30 years after Hashimpura massacre: Will we get justice in our lifetime, ask survivors


Asad Ashraf,

Justice is a word and demand they have been reiterating for thirty years now, although the significance of the word is wading away, yet they have been chasing it for three decades. The system of the country seems hell bent on making them believe that justice has different connotations for different communities. Justice has become a fading word for the residents of this locality, which is known worldwide for the brutalities it suffered from those who were supposed to be protecting the laws. Since then the word justice seems to be evading from their daily life and they in a bid to chase it have spent thirty long years.

In Hashimpura, Meerut which witnessed the massacre of 42 of its residents at the hands of paramilitary and police forces and their bodies thrown in canal, Justice is the word on everyone’s lips. The moment one asks them about the sad day, the reply comes Justice is what we want before speaking out anything, as if they put a disclaimer that whatever they are telling us as journalists is for justice and not for our stories which get us bread and butter.

Children who were taken away by the forces have grown old now, their hair has turned grey, many of them have children who have grown young now. The younger ones then are in sixties and seventies now. The transition in their lives is supplemented with the stagnancy of the physical conditions of the Hashimpura, the area remains ignored today as it was then, the trauma and horror of that fateful day has engulfed itself in the surroundings, every building, every house and every lane has a story to narrate, nothing has remained untouched by the massacre.

However, this physical transition in the personal lives of victims, survivors and their families is something which disturbs them. Most of them having reached the age bar of sixties and seventies are skeptical if they will ever get to see the perpetrators of the crime being punished.

“We don’t have much time left, I am already in my seventies and have waited for thirty long years. Does the country want us to wait for another thirty years? I am afraid that the system will not let me rest in peace till the day of judgement at Allah’s court. I wish my fellow countrymen could understand the pain and suffering, the leaders claiming to be very sensitive could do something for us. I want to see the perpetrators hanging, nothing less than that. If that doesn’t happen, I will leave this world with a grudge against the system for having failed me and my belief in justice,” says Zareena.

Hajra in her seventies again reiterates what Zareena had to say, she believes in death penalty for the perpetrators as the only way to satisfy their conscience in this case, who are also a part of this nation.

“I don’t understand what is stopping the courts from punishing the culprits, every evidence is out there, the police must have in its record the details of constables and officers on duty that day, so many people were killed and wounded, if the police didn’t do so then who did it, I want prompt justice in this case at it happens in other cases, why so much delay in our case, is that because we are Muslims,” asks Hajra.

Hajra in Hashimpura (Photo – Vijay Pandey)

For survivors of the massacre who came back home wounded, wait for justice is even more critical. They had seen the sight of massacre with their naked eyes and to forget it is not an easy task. Memories of those killed, who were their brothers, neighbors and relatives haunt them time and again and more so when they see justice being delivered in other cases very promptly.

Detailing the events of that day, Nayeem, a survivor of the massacre who managed to escape the cite though deeply wounded, physically and emotionally, tells us, “As soon as police arrested us, we were made to sit outside under a tree, old people and kids were let go, a paramilitary truck took us away to Murad Nagar canal, the forces brought out two among those in the truck and shot them one by one, we started screaming and they went on firing abruptly inside the truck, there was pool of blood everywhere, I was also shot at but somehow I survived and they didn’t realize that I did. They threw all of us in the canal. I managed to swim and come out of the canal and here am narrating the story to people like you for thirty years now in hope that something would happen.”

Nayeem was also a witness in the entire case in which all the accused were acquitted on account of dearth of evidence and failure of the witnesses to recognize the culprits.

On failing to recognize the culprits, Nayeem said, “I could not recognize the culprits, it was dark, we all were in trauma, bullet was being fired at us, thirty years have passed. How does the court expect us to recognize the culprits? All I want now is that those policemen be also punished in the same manner as our people were killed, I am hopeful that it will happen in my life time and if it doesn’t, I will ask my children to continue fighting the case.”

Babuddin in Hashimpura (Photo – Vijay Pandey)

Others like Nayeem who had also survived the massacre are sure that law of the land will deliver them justice but are skeptical that if they will ever see perpetrators punished in their lifetime.

The trial court in Delhi had acquitted all the ‘perpetrators’ of the heinous act on dearth of evidence. However, their lawyer, Vrinda Grover, believes that justice will be served to those seeking it. She says, “This is not an ordinary criminal case. There was a nexus between the state and those responsible for the crime”. Grover, who is currently representing the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in this case, states, “Until and unless we contextualize the crime and the state’s role in the crime is not taken into consideration, it is almost difficult to deliver justice in cases like this.

Like Nayeem, Grover is also hopeful that sooner or later justice will prevail in the matter but the question lingering in the minds of the victims is this: What means to get justice after three decades when their lives have drastically changed? Will they see the perpetrators punished in their lives or will the culprit police officials and PAC men continue enjoying life as they have been so far without being punished at all.

Asad Ashraf is a Delhi based journalist and can be contacted on [email protected]

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