THEMES

Hashimpura Massacre
March 21, 2015
Hashimpura Massacre
The Lemmings of Hashimpura
Hashimpura massacre trial after 19 years-- Failure of all organs of state

A family member of one of the Hashimpura victims attends a seminar in New Delhi Tuesday. (Express Photo by: Anil Sharma)


-- By Iqbal A Ansari 


The trial of the accused personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) charged with the cold blooded murder of about forty Muslims of Hashimpura, Meerut on 22 May 1987 has taken more than 19 years to haltingly start in the Tees Hazari Court, Delhi on July 15 2006. It is not only a case of proverbial judicial delay, but crookedness of the course of law that deserves critical scrutiny to be able to understand how the system has given rise to a climate of impunity, especially in heinous hate crimes against vulnerable groups, which emboldens the criminals including those in official uniforms and causes frustration among victims, who lose hope in the system.

According to the order of 18 May 2006 by the Court of the Additional Sessions Judge, Delhi, N P Kaushik it is the prosecution’s case based on the inquiry report of the Crime Branch of the CID (CBCID), that curfew was clamped in Mohalla Hashimpura of Meerut city in the name of search for illegal arms and 644 persons (all Muslims) were randomly picked up from their homes and were arrested. Of these 644, forty two (mostly younger ones) were directly taken in a PAC truck to Upper Ganga Canal, Murad Nagar, where some were shot at and the bodies were thrown into the canal and the remaining were taken to Hindon river, where similar operation was done. Though all were taken as dead, a few survived. FIR was lodged on the basis of their statements on 22/23 May 1987.A few days later dead bodies were found floating in the canals -- sending shock waves worldwide. 

The ghastly incident had stirred the conscience of the nation, as the outrage it caused in the average citizen was more than that felt against terrorist violence, as the killers in this case were those who were supposed to be protectors. Nikhil Chakravarty compared the event with “Nazi pogrom against the Jews, to strike terror and nothing but terror in the whole minority community”. Mr Subramaniam Swamy, who went on fast unto death over the incident, characterized it as a clear case of genocide. Mr Chandra Shekhar made the observation that “the Hashimpura (Meerut) tragedy was the most shocking incident in my political life…” 

Nirmal Mukarji observed that “the truth is that Hashimpura and Malliana affected the Muslim psyche as nothing else had since independence, for the community began to see itself as under attack by the state itself. The least that should have been done was to have promptly disbanded this particular unit of the PAC and to have cashiered its officers. But no action was taken. The outcome was that, far from being on the side of the angels, the UP police emerged as the devil itself ”. 

In a joint statement, eminent persons including I.K Gujral, Rajindar Sachar, Kuldip Nayar, Subhadra Joshi and Badr-Ud-Din Tyabji demanded that “the government must prosecute all those members of the PAC and police who have disgraced their uniforms. Their misdeeds must be treated at par with treason and tried by special courts”.

The letter that was sent by the team of inquiry led by Justice Rajindar Sachar to the Chief Minister, Uttar Pradesh and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, along with the report, was not even acknowledged. Even though the Prime Minister was convinced about the veracity of the case by the testimony of one of the survivors, Zulfiqar Nasir, who was produced before him, and wanted to initiate effective action, he was advised not to do any thing, which could undermine the morale of the armed police, which were, in their view, the main prop of the state’s authority. 

When the pressure on the government increased, the Chief Minister B.B Singh instituted an inquiry into the incident by CBCID. By the time the inquiry report was submitted after seven long years in February 1994,the incident had become a forgotten massacre, like a bad dream, by not only the political class but also by all segments of the civil society. People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court in 1987 for investigation of the case and damages to the victims, which was routinely dealt with and disposed of on 12 September 1990,enhancing the rehabilitation - compensation from Rs 20,000/- fixed by UP Government to Rs 40,000/-, though with the provision that “ if any one has applied for claim for compensation for death or bodily injuries, our direction for payment of rehabilitation compensation does not intend to affect such claim and same would be available to be proceeded in accordance with law” 

After the submission of the CBCID report, some of the victims of Hashimpura, who were left to fend for themselves, filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court in February 1995 for making the report public, prosecution of all the indicted persons and payment of adequate compensation to the victims. The Supreme Court did not consider it a fit case for admission under Article 32, and directed the petitioners to approach the High Court, in spite of the fact that the drafting history of the Article shows that the provision was made to ensure that in the event of clear violation of any fundamental right a citizen could seek remedy directly from the apex court. It could have easily settled the issue of adequate compensation, which it had kept open in 1990, in the light of its own liberal rulings on the issue. Subsequently Jalaluddin and others of Meerut filed a writ petition in the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on 15 Feburary 1995 with the same prayer. 

Though the CBCID had indicted more than sixty PAC and police personnel of all ranks, the Government of UP gave permission for prosecution of only 19 of them, all of lower ranks. What disciplinary departmental action was taken against others has not been made public. On the contrary many of them are enjoying promotion.

How successive governments led by the Congress, SP, BSP and the BJP from 1987 till date seem to be determined to deny adequate compensation to the victims and seem not to be keen on punishment of the guilty, is obvious from the record of the cases at Lucknow and Ghaziabad and subsequently from September 2002 at Tees Hazari, Delhi. 

On the issue of compensation, the UP Government’s counter-affidavit says that in compliance with the Supreme Court’s order it had paid Rs 40,000/- and the issue was therefore closed, which is in utter disregard of the clear direction of the Court on the matter. The case is still lying in the High Court at Lucknow in a state of neglect.

Even statutory resolution of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) for enhancement of compensation in October 1999 and firm assurances given by the Chief Secretary of UP in May 2000 to the NCM to review the case, has not yielded any result so far. It must be kept in view that Hashimpura is not a case of police-firing during riots, but a case of custodial terrorist killing, with hate motive by the states’s forces against innocent citizens on the ground of their religious affiliations, worse than Best Bakery and other cases in Gujarat, where in spite of states’ complicity the police did not pick up Muslims from their homes and killed them; nor did it happen in anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984.
II

Though the UP Government filed charge sheet against 19 PAC men in the court of CJM, Ghaziabad on 20 May, 1996 under sections related to murder, attempt to murder, conspiracy and concealment of evidence, how serious it was for successful prosecution is obvious from the fact that in spite of CJM court’s summoning order followed by bailable and non-bailable warrants 23 times between January 1997 and April 2000 the accused PAC men, who were in active service and whose residential and posting addresses were there in the file, were never produced before the court. 

I had started appealing to minority and human rights groups since 1995 to intervene in the case or provide necessary assistance to the petitioners, so that “successful conviction of the PAC personnel sends the message that law is still supreme in the country.” However by 1999 I realized that the local petitioners did not have adequate legal resources and no assistance was being made available to them. I personally visited Meerut and Ghaziabad in May 1999 to collect papers related to the case: Subsequently in a meeting convened by the Minorities Council on July 9, 1999 a decision was taken that the Council in cooperation with other organizations willing to lend support, including PUCL, would pursue the cases in the Lucknow High Court, and Ghaziabad CJM’s Court.

I also published an article under the title ‘Forgotten Massacres, on Hashimpura case from 1987 till August 1999’ in the Autumn 1999 issue of the Quarterly IOS Bulletin Human Rights Today that I edit, which made some impact and led to Siddharth Varadarajan taking interest in the case, who published front page story in The Times of India of May 17, 2000 on the bizarre proceedings in the CJM Ghaziabad Court. That was the time when on our representation, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) impressed upon the Union Home Minister and the Government of UP to take early measures for payment of adequate compensation and speedy trial. This pressure from the Minorities Council, the NCM and The Times of India seems to have forced the UP government to realize that it could no longer shield the guilty PAC men. As a consequence of this pressure, 16 of the 19 accused PAC men surrendered in groups in the last week of May 2000 and early June 2000. One accused was absconding, another was reportedly dead. They were refused bail by CJM, Ghaziabad. However they were allowed bail by the District Judge on the ground that there was no direct evidence against them and that being members of the PAC there was no chance of their absconding. 

Apparently their practically being absconders from January 1997 to May 2000 did not weigh with the learned court while easily allowing bail to all 16 in groups on June 2, 2000 (Bail Application No. 1353/2000), June 5, 2000 (No. 1412/2000), June 27, 2000 (No 1564/2000) and July 4, 2000 (No. 1620/2000). 

The entire sequence of legal proceedings since the submission of CBCID report in February 1994 till date has been rightly summed up by Siddharth Varadarajan of The Times of India in the following words, “Even by the lethargic and Kafkaesque standards of the Indian judicial system, the Hashimpura case is in a class of its own” (TOI, May 17, 2000). From the analysis of the order sheet from May 1996 to June 2000 at CJM court Ghaziabad it was obvious that there was collusion between the prosecution and the accused, which made this writer, who has been helping the victims in the case on behalf of the Minorities Council, apply to the Supreme Court for transfer of the case from UP to Delhi, which it did in September 2002, in the interest of justice. [It needs to be recorded that since May 1999 it was under legal guidance of Justice R S Narula (then President of Minorities Council) and Justice Rajindar Sachar that I was all along pursuing the case with some success. Advocate Sanjay Parekh, a member of this team, helped prepare and file the application for transfer of the case in Dec. 2001, which was argued personally by Justice Rajindar Sachar before learned bench of the Supreme Court, which ordered the transfer of the case. Again it was under the advice of Justice Sachar that I approach Mrs. Vrinda Grover for regular legal assistance in the case at Tees Hazari court, which she has been doing with diligence and dedication.] 

