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Hashimpura masscre acquittal result of "deliberate, shoddy" investigation

By Our Representative
The largest incident of custodial killing which took place in Hashimpura (UP) in 1987, in which officers of the notorious Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) shot dead 42 persons from the Muslim community and sought to destroy the evidence, has resulted in the acquittal of all the 16 accused because of "the deliberately lackadaisical and shoddy investigation", alleges Vibhuti Narain Rai, retired officer of the Indian Police Force (IPS) in a video interview.
"Worse still, successive governments since 1987, over 20 years, belonging to different political parties, were never interested in punishing the guilty", Rai has contended.
“The sight that met my eyes the night of May 22, 1987 is something forever embedded in my psyche,” says Rai, adding, “Language is a very poor substitute for thought. Bodies lying half dead, fully dead, on the banks, flowing in the canal... Every step I took I was scared I would step on someone’s head or limb. One lone survivor, Babuddin, recounted the horror to us in an eye-witness account.”
Based on the incident, Rai's research work, "Communal Bias in the Police Machinery", was first published in in the journal "Communalism Combat" (February 1995) saw an interesting twist. The government, which first allowed him to carry out the research while in service, disowned the work. Now, he is the process of coming up with a new book on the subject, which would be "a repayment of a debt that has weighed heavily" on his conscience since the dark night of May 22, 1987, he says.
"He is the first officer to have squarely confronted the existence of this communal bias. His book 'Shahr Mein Curfew' (1988), where he recounts his experiences of heading the police in Allahabad, also became quite popular", Teesta Setalvad, prominent human rights activist and editor of "Communalism Combat", which conducted the interview, says. "We discussed the Hashimpura massacre with the policeman who filed the first FIR in the case."
During the interview, he says, "Given that 42 people did not just fall down and die, how can this judgment be explained?", recounting what he saw on the night of May 22, 1987 and the prevailing communal bias in police services. He explains how he believes that CID failed to adequately investigate and prosecute the matter.
"From the start, the crime investigation department (CID) ensured that the masterminds were not investigated and punished", says Rai. "The decision to abduct and kill in cold blood 42 young Muslims has had to have been taken at the highest level and yet no attempt was ever made to investigate who gave the instructions for this horrific custodial killing."
Rai says, he not only recorded his statement before the CID but also deposed before the court. He believes, "Massacres of this kind are a huge challenge before the Indian state and we have simply not faced up to the challenge."
"A 28 year battle for justice has ended at least for now, in abject failure, with a UP sessions court acquitting all the 16 accused in the infamous Hashimpura massacre case", he says, adding, "Despite first-hand accounts from survivors of the incident, the sessions court held that the prosecution has failed to establish its its case beyond reasonable doubt, leading to serious questions about the investigating authorities competence and will to deal effectively with the case."
"The judgment raises critical and serious questions about the efficacy of our state institutions in dealing with cases involving minorities", he says. However, according to him, "This ghastly massacre has never been acknowledged or treated as such by the state apparatus be it the National Police Academy, Hyderabad or State Police Academies."
Suggesting steps to improve the police, he says, "Representation of different sections of Indians, minorities, Dalits, Adivasis and women within the law and order machinery, is a policy measure that needs to be implemented to ensure a force that reflects India’s diversity."

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