NEW DELHI(PTI): Expressing disappointment at the lower court judgement in the Hashimpura massacre case, a group of prominent citizens, lawyers and activists on Tuesday said the matter would be taken up before a higher court and termed the responses of successive governments in Uttar Pradesh as "shameful".
Reacting to the court order at a gathering of surviving victims, their kin, lawyers and professors in Delhi on Tuesday, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Rajinder Sachar said the matter will be challenged before higher forum.
The victims' lawyer, Vindra Grover, "We will re-appeal the matter in the court."
More than 40 Muslims men were picked up from Hashimpura and killed allegedly by 19 personnel from the Uttar Pradesh Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) after riots occurred in parts of Meerut in 1987. Sachar slammed the then state and central governments for not acknowledging the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) report compiled by him, along with I K Gujral and others, following an enquiry into the incident. Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister, while Congress's Vir Bahadur Singh was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh at the time of incident.
"It is a shame. PUCL did not even get a reply. We did an enquiry. There were Gujral sahab, doctors who signed the report. We were all together to visit the place. Then they signed the report and sent it to the CM, the PM. But leave reply, we did not get acknowledgement...," asked Sachar.
Sachar insisted that given it is a case of human rights violations, the victims must get compensation. "It is the responsibility of government. Internationally, any such death has to be enquired into. The Centre should take up the matter.
The present governments can't say their parties were not in power at the time of incident...," he said.
Grover said the session court's decision was not "an accident or by chance but resulting out of systematic errors".
"The decision is disappointing. Not only because the accused have been given benefit of doubt and acquitted but the court somewhere did not realise that the state did custodial killings of innocent people due to bias. This just shows the judiciary is shrugging of its responsibility," she said.
All the 16 accused had been set free by a Delhi court on March 21 giving them "benefit of doubt for want of evidence especially regarding their identity".
Grover read out portion of the 216-page judgement, in which the court accepted the submissions made by the surviving victims. She said the submissions were "descriptive, specific, consistent" and that there "were no major deviations and contradictions in the same".
"There are five men telling us the story. God forbid, if there was no one to tell us the story... What happens in such a case? Is there any investigating agency or we shut cases when we don't have people to tell us what had happened or we would have preferred these people to be not alive so that we would not have to worry about FIR, investigation or trial or whatsoever?" she asked.
W Habibullah, who served as joint secretary in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) when the Meerut riots took place, said the Centre needs to set up a committee and ensure justice to the people who suffered.
Habibullah also slammed the state government saying there was no action taken against the perpetrators with the personnel's annual confidential report (ACR) showing no charges against their names.
"This is a matter of concern for all Indians, not only Muslim community, for all those who are concerned with human rights... Though the accused PAC men were charged with murders, according to reply to an RTI query, their annual confidential report (ACR) did not have murder charges against them. Rather, their promotions, retirements took place," Habibullah, who now is part of the Commonwealth Human Rights Commission, said.
A Delhi trial court had acquitted all the 16 accused as the prosecution failed to identify them as the same men who had carried out the killings. Narrating their trauma during the night of the incident, Zulfikar Nasir said that young men from Hashimpura Mohalla were handpicked by PAC and put in a truck before killing them and dumping the bodies in a canal.
"I was in the same truck and was lucky to survive the killing. The PAC personnel hit me and threw in the canal presuming that I was dead. I held on to the grass in the canal till they left and managed to survive," he said.