However, after transfer in September 2002, not much progress could be made in the case for lack of timely appointment of a team of competent and independent PPs and SPP, who could do justice to the case; part of the reason lying in the lack of clarity about the appointing authority in such transferred cases. As along with the Supreme Court’s order transferring the case from Ghaziabad (U.P) to Delhi, there was no direction on the appointment of SPP, as was done in the Best Bakery case. Initially the Delhi Court as well as the complainants took the view that it was for the Government of Delhi Administration to appoint the PP/ SPP. Later the Additional Sessions Judge, Tees Hazari issued notice to the Government of U.P expressing concern at the delay in appointing the SPP. 

Later the long-awaited U.P Government’s appointee was found to be technically unqualified. Subsequently the Government appointed an SPP, but the case continued to be adjourned on various technical grounds, as well as owing to strike by lawyers of the Tees Hazari court, which continued for months. At long last the Additional Sessions Judge Sh. N.P Kaushik passed orders on 18/24 May 2006 for framing of charges against the accused and fixed 15 July 2006 as the date for the evidence of witnesses. On the date, when the survivor eyewitness Zulfiqar Nasir came prepared to give evidence, the SPP Shri. Adhlakha expressed inability to produce before the court the ‘Property of the Case’ including the rifles and some necessary documents required under law. Taking a serious view of such deliberate slowing of the trial, the Hon’ble court issued notice to the Chief Secretary and other concerned officials and summoned the Additional SP (CBCID) Meerut, Ms. Bharti Singh to explain the reason for non-production of the rifles etc and fixed 22 July as the next date of hearing. 

On 22 July the sensational disclosure was made that the rifles used in the case, had been redistributed. Admitting this fact Ms. Bharti Singh gave the assurance that she would submit to the Court the information on how and under whose orders the rifles were redistributed. Noting this, the Court recorded the detailed deposition of the first witness Zulfiqar Nasir - who gave graphic description of the ghastly incidents of 22 May—when he was shot at and taken as dead. 

How serious is the Government of Uttar Pradesh in effectively pursuing proper prosecution is obvious from the fact that on the next date of hearing of the case i.e. 31st July, Adhlakha was absent, incurring a fine of rupees five thousand against the State Government. On 8 August 2006 the rifles were deposited with the Court and deposition of Zulfiqar Nasir continued. The list of witness being long, it will take quite some time to complete it.

The role of the Samajwadi Party Government led by Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is supposed to be favourably inclined to Muslims, has lately come in for severe criticism in the sections of media, and by political groups, some of which are motivated by calculations in the ongoing electoral game in the State, but it cannot be denied that even Mulayam Singh Yadav and his Muslim supporters including his Muslim ministers can take credit only for sanctioning approval for prosecution of the 19 PAC personnel of the lower rank. They have done just absolutely noting more. Concern for getting justice done in the case has been totally missing, from Rajiv Gandhi – Bir Bahadur Singh to the present incumbents and their predecessors at Lucknow and Delhi.
III

The issues that arise from criminal neglect of the case by successive governments and the apparent apathy of the civil society including human rights groups, need to be raised and discussed in the larger institutional and political perspective of the failure of all the organs of the State to deliver justice to victims and punish the guilty. In his report on 1982 Meerut riots NC Saxena, the then Joint Secretary NCM, had written that “…In many places the PAC behaved like a mob and committed atrocities” and made a significant observation that “the district administration perceived threat to public peace only from Muslims… the order from the senior officers in the district to the police could be summarized in one phrase: ‘Muslims must be taught a lesson’ the PAC and the Police faithfully implemented this policy”. The result was deliberate killing of Muslims trapped in Feroze Building. But all that was done by the secular class, Gandhians and human right groups was to raise the level of rhetoric.

The guilty were allowed to enjoy impunity. Such deliberate targeted killing of Muslims by the PAC started in Aligarh in 1978 and has continued till 5 April 2006 when four Muslim youth were killed by police firing, unwarranted by the situation. It is this climate of impunity which made the senior district officials of Meerut—may be with active or passive connivance of the political executive at Lucknow—decide to teach Muslims a bloodier lesson than was done in 1982. 

In the name of ‘operation search’ the most brazen killing against Muslims in Independent India was performed by State’s armed constabulary—the PAC, which was characterized by the Amnesty International in its report on Meerut, 1987, as a Hindu paramilitary force in numerical terms (only about 2% of the PAC being Muslims) as well as in terms of attitudes. Subramaniam Swamy undertook fast unto death against the crime of genocide in Hashimpura,

which the honourable politician broke when a team led by Justice V.M Tarkunde offered him a glass of juice—with the implied assurance that the issue of genocide that he had raised will be addressed. Was any step taken in that direction? It is lack of accountability of the district administration and police/ paramilitary forces and their political mentors for such crimes against humanity that made them play blatantly partisan role during most situations of communal conflicts during decades of 1980s and 1990s, which led to Gujarat 2002. In the Bill 2005 on communal violence there is continuing glaring absence of any such provision for accountability of those who wield power. 

Even in the absence of any law on the crime of genocide, in the light of existing Constitutional-legal provisions, the Government of BB Singh should have been dismissed and under President’s rule, there should have been disbanding of the specific unit of the PAC and all concerned District officials and the Police-PAC personnel of all ranks should have been tried under a special Tribunal constituted for the purpose. 

The most distressing aspect of the case is the lack of provision of adequate compensation for loss of life and limb caused by the State’s agents—State’s liability to pay such compensation is settled in India. However, till date no law on rights of victims has been enacted, in spite of the NCM’s persistent demand since 1980 and recommendations of several bodies, including Justice Malimath Committee. 

The apex court has not covered itself with glory by routinely disposing of in 1990 the case on Hashimpura filed by PUDR in 1987 and again by missing the opportunity of playing a proactive role when a writ was filed by the aggrieved Jalaluddin and others in 1995. Why did the sections of political class and civil society, including human rights groups allow such delay and denial of justice in the case? 

It requires some introspection and action now with clarity and vigour, including a concerted non-partisan demand for NHRC-NCM approaching the Supreme Court for direction for appointment of amicus curiae and guidelines for appointment of PP-SPP, and most urgently for payment jointly by the Central Government and the State Government of adequate compensation of at least rupees five lakhs plus interest—as it was not a case of killing by police firing in the street during riots. But a case of cold-blooded murder with hate communal motive by State forces.

[ Meerut riots of May 1987 - PUCL report ]
Dance of Death

                                                                                                                                                                            (Source: Praveen Jain)

Excerpts from the forthcoming book on the Hashimpura Massacre byVibhuti Narain Rai, IPS retired
Translated from the Hindi original by Darshan Desai 
Hashimpura – May 22, 1987


Imagine such a close encounter with death that when you open your eyes to bodies – dead and half dead – you may want to touch them to believe you are still alive. When molten lead rips through your flesh and flings you in the air like cotton balls, there is no pain, no fear and there is not even time for memories to torment you. There are rifles blazing around you and then there is the cacophony of abusive screams from your killers. And with numbed senses, you wait for one of the bullets whizzing past you to enter your body in a way that you are tossed in the air for a moment and collapse on the ground with a thud.

How will you describe such a death? Especially when you are seeing your killers for the first time and despite cracking your brains cannot just figure out why would they want to kill you.

What would have been the state of mind of Babudin, Mujibur Rehman, Mohhamad Naeem, Arif, Zulfikar Nasir or Mohammad Usman when they must have seen their friends, relatives and colleagues getting tossed in the air and then falling with a thud, convulsing and writhing in pain, and their senses so numbed that they could not even dare to do the obvious thing of trying to run away? Everyone made an identical attempt to save their lives. They all fell in different directions after being hit by bullets but the effort to protect themselves from the impending death was the same. Both the massacres where these 42 people were forced out of the PAC truck and killed happened on the banks of canals and in both canals, the water flow was rapid.

Every survivor who hit the ground after being shot at tried hard to pretend he is dead and most hanged on the canal’s embankments with their heads in water and the body clutched by weeds to show to their killers that they were dead and no more gunshots fired at them. Even after the PAC personnel had left, they lay still between water, blood and slush. They were too scared and numbed even to help those who were still alive or half dead. So much so that even after their tormentors had gone, they considered every person coming there as a member of that gang. Leave alone seeking help, they would further squeeze their bodies into themselves – this especially if the person was in Khaki.

I met Babudin some three hours after he was shot at. A frail, hollow cheeked boy of average height stood before us, diffident and scared like some sparrow with wet wings. His trouser muddied by slush on the canal embankment and the shirt was so wringing wet that you could extract a litre of water from it. Shivers would occasionally pass through his body even in that scorching summer. I noticed an uncanny coldness in his voice though it did have a stammer in it. His ennui was surprising after he had grappled with death from such close quarters and seen many others strewn all around him. A shiver ran down my spine when he narrated his anxious journey from Hashimpura to Makanpur in such an impersonal manner. Two decades hence when I think of it, I realise that when death hounds you it indeed scares you but if it becomes your co-traveller for some time and then lets you alone, you are filled with some kind of a casual indifference.

Babudin’s clothes were all drenched and there were faint crimson smears on them. On a closer look, it was clear that his wet shirt was stuck at two places on his body and the blood patches there had not dried up despite water streaming through him. One patch was behind the left shoulder towards the waist and another was on right corner of his chest where one could see a splash of dark reddish-brown. It seemed the bullets had bruised past him at these two places.

