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.
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