This Article is From Mar 28, 2015

Truth vs Hype Exclusive: Behind the Hashimpura Massacre, a Tale of Vendetta and Cover-Up

On 22 May 1987, a group of men were rounded up by the Army and the police from the largely Muslim Hashimpura mohalla in Meerut and handed over the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) of the Uttar Pradesh police. One such truck of men was taken to the banks of a canal, and shot at close range. Forty-two died, in perhaps the single largest custodial killing in the history of independent India. 
But last week, 16 men of the PAC accused in the Hashimpura killings were acquitted on grounds of lack of evidence. 
But a closer look at the events leading up to that tense afternoon in Meerut 27 years ago offers a glimpse into a largely unreported dimension of the motives behind the massacre. 
The most commonly accepted motive, mentioned in the chargesheet filed by the Criminal Investigation Division or CID of the UP police, is the alleged assault on the PAC the same day and loot of two rifles belonging to the force. "Upon that, on 22.05.1987, a search for illegal arms in Mohalla Hashim Pura, Meerut was launched," the chargesheet said. 
But a less explored dimension, also mentioned in the chargesheet, is the death of a young man named Prabhat Kaushik, who was killed by a stray bullet as he stood on the terrace of a building abutting Hashimpura. 
VN Rai, the then Superintendent of Police of Ghaziabad who probed the case before the CID took over, told NDTV that Kaushik was a local Hindutva fire-brand, and a nephew of a prominent Meerut BJP leader, Shakuntala Sharma. 
NDTV met Shakuntala Sharma at her residence. She, now over 80, couldn't recollect the events of 1987 clearly, but her son, Ambuj Kaushik, said Prabhat's death had nothing to do with politics. "Prabhat was not intentionally targeted," he said. "He was not involved in any politics. It was just that he happened to be the one who got shot. Guns were shot all over Meerut."
Rai also claimed that Kaushik's brother, Satish, then an Army Major was present in Hashimpura when the PAC, the local police and the Army were combing through the neighbourhood. 
"The CID report mentions that when the raids were happening, Satish was neither on duty, nor deployed in Meerut," said Rai. "But he was present in Hashimpura during the raids."
A CID casebook of its investigation into Hashimpura accessed by NDTV examines several eye witnesses, most of whom deny having seen the brother. But a sub-inspector posted in Meerut at the time claims to have seen a large number of Army men at the funeral of Prabhat Kaushik.
Bafflingly, the CID made no attempt to question Satish Kaushik. 
Nor did it try hard enough to bring to court two Army officials who supervised the search and arrests in Hashimpura, Major VM Pathania and Colonel PP Singh. 
"We could never question them. We could not even get him to the court." said Satish Tamta, the Special Prosecutor for the Hashimpura case said. 
The trial court, in its order, said the CID 's investigation was "scanty, unreliable and faulty". 
Rai told NDTV that the attempt to cover up the truth of Hashimpura began hours after news of the massacre trickled out. Then Congress Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Vir Bahadur Singh held a meeting of top officials in Meerut where, according to Rai, appreciated the gravity of the situation. "Most people were worrying about how to hide this," he said. "We didn't realize how big a challenge it was for the Indian state and democracy."
Congress spokesperson Rita Bahuguna said that tensions in UP were uncontrollable at the time but didn't think the Congress government was to blame for the case's outcome. "You know Indian processes. The judicial process is so slow and lengthy. It's not the question of which government there is," she said.
Clearly, many hands were responsible for the throttling of justice in the Hashimpura killings.

(For more on the sabotage of justice in Hashimpura, watch Truth vs Hype 10 pm Saturday, 7:30 pm Sunday)