He indeed appeared exhausted and sad but was able to walk on his two legs. We were taking him to Link Road Police Station but just as he walked a few steps his legs started trembling. We made him sit on the culvert with the support of a police constable. The impact of hanging with the help of weeds for hours was showing now. Though monsoons would be still far away, the last week of May in Ghaziabad and surrounding areas have such humidity that you remain perennially drenched in sweat. We all were tired and drained out. Babudin was the only one who occasionally shivered. Twenty-one years later when I met Babudin in Hashimpura for this book at the same place from where he and his close relatives were picked up, he had forgotten my face and when introduced he smiled and reminded me how I took a beedi from a constable to give him when I saw him shivering. But he didn’t smoke and  nodded his head to say no.

After that he started talking and went on for very long. In between, he would shiver but what he said in in-coherent pieces was no less than a nightmare for some eight to 10 officers who listened to him as well as for a government staff of some 25-odd people there. He was narrating a tale that was incredibly startling and tragic.

We – me and district magistrate Naseem Zaidi – realised there was no point hanging around since whatever Babudin narrated was frightening and could push Ghaziabad into communal flames. We discussed in hushed tones that we must first lodge an FIR after getting all information from Babudin and send the bodies to the mortuary at the crack of dawn as well as ensure that rumours related to the killings don’t have an incendiary impact on the city’s peace. Ever since Meerut was caught in communal passions, we were all tensed up to ensure Ghaziabad remains insulated from it.

Leaving some police personnel we started walking towards our vehicles parked about 50 to 60 steps away. A group of 10 to 15 personnel walked ahead of us in a queue and Babudin was second or third. He didn’t need any support to walk and refused help. The scene of Babudin and police personnel getting into the vehicles and the grim face of DM Zaidi while walking as though in a funeral procession – all sweating it out in that May humidity – is still etched on memory like it happened yesterday. Our cavalcade of half a dozen vehicles reached Link Road Police Station in 10 to 12 minutes.

We once again started questioning Babudin. I, along with the district magistrate and four-five other officials sat around a desk in the room of the police station in-charge and Babudin occupied a chair across us. After the initial procrastination, Babudin started recounting the tale. This time he was more comfortable and confident. Probably, the passage of time and realisation that our Khaki was different than the Khaki of his tormentors had allayed his fears of death. This time he was more coherent. He described in great detail how he and others with him were picked up and packed in the PAC truck. The similarity between his earlier version at the culvert and now was that his voice had maintained the same chilling stoicism. To me, it appeared to be the world’s first such incident where somebody described his scary brush with death with such uncanny coldness. The difference was that this time’s narration was a blow by blow account and synchronised.

And this is why he did not miss out on a very vital and significant fact that shocked all of us no end – it was a startling disclosure that a similar kind of massacre happened the same night earlier and the PAC personnel had already left many killed and wounded from among those who were on that truck. It so happened that after picking them up from Hashimpura, the speeding PAC truck suddenly turned right parallel to a canal and some 50 metres away from the main road. Trundling through that gravelled road for some time, it stopped abruptly. Then, everything happened that was to happen in Makanpur an hour later.

Some jawans sitting besides the driver jumped out of the truck and the sound of their shoes hitting the gravelled track aroused the suspicion of Babudin and his folks that something unexpected and terrible was in store for them. Babudin was getting butterflies in his stomach and desperately felt like relieving himself but his sixth sense told him it was too late for anything now. A few of the jawans came to the rear and opened the truck’s shutter that covered one-third of the back and was tied to thick iron chains. Just as it opened, some other jawans standing there hopped out too leaving a couple of them inside. They seemed to be in a tearing hurry and had no time to waste. The sound of their shoes hitting the bricks lying all around as they jumped was somehow frightening. Despite all his stoicism, I saw the same fear in Babudin’s face that must have been there on that of others with him too. Then suddenly, a commanding voice from outside ordered them to jump out – Babudin felt there was something terribly wrong. He tried to sneak inside the truck so that he may not have to hop out.

And now all hell broke loose. Since Babudin’s back was towards rear gate he could not see anything except hearing the sound of some people got out of the truck and then gunshots with choicest of expletives from those firing. Perhaps, the screaming abuses by the jawans were to subdue their fears. Everything was confusing but it was clear that they were firing at the Muslims jumping out of the truck. All this between the deafening cries of mercy and fright of those who fell to the bullets. Jawans standing outside ordered their colleagues inside to catch by the collar and throw out those hesitating to jump. They pushed their victims with the butt of their rifles and by holding their collars; some who were difficult to handle were virtually lifted and hurled outside. Everytime somebody fell outside, he could hear gunshots and the painful cries of someone dying. Babudin felt breathless, when a strong hand was pulling him by his collar while he tried to resist this by pushing himself into the overcrowded space. It was like a see-saw struggle that did not last long. Soon, he realised two hands trying in vain to hold on to his shoulders from behind for support but was slipping away towards the rear. Trembling with fear, Babudin looked behind and was dumbfounded to see Ayyub, a handloom worker near his place, soaked in blood. Hearing the screams and wails of those besides him and inside the truck as well as the abuses of the jawans outside along with sounds of gunfire made it clear to Babudin still standing with his back to the rear what was happening. Angry with failed attempts to get several others out, the jawans were now firing indiscriminately inside the truck while shouting at their colleagues to push out people. Babudin felt the firm grip of Ayyub’s arms on his legs loosening as someone was pulling him away. When he recounted this tale many years after that narration, I saw the same expression of helplessness on his face of being unable to do anything for his childhood friend as he saw him for the last time.

Babudin saw people around him being pulled away one by one. Everyone struggled hard to drag himself forward, while being pulled from behind. The pressure on Babudin’s shoulders had eased – perhaps frustrated over his resistance the PAC jawans were taking it all out on other prey. He felt butterflies in his stomach and sometimes shivers ran down his entire body. It was clear to him that if he wanted to remain alive, he should do everything possible to be glued onto the truck.

Suddenly, something unexpected happened, something that the hunters and the prey both had not thought of – a small glimmer of light emerged on the horizon that slowly grew bigger and sharper. The driver noticed it first and at a closer look found that the ball of light he saw had turned into two beaming balls. Babudin also saw this. It was anybody’s guess now that they were headlights of a heavy vehicle. Babudin saw a bright hope of life there, even as he tried to regain himself. The driver looked out of the door on his side and started calling out the PAC jawans, who were so busy firing at and abusing their victims that first they didn’t hear it in the din. He even shouted dirty expletives at his accomplices but when even this did not help, he started honking – slowly at first and then continuously. As the oncoming vehicle closed in, the honking got all the more louder but by the time everyone got alerted, the headlights of that vehicle had covered the entire scene of the shootout. This was a milk van, perhaps returning after collecting milk from some nearby village.

The light had broken the magic of darkness and as it scares killers worldwide, even here the PAC jawans got frightened by that light and two-three of them rushed towards the milk van brandishing their rifles. Babudin, who was standing at the rear of the truck, could understand that the jawans were abusing the driver of the other truck, threatening and banging him with rifle butts to get him to switch off his headlights. From what Babudin could make out watching the scene from the iron-netted windows of the truck, the PAC jawans conferred with each other in hushed tones and some of them went to the milk van and commanded the driver to reverse his vehicle without the lights, while the PAC truck also revved up to drive towards the road. Both vehicles then stopped – the PAC truck driver put his vehicle in the reverse gear and whizzed past the milk van almost brushing it and pushed into the field a bit in the back and turned towards the highway. In the commotion, people standing on both sides of Babudin brushed him and doubled his pain. The jawans standing outside rushed and hopped onto the truck that soon started speeding towards the main highway. The crowd in the truck had thinned down after many people were left behind after the shootout – the thin crowd made it difficult for them to keep their balance since the truck bumped and jumped through the road at a fast pace. With every jolt, people would fall over one another. The wails of pain after every such bump made Babudin realise that others too were injured on that truck. These were those victims who had resisted getting down the truck earlier and were wounded when the killers fired inside the truck.

At the only T-junction on that highway, the truck took a sharp turn towards Ghaziabad without braking and as the injured people fell over each other, they screamed in pain. The truck paced at a break-neck pace. Usually the road from Delhi leading to Dehradun and Mussourie via Meerut would be bustling with traffic at that hour during the May summers but this time it was different since there was curfew in Meerut and only a rare vehicle passed through the highway. Obviously, the districts neighbouring  Meerut  felt the impact of the communal riots and Ghaziabad especially was on the verge of exploding. The situation was being fanned by scary communal rumours. So, it was obvious the cries of the injured people and the screaming abuses of the PAC jawans may not have emanated from the speeding truck. And even if it did, few would take note since it was a PAC truck passing at high speed.

The truck took a sharp right turn in the same pace at Meerut tri-junction towards Hindon river. Having sped past the Mohan Meakins distillery that makes the famous rum brand Old Monk, it slowed down; the cries of the victims behind increased but nothing happened that could hold back the speed of the truck. Soon after the truck took a left turn towards the single dirt track that led to Makanpur. This lane too was similar to that of Muradnagar where the first massacre took place near the canal – this road too flung the passengers inside on one another and they wailed and screamed loudly. Besides the pain from the wounds, the victims could sense that the dirt road was leading them to the jaws of death. There are concrete jungles at the place today where there was nothing on that night of May 1987. On one hand of the road was Link Road industrial area where majority of the factories were sick and closed and on the other was a barren sprawl of infertile land. This dirt road crossed a canal and a culvert leading to Makanpur.

The truck halted at the canal. The same episode was repeated. Some jawans first jumped out of the truck, opened the rear barrier and once again commanded people to hop out. This time nobody did; instead people tried to push inside further. They remained silent for a moment but again started crying and wailing loudly. The killers were even more in a tearing hurry this time and the screams of the victims galvanised them further – two-three jawans got hold of one of the victims, who pushed and pulled in vain to get his hands and legs free, and threw him out. The guns blazed and the crying injured person fell into the canal with a splash – splitting the silence of that humid night. This is what happened with others who were being hurled outside despite their strong resistance, some plonked down in the canal, some fell on the ground with a thud. When Babudin’s turn came, the jawans were all tired – it appeared as if they were completing a mundane routine.

