The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sentenced 16 former policemen to life imprisonment for killing 42 people of a minority community in the 1987 Hashimpura massacre case at Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel reversed a trial court’s verdict which had acquitted the accused.
The high court convicted the 16 former Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel for murder, kidnapping, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence under the Indian Penal Code. It termed the massacre ‘targeted killing’ of unarmed and defenceless persons by the police.
The Hashimpura massacre was an infamous event related to atrocities by Indian policemen. On May 22, 1987, about four dozen Muslims belonging to Hashimpura locality in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh were killed by people of security forces. When Hindu-Muslim communal riots started in Meerut on May 19, 1987, several armed officials were called to maintain the law and order situation. It included officials from Army, Uttar Pradesh Police Force, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC).
Three days later on May 22, 1987, some officials of the PAC rounded 644 people from different Muslim localities in Meerut and selected around 42 youths from them. They put all of the youths inside the trucks, most of whom were coincidentally from Hashimpura locality. The PAC officials took them to an unknown place and began shooting them one by one. When others protested, the officials open fired at them. Except five, all the others were killed in the firing. After that, the PAC personnel took the truck to the Upper Ganga Canal in Muradnagar and dumped the dead bodies in the canal.
After this brutal incident, the dead bodies were found after few days. Following the massacre, protests and demonstrations began demanding justice for the victims. The then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Vir Bahadur Singh ordered an inquiry over the matter. The CBI took up the case and produced a report after six years. Eventually, 19 men were accused of having performed the act.
Although government filed a case against the PAC officials and court issued warrants, none of the accused appeared before the court. However, in May 2000, 16 of the 19 accused surrendered and were later released on bail, the other three accused died in the intervening period. On March 21, 2015, all of the 16 accused were acquitted by Court due to insufficient evidence. The Court said that the survivors could not recognise any of the accused PAC personnel. But now, the Delhi High Court has overturned the earlier verdict and all the 16 accused are given life imprisonment for the heinous crime they committed.
With input from agencies