Hashimpura massacre of muslims and P.Chidambaramís role in it
Twenty five years ago this May, Uttar Pradesh PAC men murdered 42 poor Muslims from Hashimpura mohollah in Meerut in cold blood. The culprits are still at large, and P Chidrambaram, who was then MoS Home Affairs, has got a lot to answer
During the early hours of May 22, 1987, trucks of the Uttar Pradesh Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) arrived in a mixed Hindu-Muslim Meerut mohalla named Hashimpura, populated by labourers and weavers. This mohalla was peaceful despite protracted communal clashes in Meerut since April 1987. The opening of the locks of the Babri Masjid by the Rajiv Gandhi government was the point of conflagration.
Nineteen PAC men with their commanding officer, had been ordered to surround the Hashimpura mohalla, to wake up the residents and then segregate them as Hindus and Muslims. Thereafter, they separated Muslim women and elderly men from the youth. Of these youth, the PAC constables picked young boys aged between 15 and 35 years, and ordered them to board two of their trucks.
The trucks then drove 20 Km to Gang Neher, a canal near Murad Nagar and to Hindon canal. At the two places, the youth were ordered to disembark one by one. As each young man got down, he was shot in the head by a PAC jawan, and his body kicked into the canal. Only three survived, one of them was to die later. In all, 42 were killed in that pre-dawn, execution-style massacre.
A few days later on May 26, 1987, Syed Shahabuddin, then a Janata Party MP, called me up in a highly emotionally charged voice to explain what had happened and asked me to do something.
I therefore visited Hashimpura and spoke to the residents. I took some of the Hindus aside and asked for confirmation of what Shahabuddin had narrated to me. They confirmed the account. I also visited Gang Neher and saw the tell tale marks of blood and flesh, and also inhaled the stench from the rotting blood clots.
By then I was in a shock. I thought atrocities in the 1975-77 Emergency was the rock bottom to which the modern Indian nation could sink in terms of State sponsored terror. But this was right out of the Nazi Holocaust.
At the Nuremberg trials of the 21 top Nazis, Justice Robert Jackson of the United States Supreme Court who had served as Prosecutor, highlighted the ďconspiracy of silenceĒ on the part of the German nation which helped the Nazis carry out their genocide against the Jews, gypsies and all those who they considered sub-humans. I thought to myself, should I participate in another conspiracy of silence? I asked myself and quickly decided this was not merely a genocide directed at Muslims but an indicator of a deeper malaise.
I therefore I called up Shahabuddin and promised that I would do something. At that time the Prime Minister was Rajiv Gandhi and who was also my friend, and therefore I had unlimited access to meet him.
Thus a meeting between Rajiv and me took place. He of course knew about the matter. So I urged him to set up an inquiry. He told me he would, but his tone was not assuring. Several months passed but nothing happened.
Then Shahabuddin and I decided that the Janata Party would launch an agitation. By then Chandrashekhar had handed over the party presidentship to Ajit Singh, but both were supportive. A number protest meetings and a long walk from Hashimpura to Vijay Chowk in New Delhi took place. But there was no response from Rajiv on our demand except sympathy for our cause.
By then officials, Home Minister Buta Singh and even the UP CM, Vir Bahadur Singh. began speaking to me in confidence about what happened. They said that Rajiv will not order an inquiry because the then Minister of State for Home P Chidambaram was the one whose idea it was to ďteach a lesson to Muslims, as Congress did with the SikhsĒ. So Rajiv feared that his name too would be dragged in if an inquiry is held.
I learnt on May 18, 1987 that Chidambaram, along with Vir Bahadur Singh, conducted an aerial survey of Hashimpura, Malliana, and other riot-affected areas of Meerut. This the government confirmed on the floor of Rajya Sabha, when I had raised the matter.
However, the Government went on the offensive when I stated in the Rajya Sabha that soon after Chidambaram had held a closed door meeting in Meerut of officials and PAC officers. The MP of Meerut, Mohsina Kidwai, should have been invited to this meeting, but instead she was put on de facto house arrest in the Dak Bungalow to prevent her from turning up. There, at that meeting, Chidambaram gave the genocide order: ďKill about 50 Muslim youthĒ.
When I alluded to this in the Rajya Sabha, Narayanswami, who is now Minister in the PMO, threatened a ďBreach of PrivilegeĒ Motion. I promptly welcomed it, but like all the defamation and privilege motions I have been threatened with so far, nothing came of it.
By 1988, the Hashimpura genocide had become an international issue. PUCL, Amnesty International, etc. along with all the fashionable Leftist NGOs joined the chorus. But Rajiv did not budge. No inquiry was ordered.
So, reluctantly I decided to undertake a fast unto death at the Boat Club. It was a grueling hot period in Delhi during August 1988, when I sat down in the Boat Club. For six days I drank nothing but water, and became weak. There was no response from the government.
Shahabuddin was however loyally hammering away in pursuit of the demand for an inquiry, but Chidambaram naturally did not want it. The fast dragged down. It was a horrible experience. But on the seventh day, Rajiv overruled Chidambaram and decided to agree to an inquiry. Thus, Buta Singh sent me a letter at the fasting pandal in the Boat Club, in which letter he conveyed the governmentís decision to hold an inquiry.
Thereafter, a number of Commissions were set up, such as headed by Gian Prakash and Justice CD Parikh. The NGOs also got into the act. The process of doing justice to the genocide victimsí families however proceeded slowly. But only after the Supreme Courtís direction in 2003 was a case was registered. The apex court ordered the setting up of a Special Court in Tiz Hazari.
With so many jumping on to the bandwagon, I had stopped following the case from 1996 till this last May, when on the 25th anniversary of the gruesome genocide, Syed Shahabuddin arrived at my residence to urge me take up the issue again. I agreed.
I found out that the case against the PAC jawans and the commandant had barely progressed. Three of the jawans in that killer squad had died. There are now 16 of the original accused left, and of the 114 witnesses to be summoned , only 17 witnesses have been so far been called up.
Hence, I sought to move the Special Court to permit me to file an Application to make Chidambaram a co-accused in the case, under Section 319 of the CrPC. The Learned Judge, Rakesh Siddarth, allowed me to do so. The next hearing is on August 17, when I shall argue the matter.
Irrespective of the religious colour of this genocide, we cannot allow the Hashimpura genocide slip into oblivion. For the sake of the nationís pride in democracy, we must avenge this State ó sponsored genocide. Now that I am back in the matter, I shall take it forward till Chidambaram and the PAC jawans are booked and sent to jail. The families must be adequately compensated. And Never Again should Hashimpura be repeated anywhere in India.
The writer is president of the Janata Party