He was hit by two bullets, one brushed him past him behind the left shoulder towards the back and another near the right corner of his chest. He fell halfway between the canal embankment and thick bushes. His head was in water while a part of his body was stuck in the ravines, but he was alive. That intervening night of May 22 and May 23, he would break into “Allah ka karam hain (mercy of god)” while recounting the tale of his miraculous survival.

Babudin had understood as he collapsed on the ground that he must impress upon his tormentors that he had died and they need not fire at him again. After the shootout, the killers made all efforts to ensure that nobody was alive; they searched for life among the dead through the ravines with the help of a torch – whenever they saw even a little moment, they would open fire. They kicked the bodies lying outside the canal to ensure nobody was alive. Babudin held back his breath for a long time and kept his eyes closed; he could feel a torch light on his face but he remained stone-cold. Then he heard the truck engine rev up and felt the vehicle’s light all over the killing field. As darkness fell with the vehicle having gone, he opened his eyes to see a pitch dark zone under a veil of deafening silence. He was too scared to make any movement and would immediately pretend to be dead at even a hint of any sound. That is why it took us long for us to impress upon him that we too donned Khaki but ours was different than those who fired and tortured them earlier.

It did not take us long to identify the spot of the shootout ahead of the one near Makanpur since most of us, including me and the district magistrate, often travelled on the Meerut-Ghaziabad route. The truck earlier must have turned towards Gang canal near Muradnagar. This canal cuts through the road after Modinagar just ahead of Muradnagar. I immediately spoke to Muradnagar police station in-charge Rajendra Singh Bhagor from a wireless set at the Link Road police station. Our suspicion was correct – this incident also happened in the same way as the one near Makanpur and exactly similar to what Babudin had told us. The only difference was that Babudin was not aware that there were three survivors at the earlier spot and had been brought to Muradnagar police station.

Translated by: Darshan Desai 
 
Report of the Indian People's Human Rights Tribunal on Meerut Massacre
- former SC Judge AC Gopta
- former Judge of the Calcutta HC Jyotirmorjee Nag, released on 18.5.1989
 
Hashimpura Aquittal, Tragic but not Unexpected : Vibhuti Narain Rai, IPS (retired)

(Source: Praveen Jain)

The Hashimpura case verdict is unfortunate but not unexpected. If you read the Uttar Pradesh CID case diaries carefully, you will agree, that the way the case was made out against the officers of the Provincial Armed Constablulary (PAC), it would not have been easy for any court to pass a harsh verdict against them. As witness to the whole incident from the very beginning, I can say that the investigators were trying to save the murderers from day one.

When the officers of the PAC abducted 42 Muslims from the Hashimpura area of Meerut on  May 22, 1987 and brought them to Ghaziabad where they made them stand between two canals and shot them dead, I was posted in Ghaziabad as Superintendent of Police (SP). The incident took place at 9 pm in the night. I got the information about it around 10:30 PM. I can never forget what I saw that dark night at the Ganga canal -- one of the scenes of the crime, when I reached there with other officers.

Trying to weed out dead bodies from among the wild shrubs along the banks of the canal, on the blood stained ground with the dim lights of our weakened torches on that night on Delhi Ghaziabad border. Making sure not to trample on a human body, dead or alive, measuring each step carefully. That gruesome memory is vividly etched in memory. Like a not to be forgotten horror movie.

We met Babuddin there, the only survivor of this hideous act, who informed us about the Hashimpur massacre. In some time we came to know about the other spot of the crime, around the Muradnagar Canal, where the PAC vehicle had been taken to throw out the murdered dead bodies.

I gave orders to file an FIR in the context of both the incident (spots), but in just a few hours, the investigation was snatched away from me and handed over to the Crime Investigation Department (CID). Under normal circumstances none would have questioned this decision as the CID has more resources and could have conducted a better investigation. But in this case, that didn’t happen.

The CID investigation was halfhearted and lackluster from the start, every move made to save the culprits. For the last few years I have been working on a book on this massacre, and have come across mind boggling facts and evidence. Knowingly, the CID ignored significant facts and leads in evidence. Specially, they have overlooked the involvement of the army and have conveniently forgotten to investigate the mastermind behind the massacre, that my evidence reveals, was a BJP Politician. I will substantiate all these points, in detail, in my forthcoming book.

Hashimpura is the single largest incident of custodial killing since independence. This incident is different from the 1984 Sikh Riots and the Nelli Massacre (1983) because here, not only were those who were murdered in the custody of the police but they were also murdered by the police. The Police had never gone to this extent earlier.

India’s honor is at stake. If the murderers cannot be punished in such an instance of brutal mass killing then all our claims of India being secular are vain and shallow. There is a need for this case to be reinvestigated by an independent agency under the supervision of a High Court or the High Court needs to nominate three retired IPS officers for independent investigations. Without a thorough re-investigation, we can neither reach the actual culprits who have been given a clean chit by the CBI nor can the law reach to those culprits who’s role needs to be uncovered in any meaningful investigation.

Vibhuti Narain Rai, retired IPS
 
Miscarriage of Justice in Hashimpura

(Source: Praveen Jain)

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

One of the most famous lines on the official All India Radio news bulletins during communal disturbances used to be ‘ Sthiti  tanavpurn lekin Niyantran me hain ( the situation is tense but under control) and police and paramilitary forces have been deployed in the ‘sensitive’ areas.  It was well known to us as what is ‘samvdansheel kshetra’ or sensitive areas. Most of these ‘sensitive areas’ were the Muslim localities in the walled cities, almost ghettoized in the aftermath of each ‘riots’ much to the comfort of the fanatics on both the sides who wanted to see such polarization to happen. The ‘sensitive areas’ terminology reflected the mindset of administration, police and the media in the independent India where Muslims are treated as ‘problem-makers’ and ‘obstacles’. During the ‘communal disturbances,’ the police ‘round off’ these ‘problem-makers’ and ‘obstacles’ as routine exercise to bring ‘peace’. Once when I questioned these things during a visit in the early 1990s, to Meerut on a fact finding mission, a very senior Professor in the Meerut University blamed me  promote ‘Pakistanis’ in India and warned me from staying away from mini ‘Pakistan’ which was the walled city of Meerut. His argument was that Muslims are criminals and that is why they are largest in the Indian jails. I liked him because this professor did not have hypocrisy and he spoke from his ‘heart’ which is a reality of the middle classes upper caste Hindus in India at least at the moment. 

The release of 16 accused policemen of the Provincial Arms Constabulary
( PAC) in the Hashimpura violence case by a Delhi Court has brought back the issue of Communal Violence Bill that was being drafted in the UPA regime but because of the lack of a will, could not be passed. Hashimpura is not the first and the last case of judicial failure even when several years back Supreme Court itself had expressed pain and anguish in delays of the trial and Allahabad High Court’s judge Justice termed the act of PAC as ‘criminals in uniforms’. 

Reports after reports suggested how PAC goons arrested innocent Muslims and later picked young boys to be killed later on with their bodies floated in the Canal near Muradnagar. Haven’t we seen pictures of gun trotting policemen in the Muslim localities herding together men, young boys and children and threatening to push the trigger if they protest? Riots after riots such scenes are often repeated and the police go unpunished. They have protections and the atmosphere in all the towns and cities where Muslims presence is nearly 30% is polarized. 

When the state has abdicated its responsibility in such a way that justice is not just denied but miscarried than it is time to think seriously as what ails the system. Before we come to analyse the entire incident, let us not forget that People’s Union for Civil Liberties had brought out a detailed report on the Hashimpura massacre in 1987 in which it had put serious doubts on the administration.  The PUCL team which went on fact finding mission to Hashimpura and other areas included Justice Rajinder Sachar, Mr Inder Kumar Gujral, Prof A.M.Khusrau, Prof Dilip Swamy and others hence it is important for us to understand what they said on this as the court of law has found no evidence though following report is filed not only by eminent persons but one of them was a former chief justice of Delhi High Court. 
‘One of the most shameful chapters of human callousness was enacted in Hashimpura area. It would appear by then that sufficient contingents of police and PAC had been inducted into Meerut. It was not clear but it seems that some decision was taken to really spread terror in Hashimpura area. Pursuant to this on May 22 Hashimpura was surrounded by the PAC. The PAC then forced all residents out of their houses to the main Road. Then a house to house search was conducted. The residents complained that several houses were looted by the PAC.

All residents of Hashimpura were lined up on the main road segregated, and one person in Burkha identified 42 young men, who were asked to board a police lorry. Another group of 324 were arrested and taken by other police vehicles.

What the police did in Hashimpura is something which can never be lived down and the shame of this will continue to haunt any civilised Government. We talked to old persons whose sons and grand-sons were taken away by the police. We met young women whose husbands were taken away and later on they were either missing or their dead bodies were found. The way the residents of Hashimpura were treated was shameful. We were told that hundreds of people were taken out from the locality and asked to sit on the road. One army person asked people over 50 years and less than 10-12 years to get on one side and all the others were dumped into waiting trucks. We were told by one Ahmed, who had got away on the excuse that he had his MA examination that morning, and that 3 of his colleagues, namely, Kamaludin S/o Jamaludin, Sarajudin S/o Sabarudin, Nasim S/o Nasim Ahmed, had been taken away on the trucks. These three had not come back thereafter and the father Jamaludin corroborated this version.

