out. Every time  somebody fell outside, he could hear gunshots and the painful cries of someone  dying. [/I]

[I]Babudin was  breathless as a strong hand pulled him by his collar. He tried to resist by  pushing himself further into the overcrowded  space. It was like a see-saw struggle that did not last long. He  realised that two hands were trying to hold on to his shoulders from behind. And  he was slipping towards the rear. Trembling with fear, Babudin looked behind  and was dumbfounded to see Ayyub, a handloom worker who lived near his place,  soaked in blood. The screams and wails of those beside him and inside the  truck, as well as the abuses of the jawans outside and the sounds of gunfire,  made clear to Babudin, who was still standing with his back to the rear, what  was happening. Angry at failed attempts to get several others out, the jawans  were now firing indiscriminately inside the truck while shouting at their  colleagues to push people out. Babudin felt the firm grip of Ayyub’s arms on  his legs loosening as someone pulled him away. [/I]

[I]When he  recounted this tale again, many years after that narration, I saw the same  expression of helplessness on his face at being unable to do anything for his  childhood friend as he saw him for the last time.[/I]

[I]Babudin  saw people around him being pulled away one by one. Everyone struggled to drag themselves  forward, whilst being pulled from behind.  The pressure on Babudin’s shoulders had eased -- perhaps frustrated at his resistance the PAC jawans  were taking it out on other prey. Shivers ran through his entire body. It was  clear to him that if he wanted to remain alive, he had to do everything  possible to stay glued to the truck.[/I]

[I](Darshan Desai is an independent  journalist. He is translating Rai’s book from Hindi to English for Penguin)[/I]

[B]Infochange News &  Features, July 2011[/B]

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