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New Evidence Brings Hope After 31 Years of Hashimpura Massacre of Muslims by Indian Armed Forces, (Picture: Screenshot from the Indian Express)

It has been 31 years since the brutal murder of Muslims by the Indian Armed Forces in Hashimpura. It was on this day (May 22) in 1987 that 42 innocent Muslims were massacred in the Muslim holy month of Ramzan near Meerut in the state of Uttar Pradesh which is now ruled by right wing Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But there has been an unusual development in this case from years ago in which all accused were acquitted. Now, a missing general diary that recorded the names of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel who were involved in the killing has been filed as evidence. Ranbir Singh Bishnoi (78) who deposed on Tuesday regarding the general diary was a witness to the act, the Indian Express reported.

Back in 1987, the murder of Muslims had happened in the communal riots in Meerut that erupted after the February 1986 Rajiv Gandhi government order to open the locks of Babri Masjid (Babri Mosque). The Mosque is a controversial site which has often resulted in communal clashes due to its history. In 1992, right wing Hindu soldiers who call themselves Kar Sevaks had attacked the mosque and demolished it claiming that it stood in the exact same spot where the Hindu god Rama was born. Instigation was done from the side of Sangh Parivar, under which the Hindu outfits like the VHP (Viswa Hindu Parishad) and the now ruling BJP function.

The Hashimpura massacre was an incident in the 1987 Meerut communal riots. On the night of May 22, 1987, about 45 Muslim men from Hashimpura, a settlement in Meerut, were rounded up and packed into the rear of a truck of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC). 42 of them were killed by the PAC and their bodies were thrown in two canals namely Upper Ganga canal near Muradnagar and the Hindon canal in Makanpur. Now, with the new evidence, victims’ families have a glimmer of hope against the 2015 verdict that acquitted 16 accused army personnel, giving them the benefit of doubt.

It was in 1996 that the charge sheet in the case was filed before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ghaziabad by CB-CID of Uttar Pradesh police. 161 people were listed as witnesses. But in 2002, the case was transferred to Delhi by the Supreme Court considering the petition filed by the families of victims.

The 2015 acquittal was based on the finding that the identities of the army personnel could not be established as the same as those who carried out the murders. This is why, even when the court said in its verdict that it was ‘duly proved and established’ that ‘about 40- 45’ persons belonging to Mohalla Hashimpura were ‘abducted in a yellow colour PAC truck’ by PAC officials and subsequently ‘shot at and thrown’ into waters of Gang Nahar, Murad Nagar and Hindon river, Ghaziabad, it could not convict anyone in the case.

The court then said that it was not able to prove beyond doubt that the accused officials were the same officials who were part of the 41st Battalion of PAC and who abducted and killed the Muslim men. The new evidence now establishes that the accused in the case were part of the 41st Battalion of PAC and the same people who had carried out the murders.

NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) filed an appeal before the Delhi High Court in May 2015, challenging the trial court order. They argued that the CB-CID who were investigating the case had ‘deliberately suppressed material evidence.’ NHRC counsel Vrinda Grover told the Indian Express ‘…this is the most relevant link and clear evidence that shows that these were 19 PAC men, who went on the truck.’

After 31 years, there is a glimmer of hope in the battle against the gross human rights violation and injustice that was carried out by the Indian state against Muslims of Hashimpura.

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