Out of 42 only 6 persons are traceable, others have just disappeared. There is no record of these persons with the police. Abdu Bhai the grand father of Zulfikar told that Arif and Karimuddin were also with his grandson. They were arrested together and taken in a truck to Muradnagar and when the truck reached a canal Zulfikar saw Karimuddin being shot by the PAC and thrown in the canal. More than 20 bodies have in fact been found floating in the Ganga Canal.’ 
(Excerpts of the PUCL report on Hashimpura published in PUCL Bulletin) 

The Delhi Court where the case had come for hearing actually released all the ‘accused’ in the absence of ‘eye witnesses’ and their identifications by the ‘victims’. The problem is how are the victims of mass violence, mass rapes and social ostracisation going to identify people in the court where the agencies supposed to protect people have been charged with conniving and protecting the miscreants. This is not the first case of its kind where the callousness of the courts have released the accused but it also reflect the political scenario of the country and how the judicial system is being influenced. You do not need to be a law ‘expert’ to understand the whole issue and how it has been handled. If a scrutiny of judgments on mass killings or communal riots is done, judiciary in India would disappointment you. I have not heard a single case where communal or caste violence culprits have been sentenced or their political future is at peril. Nelli in Assam in 1983, Bhagalpur in Bihar, Meerut, in 1987 in Uttar Pradesh, Mumbai in 1992-1993, Gujarat in 2002, Delhi in 1984, Mujaffarnagar in 2013 have never reached to any conclusion. Yes, those instigated violence and polarized the voters got to power. In the ‘First Past The Post’ system, the biggest danger is of inciting hatred towards minorities for political gains and parties and leaders succeeded in it. That is why there is much bigger danger of such experiments. In 1984 the polarization helped Congress Party to win an election with massive mandate while after 2002, Narendra Modi continued with his winning spree in Gujarat. Once political parties understand that such polarization help they would continue with this. The state level experiences of extremist stand helped political parties to gain power everywhere including BJP in UP, Shiv Sena in Gujarat too. In fact, the success of the experiments forced the Hindutva ‘programmers’ to go for it on a bigger level before the general elections last year and Mujaffarnagar was actually part of that ‘programme’. 

Many things emerges out of these criminal acquittals and that happen because of political environment of the country and none can say that judiciary is not influenced from it particularly at the lower level. Have we not seen acquittal of all the accused in the Gujarat violence in 2002 particularly those who were in ‘responsible’ positions. Right from Best Bakery to Hashimpura, it is the people who are seeking justice are being penalized. The case of Teesta Setalwad is exactly the same that those who fight for the right of the people and take on the state will face prosecutions. During emergency, we could trust a few in the media but today it is becoming difficult as media has become bigger propaganda machinery of the political elites of the country. 

It is not for nothing that this year we have seen release of all the accused in Shankarbigaha massacre of Dalits. Later, in Lakshmanpurbathe, Bathani Tola,and Tsundur accused too got honorably relieved by various courts. Practically, no case of communal violence or mass murders of Dalits, Muslims or Christians have reached to any logical conclusion. Most of the time the courts have ‘blamed’ it on to the investigating agencies for failure of providing the ‘eye witnesses’. It is another matter that the same courts have released honorably the other accused CBI had chargesheeted in some of these cases. 
It is not for nothing that hatemongers are roaming free and taking law in their hands. The threat of law is actually being applied on those who can’t really afford to have an efficient lawyer. India is fast moving towards a class consciousness hence even the human rights defenders who have a ‘background’ would be able to save themselves but not everyone is a Teesta or a Green Peace activist who can afford to hire best legal brains and organisations to defend them. Most of the cases where state is needed to be proactive actually end up in miscarriage of cases because of the official antipathy towards the people of particular castes or religion. Definitely, the bureaucratic and administrative prejudices against Muslims in Indian system are currently at the peak level and need serious relook by the government and judiciary. 
The demand that Muslims and other marginalized segments of society must have fair representations at all level in our bureaucracy, military and police essentially comes in the backdrop of such happenings and need serious look. These demands are opposed by the Hindutva and other rightwing groups under the pretext that demanding reservation for Muslims is a communal demand and will divide the nation. One does not know why a citizen of this country could be deprived of a genuine demand which will have far reaching impacts on the working of the police and administration. 

As long as we do not have a mechanism to fix accountability of the officials engaged in the districts or cities during the ‘so-called’ communal ‘riots’ things will not move on. A senior officer once wrote that any communal disturbance can easily be controlled by the administration in first 12 hours and if violence continue even after that it must be assumed that ‘authorities’ and ‘politicians’ are hand in glove with the rioters. How can ‘pogroms’ be called as ‘riots’ where police and administration has to be impartial? 

You do not need to imagine too much of what happens during these ‘riots’ as pictures speaks for them. The horrific pictures of Hashimpura which have been published by Indian Express yesterday show how the people have been asked by the gun trotting policemen holding their hands up in the sky in the form of surrender. Haven’t we seen how a poor grim faced Muslim tailor in Ahmedabad was seeking protection with folded hand from the authorities ? The tales are endless and people have been left to fetch themselves. In fact, those few who try to fight for them also end up in becoming victim. Daily stories of pains, sorrows and betrayal lead us to further depression. 

It is these things which make people vary of even the human rights defenders. What is in their hand? After all, we can only express our solidarity and share their concern and be part of the struggle. Result is not in our hand but then these assurances or uncertainties do not bother the people who are victims as they want results so that they can lead normal life. Such a feeling is detrimental to the struggle of human rights and justice and used very well by those who violate them. In the past few years we have seen the differences is being made between the victim of Delhi’s violence in 1984 and Gujarat 2002 ignoring the fact that in both the cases Indian state failed to protect its citizens. 

Rajiv Gandhi government at centre and Vir Bahadur Singh at the state actually took a lesson from 1984 when they tried to use state machinery towards majority communalism. The PAC has become notorious in Uttar Pradesh and no government has so far dared to either disband it or change its color. Hashimpura’s case is clear how administration when communalized feel Muslims as ‘troublemakers’ and need to be ‘taught’ a lesson. And the administration and police do not become communalized suddenly but through a process. Over these years, Congress Party did not really try honestly to inculcate a secular spirit in the country and internally promoted this soft Hindutva approach in the party. 1984 was the worst period for Congress. It was the defeat of what Nehru had thought of Congress, a secular socialist party inclusive for all. The attempt to ‘teach’ minorities a lesson and a feeling as if they are trouble makers ultimately helped gain ground for the Sangh Parivar. That was the period of opening of lock of Babari Masjid by a man called Arun Nehru. 

Congress of 2004 and 2012 therefore was much different than 1984 when it was arrogant in Brahmanical wisdom appeasing the caste Hindus and targeting minorities for political gains. The phenomena continue to grow albeit the beneficiary of the phenomena today is not Congress but the Hindutva party. 

The UPA government last time made loud noises in bringing Communal Violence Bill but did not have the courage to bring it like it did to other bills. A broad and inclusive communal violence bill is needed which include the caste related violence too. The government must decide on it otherwise the alienation of minorities will prove too dangerous as sooner in the absence of justice as well as leadership there is a danger of growth of fringe elements. Muslims are facing it valiantly even when most of the political parties have used their vulnerabilities both in the name of secularism and Hindutva. As a citizen of India, they deserve all rights as anybody else have and need justice and protection. It is shame that a community which has given so much to India’s culture and heritage today feeling dejected, isolated and left out. These are no good sign for ‘achchedin’ as all Indian citizens irrespective of their caste, class, religion and region deserve state protection and ‘achchedin’. 

Hashimpura reminds that the state of India has neglected Dalits and minorities in absolute terms. While we can understand that court’s procedures are delayed. We do understand that there is a problem in identifying the witnesses but one thing is clear and unambiguous which is that 42 citizens of this country were killed on 22nd May 1987 in the police custody. There is no denial of fact that Muslims of Maliana and Hashimpura were at the receiving end. Many lost their parents, their father, husbands and sons. I have only one question. How many of the political leaders visited them ? What was the compensation package ? Why has it not been done ? Why doesn’t the government take the responsibility to honorably rebuild their lives ? Who stops them but then political class use vulnerabilities to be charged as ‘appeasing’ the Muslims. Is denial of justice an appeasement of Muslims ?  When we know who have done it then where is the problem ? 

But the governments which live on police, use them as a tool for their own purposes, will never have the courage to act against them. That is the reality of Hashimpura and elsewhere. In no communal caste conflict have we reached any conclusion because their deaths and killings have become the biggest issue to polarize the atmosphere. This country can fear justice to polarization. It does not bother that two communities are being dragged in politics and that one is not getting justice. It is most unfortunately that after 1989, Uttar Pradesh did not see any Congress governments but that of socialists, Bahujans, Hindutva and every other shade but none of them bothered to visit these people, meet them and share their agony and pains. We can blame Congress for all its sins but what about those who claims to be ‘bigger’ ‘seculars’ than Congress party ? 

It is therefore essential that Muslim use all the legal tools and also question political parties on these counts. They cannot take them for granted. It is time, Indian state show sign of accountability to Muslims and not push them to wall to go and approach international courts of justice. We hope Supreme Court will be keeping an eye on it and we need special courts under monitoring of Supreme Court to have day to day hearing on these issues. Unless justice is provided to people of Hashimpura and many others like them, such acquittals will remain dark chapters of Indian judiciary. 
 
