Millennium Post

Endless wait

In Samuel Beckett’s seminal absurdist play ‘Waiting for Godot’, two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly and in vain for the arrival of someone named Godot. On Saturday, survivors of the 1987 Hashimpura massacre in Uttar Pradesh continued their agonising wait for justice after a Delhi court acquitted all 16 surviving personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary. The accused were given the “benefit of doubt for want of sufficient evidence regarding their identity”. For the survivors and the family members of the deceased, the 27-year wait for justice just grew longer and more cumbersome. Before one gets into the implications of such a court order, it is imperative to establish context. According to the prosecution, the PAC personnel had landed at Hashimpura on May 22, 1987, days after Meerut district had witnessed scenes of communal violence. The accused had picked up approximately 50 Muslims-from a crowd of 500 outside a mosque-who were all shot. Some of the bodies, though, surfaced in the Upper Ganga canal in nearby Muradnagar and others in the Hindon Canal in Ghaziabad. Although there is little clarity over the number of deaths, 42 bodies were found and identified. The CB-CID, a special wing under the Uttar Pradesh Criminal Investigation Department, which probed the case, had listed 161 witnesses in their charge sheet. Although a detailed order is still pending, the judge’s contention that there was insufficient evidence regarding the very identity of the accused-reflects very poorly on the prosecution. In addition to acquitting the accused, the very fact that the court ordered compensation for the victims, allows one to conclude that custodial murder had indeed taken place. It is the failure of the CB-CID, since the onus is on them to identify the accused. In its very essence, this judgement raises some serious questions about the functioning of the probe agency involved. Unfortunately, the survivors and family members of the victims will continue to pay the price for the probe agency’s incompetence 27 years later.
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