Hashimpura (Meerut): In April 1987, the city of Meerut was engulfed in deadly communal clashes. By May, just when it looked like the clashes had died out, violence broke out again. On May 22, there was an uneasy calm in the bylanes of Hashimpura, located in the heart of the city, when Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel stormed the locality and allegedly rounded up young Muslim men. 42 of them were loaded onto a truck, driven to Muradnagar Canal in Ghaziabad and shot dead. The dead were then tossed into the canal.
Zulfikar Nassir was 17 years old on that fateful day. He had just finished writing his Class XII exams and was waiting for his result. He was picked up from his house and made to sit in the truck and around 8:30, the truck made a move. “The forces stormed the three lanes of the colony around 2:30, when there was a curfew in the entire city, and went from house-to-house. They picked up Muslim men who looked young and loaded them onto the truck. By the time we left Meerut, it was around 8:30 and after 9 pm, we reached Muradnagar. In the cover of darkness, they asked us to get off the truck and took us near the canal and shot the people there. All of us were shot, including me, but thanks to Allah, I somehow survived.”
He adds, “I was shot in the side and I pretended to be dead. Then they tossed me into the canal. I kept floating in the canal before I held on to a bush by the bank. I held on to it for around four hours, with only my head above the water. I got help from people in Muradnagar and got back home. That incident changed our lives forever. For years, every time I looked at a man in uniform, my first instinct was to run and hide. They killed all boys my age so I lost all my friends. People in the colony were prosperous but in one fell swoop, almost all the young boys were wiped out. For years, the locality did not see any weddings.”
Mohammed Riyazuddin, who was only 16 when the incident took place, says, “They took me in a truck to Police Lines in Meeurt and beat me up. I came back home to find that they had taken my brother Mohammed Kamaruddin to the Canal. He never came back home.”
2017 marks not only the UP assembly elections but also the 30th anniversary of the Hashimpura massacre. In March 2015, 28 years after the massacre, the Tis Hazari Court in Delhi delivered a verdict in the case. Three of the 19 accused PAC personnel had already died by then and the remaining 16 were let off due to a lack of evidence. Nassir, now 47, went along with other survivors to meet Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. This prompted Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to file an appeal in the Delhi High Court. For this reason, Nassir says he will stay loyal to the party of Mulayam and Akhilesh.
“When our verdict came in March 2015, only Mulayam and his party came to us to wipe our tears. Behenji (Mayawati) is trying to win our support but nobody from BSP came to our colony. Akhilesh, too, gave us compensation. While compensation will not bring back the dead but SP is the only party we can support.”
Riyazuddin agrees, “Mayawati was Chief Minister and she didn’t lift a finger to help us. We thought that when the BJP came to power, they would help us because the massacre took place when there was a Congress government in the Center and UP. Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister and Vir Bahadur Singh was CM. But nearly three years have passed since Modi has been PM and nothing has been done for us.”
For the survivors, the blame for the massacre lies solely on the Congress, which was in power at the Center and the state. That is why Akhilesh Yadav’s decision to ally with Congress has hurt Hashimpura residents. “Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister. When I met Rajiv Gandhi, I asked him why during his visit to Meerut, he never visited Hashimpura. He said nobody told him to visit. Everybody knows that Congress was responsible for the massacre,” Nassir says, but he adds, “Today, it is not Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress. We hope that his son and Mulayam’s son will be better. Rahul Gandhi should be given one chance to correct the mistakes of his father.”
For Riyazuddin, all hope is lost. He says he will now vote for SP, the party that has accorded him the “respect” that he was looking for. “We lost the case because we were not given proper legal aid in the beginning. Now, I don’t think we will ever win the case or get justice. All parties let us down but at least, the SP gave us respect. When we met Mulayam Singh Ji, he told us that we should have come to him earlier. Even Akhilesh helped us by getting us compensation and appealing against the verdict in the High Court. Just for giving us respect, we will vote for SP.”(N18)