Trapped in the Killing Fields

                                                                                                                                        (Source: Praveen Jain)

Excerpts from the forthcoming book on the Hashimpura Massacre by Vibhuti Narain Rai, IPS retired
Translated from the Hindi original by Darshan Desai 
Hashimpura – May 22, 1987


Time heals, indeed, but it sometimes drags some dark nightmares into the recesses of the present and of the future. That horrifying night in 1987 and the subsequent days are etched on memory like a stone – it was something that overpowered the cop in me. To such an extent that the intrigue in me just refuses to pass over. Looking for the living among blood-bathed bodies strewn around a canal and between ravines near Makanpur village on the Delhi-Ghaziabad border in the dead of night – the intervening night between May 22 and May 23 – with a dim struggling torchlight and ensuring one doesn’t trample upon bodies, all still stream through mind like a horror film. It was around 10.30 pm when I had just returned from Hapur; having dropped District Magistrate Naseem Zaidi, I returned to my house – the residence of Superintendent of Police. Just as I was reaching the house gate, my car headlights hit a frightened and nervous sub-inspector VB Singh, who was then in-charge of the Link Road Police Station. I could understand there was something wrong in his area of jurisdiction. I asked the driver to halt the car and I stepped down. 

VB Singh appeared too scared to explain coherently what exactly had happened. Whatever he said in stammered voice and broken words was adequate to shock anyone. I could make out immediately that the jawans of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) had killed some Muslims near the canal crossing the road leading to Makanpur. Why were they killed? How many were killed? From where were they picked up? All this was not known. After several attempts to get Singh to be more clear about the details, I drew up a narrative of the incident like this: It was around 9 pm when VB Singh and his colleagues sitting at the police station heard gunshots from near Makanpur; they thought there was some dacoity in the village. In sharp contrast to today’s Makanpur all dotted with malls and flashy housing complexes, the Makanpur of 1987 was a barren sprawl of land. It was on a single-track dirt road right through this barren land on which VB Singh speeded his motorcycle towards Makanpur with a sub-inspector and a constable sentry riding pillion. They had not reached even a few metres on the road when a truck charged towards them at break-neck speed and if Singh had not swerved his mobike off the road, the truck would have knocked them down. Just as he was trying to control his vehicle, Singh looked behind at the yellow-coloured truck with 41 written on it and some men in khaki uniform sitting in the rear. It was not difficult for them to understand that it was the 41st battalion of PAC. VB Singh and his cops wondered why was a PAC truck coming from Makanpur at that hour of the evening and if it had any relation with the gunshots they had heard. They started their journey towards Makanpur.  

It must have been hardly a kilometre’s drive when what Singh and his colleagues saw was scary. They saw bodies of people in pools of blood in the ravines around a canal and a culvert much ahead of Makanpur. The blood was fresh and still oozing out and spreading around. From what Singh could see from the headlights of his mobike, there were bodies lying in the bushes, on the canal banks and floating on the canal. The sub-inspector and colleagues tried to figure out what must have happened there and could not help finding a link between the speeding PAC truck, the gunshots and the bodies. Leaving the constable with him behind to keep watch on the spot, VB Singh and the sub-inspector then left for the headquarters of 41st PAC battalion close to his police station on the Delhi-Ghaziabad Road. The gate was closed and despite much explaining and argument, the sentry there would not open. VB Singh then came to me and I could gather that what had happened was frightening and could have serious repercussions the next day, given the fact that the neighbouring Meerut district was burning in communal passions for the past few weeks and there was an uneasy calm in Ghaziabad. I called up District Magistrate Naseem Zaidi first who was just about to hit the bed and told him to keep awake. The next call was to my additional SP and then to some deputy SPs and magistrates – I asked all of them to get ready quickly. In the next 45 minutes we were on our way to Makanpur, stacked in some seven to eight vehicles and reached the spot near the culvert and the canal barely within 15 minutes. Makanpur village was just across the canal but nobody was there – probably they were too scared to venture out. There were indeed police personnel from Link Road Police Station, trying to figure out things with their dim torchlights, which were too inadequate. I asked the drivers of our vehicles to turn towards the canal and put on their headlights. Although this spread light all around, we still needed the torchlights for a closer look since there was a thick foliage of bushes. What I saw then was the nightmare that has stayed with me. Blood-bathed bodies, some immersed in the ravines, some hanging from the canal embankments partly in water, partly outside, some floating on the water. The blood had not even dried up.  

Before the counting the dead and extricating the bodies, I found it crucial to check if anyone was alive and needed help. We fanned out in all directions to find out if anyone was still alive; while checking this with our torches we also called out aloud if someone was alive. There was no response. We even shouted that we are friends and not enemies and were there to take the wounded to the hospital. Still, no response – some of us got disappointed and sat on the culvert nearby.  

I and the district magistrate decided there was no point spending time and it was necessary to chalk out the strategy for the next day given that the neighbouring Meerut district was burning in communal fire and this incident could flare up passions in Ghaziabad the moment these bodies go for post mortem the next day. So I instructed junior officials to oversee extrication of the bodies and wrap up the necessary paper work while we would proceed to Link Road Police Station to plan the next day’s security arrangements. No sooner had we turned to go then we heard somebody coughing, we immediately stopped in our tracks. I rushed towards the canal. We worked the torches again and called out that we were indeed friends. Then our lights zeroed in on someone convulsing a bit – here was someone hanging between the bushes and the canal, half in water; it was difficult to figure out at first if he was alive or dead. He was shivering with fear and it took long to convince him that we were there to help. The man who was to later tell us the bloody and horrific tale of that night was Babudin. Bullets brushed his flesh at two places, but there were no injuries on him. In fact, after being helped out of the canal, he walked down to where our vehicles were parked. He also sat down and rested briefly on the culvert. 

Twenty-one years later, when I was collecting material to write this book I met Babudin at the same place in Hashimpura from where the PAC had picked him in 1987. He had forgotten my face but the first thing he recounted on being introduced was that I had taken a beedi from a constable to give him when he sat on the culvert that night. Babudin told me that it was during routine searches that a PAC truck picked up some 40 to 50 people and drove them away. They all thought they had been arrested and would soon be lodged in custody. While it appeared rather strange that it was taking too long to reach the jail from curfew-bound streets, everything else looked so normal that they had no inkling of what was in store for them. But when they were de-boarded at the canal and were being killed one after the other, they understood why their custodians were so silent and why they kept on whispering into one another’s ears.  

The story beyond this is a sordid saga of the relations between the Indian State and the minorities, the unprofessional attitude of police and a frustratingly sluggish judicial system. The offences I lodged in the Link Road Police Station of Ghaziabad and Muradnagar on May 22, 1987, met with many obstacles during the last 23 years and are still struggling in various courts to reach their logical conclusion.  
I kept on thinking how and why a bloody incident like this could happen? How could someone in his senses kill another like this? And that too of a group of people? That too without any enmity that spawns uncontrollable anger? There are many such questions that confront me even now. 

The answers to these questions lie in the horrifying phase in which this incident occurred. The Ram Janmabhoomi agitation that had been going for nearly a decade had hopelessly divided the entire society. The agitation that was getting aggressive by the day had especially made the Hindu middle-class incredibly communal. The maximum inter-community riots after the country’s partition happened during this phase. It was but obvious that the PAC and the police could not have remained insulated from this social chasm. Moreover, the PAC has been perennially accused of being communal.  
        
I had a long interview with VKB Nair, who was the Senior Superintendent of Police during the initial days of the riots in Meerut. From what he could distinctly remember 23 years later when I met him was this poignant episode. Just the second or third day after the riots started, Nair heard some commotion outside his house. When he came out, he found the Muslim stenographer of his office with his wife and children, all scared and crying. They were staying in police quarters and the PAC jawans camping there were continuously taunting them. That day if they had not fled with the help of other colleagues, they could have been attacked and killed. Till the riots subsided the stenographer’s family took shelter in the SSP’s bungalow. Those days were so horrifying that when some Muslim prisoners were taken to Fatehgarh jail from Meerut, they were killed inside by other prisoners and warders.  

Coming back to the incident near Makanpur, I was intrigued that the killers went to this extent. They put their rifles on the chest of unarmed hapless youngsters and shot them and even after they fell on the ground shivering, kept on pumping bullets in them to make sure they die. All this without knowing them, without any personal enmity! Why? I have spent 23 long years in resolving this conundrum, to understand the psyche of those who did it. And now when I know the answers, I have got around to write this book. But it is unfortunate that PAC’s Platoon Commander Surendra Singh, who is the hero or the villain of the piece, is not alive and I will only sparingly use the notes I took after spending hours understanding his psyche that ordered a small team to execute this pogrom. I will not use the details I got from him to avoid any allegation that I have added or deleted facts to make my point. Similarly, the then Commandant of PAC’s 41st battalion Jodh Singh Bhandari too is not alive and I will not mention about the long interview I had with him unless it is inevitable.

This saga is the repayment of a debt that has weighed on my chest since the 22nd of May, 1987.  
 
“No Riot Can Last for More than 24 Hours unless the State wants it to Continue”- Vibhuti Narain Rai, IPS to Teesta Setalvad
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY TEESTA SETALVAD CO-EDITOR COMMUNALISM COMBAT



He is as IPS officer whom the saffron brigade loves to hate. Based on his personal experience as a junior officer during the 1980 communal riots in Allahabad he wrote a novel. Shahar mein curfew, in 1989 on the eve of his promotion as the superintendent of police of the same city in U.P Ashok Singhal, the general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, felt enraged enough by its contents to engage in a public burning of the book.

In 1987, he was the SP of Ghaziabad. When in the course of the meerut riots, the state's Provincial Armed Constabulary [PAC] arbitrarily rounded up a group of Muslims from Hashimpura, packed them in a truck, killed them in cold-blood and dumped them like garbage. He and his men, cried themselves hoarse for three hours in desperate search of a survivor among the victims so that the gruesome tale of 'criminals in uniform' could be told to the world. 

