Nearly three decades after 42 Muslim men were killed in Meerut in western Uttar Pradesh, a trial court in Delhi acquitted 16 policemen accused in the case, giving them the "benefit of doubt". Known as the Hashimpura massacre, the case dates back to 1987 when personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary or the PAC picked up men from the Hashimpura locality during communal riots in the city and allegedly shot them dead.
The court verdict has reopened wounds of the few who survived.
Recounting the horror, 42-year-old Zulfikar Nasir says he was picked up by the police like other men of the locality and bundled into a truck. He was barely 15 then. Mr Nasir alleged that the police then shot everyone in cold blood.
"Two people died before me. I was hit as well but the bullet hit me in the arm pit. I fell and pretended to be dead. They threw me in the canal with other bodies, from where I escaped," he said.
After a long-drawn legal battle, 16 accused policemen were acquitted by a Delhi court on Saturday for "want of sufficient evidence regarding their identity".
The verdict has also shocked Jamaluddin who lost his 21-year-old son in the incident. "It is being said that the accused policemen could not be identified. I want to ask how could 15-16-year-olds, who were trying to save their lives, identify the accused 20 years later?"
"We cross-examined and showed that no evidence links the accused to it. The judgement is based on that," said Defence lawyer Sellar Khan, who represented four of the 16 accused.
But VN Rai, the then Superintendent of Police in Ghaziabad who filed the first FIR in the case, blamed the probe agency for the acquittal which he said was a result of a "shoddy probe".
The victims are expected to file an appeal against the verdict after the detailed order is out later this week. An angry Zulfikar asks, "Did no one kill 42 men in 1987?"
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