Vibhuti Narain Rai’s new book on Hashimpura Custodial killings

Scroll ­ Hashimpura May 22 1987: The forgotten story of one of Indias biggest custodial killings

Hashimpura, May 22, 1987: The forgotten story

of one of India’s biggest custodial killings

‘PAC personnel had rounded up dozens of Muslims from riot-torn Meerut and had killed them in

Time heals, indeed, but sometimes it drags some dark nightmares from the recesses of our past into

the present; nightmares whose repercussions are felt in the future too. Still weighing heavy on my

conscience is that horrifying night of 22 May in the humid summer of 1987. And the subsequent

days, similarly, are etched in my memory like as if on stone – it was something that overpowered the

cop in me. The Hashimpura experience continues to torment me.

Searching for those who had survived among the blood-soaked bodies strewn around the canal and

between ravines near Makanpur village on the Delhi-Ghaziabad border in the pitch dark, on the

night of 22 May, armed only with a dim torchlight, while ensuring that we didn’t trample upon the

bodies – each scene still streams through my mind like a horror film.

It was around 10.30 at night when I heard about the incident. At first, I could not believe it. It

was not until I reached the Hindon canal in Makanpur village, along with the district

magistrate and other officials, that I realised had become a witness to secular India’s most

shameful and horrendous incident. 1/6

7/3/2016 Scroll ­ Hashimpura May 22 1987: The forgotten story of one of Indias biggest custodial killings

I was the superintendent of police, Ghaziabad district, and personnel from Provincial Armed

Constabulary (PAC) had rounded up dozens of Muslims from riot-torn Meerut and had killed them

in cold blood in my area of jurisdiction. One of the survivors of this horror was Babudin; he was the

first survivor we found and he helped us put together the details of the incident. It was through him

that we learnt about similar killings near another water canal that was just forty minutes away. This

was the Gang canal that traversed through Muradnagar.

Between 22 May 1987 and 21 March 2015, when the verdict on the crime came, it would seem that

Indian society had undergone a sea of change. The changes that have taken place in the political,

economic and social spheres have metamorphosed the social milieu of the country. But the fact that

the case dragged on endlessly in the courts actually serves as a grim reminder that nothing has

The relation between the Indian state and the minorities is almost the same now as it was then in

1987 or even earlier, in the 1950s and the 1960s. The same absence of trust, the same hatred, the

same prejudices, the same notions, and the same requirement and attempt to prove their ‘Indian-
ness’. Nothing has changed. It is as if the more things change, the more they remain the same. Or

Just a few days after the Hashimpura massacre, I decided to write about it and bring its details

I began by recording the tales of those who committed the atrocity in order to make sense of their

psyche – I wanted to understand how they could pull the trigger on fellow human beings. The

victims had no idea what they had done to deserve such a brutal death.

It took me nearly five to six years to realise that my belief that the killers would receive exemplary

punishment for such a heinous act would remain just that – a mere belief. As time flew by, it became

evident that the Indian state was just not interested in penalising the guilty. All the stakeholders of

the state kept playing hide but not seek with their responsibilities and many shielded themselves

behind criminal negligence. And it worked for them.

It was in 1992 when I finally decided to write this book. By then, I was transferred to a distant place

on deputation, with Lucknow and Meerut far beyond my reach. My writing began at a slow pace

because of my busy schedule, but when the National Police Academy, Hyderabad, granted me a

research fellowship in 1994, my prospects brightened. My subject was related to the image of the

police among Hindus and Muslims during communal riots, and I deliberately chose this topic in

order to work on the book; it also provided me with a year-long relief from regular routine.

With the help of friends who were working in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and PAC,

I was able to access a lot of documents, which


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