Having succeeded at last in finding Babudeen, the lone survivor he ensured top security to the victim until an F.I.R. was lodged against the murderous PRC men. 
Vibhuti N. Rai is his name. He has 20 years of police service behind him. 

Now a DIG, Border Security Force (BSF), he was posted at Srinagar before he took a year's study leave for research on the subject of communalism and the police force in India. 
Among other things, Rai's interviews with hundreds of riot victims from across the country produced the startling finding that in all riot situations. Hindus consider policemen as their friends while, almost without exception. India's minorities -- Muslims and Sikhs -- experience them as their enemy. 

The implications of his finding are frightening because "losing faith in the police may lead to loss of fa1t.h in the state" itself 
The candour and depth of feeling with which Rai spoke t o Combat is rare for a police officer still in service. We reproduce here his interview in full. 

What is the specific subject of your dissertation?
The subject that has been assigned to me is "Perception of Police Neutrality during Communal Riots", that is, the perception of the police among different strata of society I concentrated on perceptions of police neutrality among all minority segments in Indian society. How they perceive the police was my specific area of research.

To collect information, I framed a questionnaire for a wide cross-section of riot victims from all over the country. The responses that I have got are startling, there is a sharp difference between the perception of the minorities and those of the majority community.

Hindus responded in one way while the response of Muslims and Sikhs was entirely different. From the hundreds of responses that I have collected it is clear that during communal riots, Hindus always visualize the police as their friends while almost every Muslim and Sikh sees them as his enemy.

Now, this is a truly shocking revelation to me. Though I had anticipated that a large majority of Muslims and Sikhs might feel this way, I expected at least some sections from both communities to view the police otherwise. I was shocked to find a near universal minority reponse that the police are enemies.

A second question I asked my respondents was whether they would approach the police during a communal riot when their life was threatened or their property was in danger. The reponses to this question, too, were yet, another revelation to me. The vast majority categorically stated there was no question of their, approaching the police. A few said they would not like to reply to this question. Among those who responded, barely 5- 10 per cent said that they would like to approach the police. These responses, again, are truly shocking.

As a senior police officer what do you feel are the implications of such responses?
The implications are nothing short of disastrous because the police represents the state. Losing faith in the police may amount to losing faith in the state. But t must make a qualification: one of the heartening findings was that while loss of faith in the police was near total among the minorities, many of the riot victims I interviewed still expressed faith in other organs of the state like the army, the BSF or the CRPF.

But if the communal virus that is so virulent spreads further. I wonder how long we can keep our army free from it? Especially, if the army is called in so frequently tackle communally explosive situations and jawans are stationed for long durations, there is every likelihood of their catching the same virus. The consolation for now is: at least, the minorities still have some faith in some institutions of the state.

Now that you have completed your research and are near the end of your dissertation what are the major conclusions that you have reached? As an insider who has been extensively researching on the issue, how serious and widespread, according to you, is the problem of communalisation in the Indian police force?
Communal prejudice and bias is so deep and widespread that I feel some drastic steps need to be taken and fast. Especially by the senior leadership within the Indian police. Prejudice governs our actions much more than the fair-play we are sworn to. It is heart-warming to come across instances of decent, non-partisan police officers. But, and I say this with deep regret, such examples are more the exception than the rule.

It is useless to decry or condemn or constantly put blame only on politicians. We in the police force have to accept that our house is not in order.

It has become a routine, a fashion almost, after each riot when the allegations begin coming in, senior officers defend the force and counter-allege that the accusations are biased, that they have been leveled by ill-informed persons, etc; that sections of society, the media, social activists, minorities and communists who commonly bring these facts to the notice of the public are biased and that, in a nutshell, their accusations are mala fide.

Personally, I feel that unless we begin by accepting that there is something seriously wrong, we may not be able to rectify it and put our house in order.
Our leadership must improve, IPS officers must stop blaming the force. This applies to Bombay or anywhere else in the country.

There is often a tendency in the force to seek an alibi for their conduct in the role of politicians. For instance, the excuse that "we were not given the necessary orders" is often touted. What are your comments on this?
There is no denying that in a system of parliamentary democracy like ours, politicians play a decisive and in many cases a final role. But I have never in my whole career come across a situation where an officer who has acted conscientiously and stopped a riot, IS punished for it through political action.

Many times we take shelter behind politicians for our own failures. We say that politicians did not permit it. But no politician can ever ask us to behave in a communal fashion. It is not so easy for even the
chief minister of a state ruled by a "Hindutva" party to openly behave like a Hindu communal fanatic and give orders according to his leanings.

Could you elaborate on this?
Yes. We now have historical evidence of this kind of inaction and complicity. In 1990, when Mr. Mulayam, Singh Yadav's government was in power, 300 men were stationed all around and protected the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. Though around a hundred frenzied Persons climbed the domes they could not damage it.

Two years later, on December 6, 1992, we had a situation where the entire force of the UP police CRPF, ITBP (Indo- Tibetan Border Police) totaling 20,000 plus were "guarding the structure. 'The video casette recording b the Intelligence Bureau clearly documents that not more than 3-4,000 "kar sevaks" were within close proximity of the mosque. In such a scenario could no effective action have been taken?

The reason why no action was taken lies elsewhere. The same cassette shows policemen rejoicing with their hands held high in victory when the Babri Masjid was destroyed. The district magistrate and other officials were dancing with delight. That is why the "kar sevaks" could not be stopped. There was no desire to do so.

So, if you were in control and were given an order telling you not to fire at the kar sevaks, for example, are you saying that you were not bound to follow this political diktat?
Yes, I am saying that. No government can give illegal orders. The Indian Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, the Indian Constitution, they are supreme. And no government can give orders contravening these statutes.

As a senior police officer with considerable experience, especially in communal hotspots in UP, could you cite instances of what you consider open communal bias?
There are constant refrains from sections of officialdom that the PAC (Provincial Armed Constabulary) in UP is .not communal. My personal evidence is to the contrary. I am constrained to say that their behaviour is like that of an RSS activist. The only difference is that the PAC jawans sport full khaki pants while the RSS cadre wears khaki shorts.
For me, one of the most glaring instances was the conduct of the PAC in Meerut. I was serving as SP in Ghaziabad (neighbouring district) when the PAC picked up at least 40 Muslims from Hashimpura in Meerut and shot them dead in 1987

During the communal riots there was an official "search" of the mohalla by the army, while both the police and PAC were present. During those 'searches," the PAC arbitrarily picked up Muslims from the area, packed them into a truck and killed them en route to Ghaziabad.

"Communal prejudice and bias is so deep and widespread that I feel some drastic steps need to be taken and fast, Especially by the senior leadership within the Indian police. Prejudice governs our actions much more than the fair-play we are sworn to. It is heart-warming to come across instances of decent, non-partisan police officers. But, and I say this with deep regret, such examples are more the exception than the rule"


As SP, Ghaziabad reached the spot within a few hours. It took me more than three hours of patrolling among a field of corpses - one of the most gruesome jobs of my whole career- to locate the stray survivor of that massacre. 

My men and I shouted ourselves hoarse, trying to convince any survivor among the victims that we were there to save them. But how could we expect them to believe us since we donned the same hateful uniform? Finally, after several hours, we could reach Babudeen, one of the few survivors of that PAC assault. It was due to our relentless efforts that the F.I.R. against the PAC officials was registered in his name. He had to have top notch security for many days.

The case was then handed over to the CID, UP. Eight years later, I was recently told that the (the CID) have finally fired a chargesheet against officers of the PAC! The chargesheet reached the court only. A few months back. The case is now languishing with the government yet to decide whether or not-to give sanction to prosecute.

It may be argued that you are over-generalising from a few capes, however shocking?
This is only one of the examples. If we try to ignore these, call them exceptions and explain it away saying that their (PAC) normal conduct is secular, it would amount to brushing the dust under the carpet. We will have to accept that something is seriously wrong with the PAC.

In almost every riot in UP over the past 20 ears the PAC has been indicted Personally, I feel that such repeated allegations call for drastic steps to improve the PAC.
Another ghastly case IS the conduct of the Bihar police in the 1989 riots in Bhagalpur, especially in the villages of Loghain and Chanderi where 100 Muslims were slaughtered in cold blood. In Loghain particularly, the conduct of the police and the administration was truly shocking because the bodies of those slaughtered were recovered only one-and-a-half-months later, buried in a field over which cauliflower was being grown.

The reason was that the officials of the district police and administration, located barely 20 kilometers from the site, just kept on denying the incidents despite repeated allegations especially in the media.
You can imagine the killing of over 100 persons in cold blood within 20 kilometers of officialdom and both the police and administration trying to hide it. That was the height of callousness. There were serious allegations against the Bihar police for their gross conduct. On a recent visit to Bhagalpur, I was also told that only one PSI has even been chargesheeted.

I strongly feel that action should have been taken against the senior police officer on duty also. Punishing an ASI or a head constable is not enough The SP or the DSP, the 18, commissioner or DIG, the DM, punishing someone at the top 1s a must.

Why? To send a strong message down to the lower levels of the police force and the administration?
Exactly, that way a clear message is sent down. If you punish the SP, if you tell the DM and the SP that if there are riots you will be accountable, there will be no riots. I strongly believe that if a riot break out and is not controlled within 24 hours, the DM and the SP should both be placed under immediate suspension.   

What you are implying then is that any communal riot anywhere in India can be effectively controlled by the administration and the police within 24 hours if they desire to do so. If they do not, they should be held directly responsible for the failure?
Yes, absolutely. Recently, I attended a session at a training course for probationers. It was the unanimous opinion of all senior officials present that no communal riot in India can last for more than 24 hours without the consent of .I" the state.

I have repeatedly made this proposition at every forum that I have addressed: In any city or state of the country, a riot can be controlled within 24 hours unless the state wants it otherwise. B the state I mean the forces which represent the state whether it is police or the district administration, or local governments.

Indian society is not a hostile or volatile society like West Asia, Europe or other parts of the world where sections of civil society are fighting the state with the use of weapons. Few situations like that prevail in India, the exceptions being terrorist-infested areas like Punjab, Kashmir and the northeast. In the rest of the country, if the police and administration are unable to control a riot within 24 hours, it only means that our actions, conduct and behaviour need introspection.

"Many times we take shelter behind politicians for our own failures. We say that politicians did not permit it. But no politician can ever ask us to behave in a communal fashion. It is not so easy for even the chief minister of a state ruled by a “Hindutva” party to openly behave like a Hindu communal fanatic. It is often our own inbuilt communal bias, that makes us behave in a communally biased fashion"  


It is my strong personal view that it is the deep-rooted communal bias in the police and the administration that prevents us from controlling communal flare-ups within 24 hours. Statistics also bear this out.  Muslims have been the worst sufferers, the victims of every riot since Independence. Some 20- 25 per cent of those affected might be Hindus but over 76 per cent are Muslims. Similarly, It is Muslims who constitute the large majority of victims of police bullets in each riot. Despite this, statistics also show that more Muslims are arrested before, during and after a riot than Hindus. How can this happen, unfailingly, each time, unless there is deep-seated communal bias?

What kind of action do you think is needed to put the house in order as you put it?
The action will have to be manifold. For example, I would recommend that, first and foremost, minorities must be given proper representation in the police force. We must have reservations for this. This kind of affirmative action has been adopted in countries like the USA and the UK for blacks and other racial and ethnic groups, and they have found it useful. In Indian society, which is a plural society composed of so many ethnic, linguistic and religious groups. I think that fair representation of all these groups is a must. It is absolutely necessary.

Many senior police officials argue that reservation is not the answer. Why do you feel such a step la justified?
I do not find any force or justification in these arguments. I find that those who put forward these arguments are basically trying to hide their own communal bias under the guise of maintaining discipline or morale of the force. They argue that in fact having reservations might encourage fights or dissensions within the force, that it may lead to a situation where the lower rank policemen might refuse to obey the commands of an officer from another community etc.

I find these arguments utterly baseless. In fact, I feel that if there is a representation within the police force of members from each segment of society, it will help them to understand "the other point of view." If there is representation of Muslims, Sikhs and Christians among policemen posted at the district level, I am sure there will be a marked change in the overall behaviorial pattern. I feel certain of this.

What have we achieved by not having reservation? Despite recommendation after recommendation made annually by the National Police Commission, why are we reluctant to implement this basic safeguard?
May I give you a tragic example of what the lack of reservation can do? Within days of the 1980 communal carnage at Muradabad, the then UP chief minister announced the creation of five battalions of a special unit, the Vishesh Sewa Dal, “especially for the protection of minorities.” Seven years later, it was the 41st PAC batallion, consisting of these same five battalions of the Vishesh Sewa Dal, ostensibly constituted for the protection of minorities that was responsible for the atrocities at Hashimpura. Can there be a clearer example of what lack of reservations can do?

Could you explain how a more representative force will make a difference at a practical level?
Our police functions on the basis of minimum strength. For example, the PAC of Uttar Pradesh will not be split in less than a section and the BSF will not be split in less than one platoon. A section means 11-12 persons. So, imagine if these 11-12 persons are stationed at one particular place, and out of this number there are 2-3 belonging to the minority community. They sleep together in one barrack, relax together, dine together. Through all this, a sort of camaraderie, a sort of brotherhood, develops that affects their behaviour in a communally tense situation also.

You say that a quality leadership within the police force can make all the difference in controlling a communally tense situation. What is needed to ensure this quality leadership?
Forces are run by their leaders. As Napolean has so rightly said, "There are no bad soldiers, only bad generals." So, leadership not only makes a substantial difference, it is the most vital, the most decisive factor in the functioning of a force whether we are talking of the police, the paramilitary or the army.

If the leader becomes communal, his actions are tainted with bias, it is certainly going to reflect in the behaviour of the force also. Certain interventions are needed. Among the remedies, I would rate training as the most important. New training inputs will have to be evolved.

At the end of the police training we have to be able to create a conviction in the probationers that once they don khaki, they seize to be Hindu or Muslim. Their faith remains their individual faith but once they sport their uniform they are simply police officers with one solitary duty: to maintain law and order.

You were serving In UP at the height of the Ramjanmabhoomi mobilisation. Can you tell us bristly how the communal virus came 10 infect the various segments and institutions of society?
Those were the Worst years. Communalisation had flowed down from the upper classes and castes to even lower caste Hindus. Those were the worst days. I had never seen anything like it. Every segment of society was deeply affected by the virus: the media, the police, lawyers, the magistracy, the bureaucracy.

Lawyers of the Allahabad High Court had led a procession screaming pro-Godse and anti-Gandhi slogans during that time. Professors and lecturers of the Allahabad University had issued letters and joint statements in favour of the demolition and the construction of the Ram temple.

What was the role of the media during this period?
The role of the media was the worst of all. Newspapers Aaj, Jaagran, Amar Ujala have been severely censored by the Press Council for their role. For example, reports on the news of the death toll of kar sevaks in 1990 revealed the worst bias .n the media. Hardly 25-odd persons had been killed. But thanks to the local press, the figure reached 25-30,000! Some papers began by exaggerating the figures - just another name for lying - to 500, then 1,000, 2.000. Within a few days these figures had- reached 25.30.000. You just could not believe what was happening. The aim of these publications was clear – to whip up anger and frenzy.

There is the other example from Aligarh. Local newspapers around the same time published a complete lie stating that in the hospital attached to Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), all Hindu patients had been killed. The "news" appeared one morning. Immediately riots started in and around Aligarh, spreading to neighbouring districts and villages. Imagine the effect ... violence breaking out on the basis of a totally false report, maliciously printed.

"I would recommend that first and foremost, minorities must be given proper representation in the police force. We must have reservations. This kind of affirmative action has been adopted in countries like the USA and the UK for blacks and other racial and ethnic groups, and they have found it useful. In Indian society, which is a plural society composed of so many ethnic, linguistic and religious groups, I think that fair representation of all these groups is a must"


Within a few hours, a respected couple from Aligarh, G. P. Singh and his wife, Mamta Singh (writers in Hindi) went to the hospital and found each and every patient safe. Patients even told them that after this rumour had been systematically spread. Muslim doctors and medical college students guarded them the whole night. They were actually worried that people may take inspiration from the rumour.
And what happened to the newspaper? It escaped unscathed, except for a reprimand from the Press Council. And what would a reprimand do to a publication like this? It made no difference.

What was the conduct of the UP police during this period?
Policemen. Too, were reading the same papers. Almost the entire police force in UP began believing that 25-30.000 had been killed at Ayodhya when they had gone for kar seva.
The fascist way of preparing ground and gaining support from the majority community works like this: it results in ordinary people starting to believe that they are victims and under threat. Through insidiously planted propaganda it secures the participation of ordinary persons in violence against the other", in the belief that 'they are actually defending themselves. The media, especially in that period, served the fascist cause admirably by printing blatant lies.

You said that part of your research work was to explore how the RSS functions before, in and during a riot situation. What are your findings in' this regard?
The most recent example of the RSS' manipulation of the mass psyche was evident in Hubli (Karnataka) in the flag-hoisting controversy. I was there by January 19, several days before Republic Day, as part of my research. It gave me first hand knowledge, yet again, of the manner in which lies are assiduously propagated, and a myth systematically sown deep into the mass psyche. It bore close similarity to the myth and lies that were manufactured, for the Ramjanmabhoomi mobilisation.

Until about 1984.85, we always read or heard the words Babri Masjid used to describe the monument around which Hindutva forces had launched their mobilisation. This was the case with the private as much as the official, government-controlled television and radio media.

Then, gradually, the terms of reference changed: it first began to be referred to as the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute then to Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute; finally, by the time we reached 1990, most of the media -including the government controlled television and radio - had begun to refer to it as vivadit dhancha (disputed structure).

Similarly, in Hubli, the ldgah maidan had been given in 1922 on a 999 year-tong lease to the Anjuman-e-Islam. Since then the location has been referred to as ldgah maidan. Even all the cases that have been filed contesting the claims of ownership, including the one by the RGSS (Rashtriya Gaurav Samman Samiti) refer to the location as ldgah maidan.

But now, suddenly, they have found a different name. There is a local historical figure, a symbol of resistance to British imperialism, Rani Chinamma. A statue of this historical figure, a woman locally respected for her struggle, has suddenly been installed within 100 yards at the structure at the crossroads. She is a powerful local symbol who has been sought la be appropriated by the local forces of Hindutva.

Now, this park which has for 72 years been called ldgah maidan, suddenly been re-named Rani Chinamma maidan! The local press has followed suit and begun to refer to it as ldgah maiden-Rani Chinamma maidan. I recently fold a friend in Hubli that very soon it will be renamed Rani Chinamma-ldgah maiden and, finally, a disputed maidan.

This is how the RSS creates a mythical dispute, works on the minds of a vast majority of Hindus who "then begin believing falsified accounts and accept them to be the truth.