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  Asia-Pacific
After 20 Years, RTI Is Another Blow to Hashimpura Survivors
By Bobby Ramakant
Asia Correspondent
A victim of Hashimpura bloodbath

It was disappointing that despite of 615 RTI applications filed by victim families and survivors of Hashimpura custodial killings more than 100 days ago, vital information hasn't been provided by the UP State government. These RTI applications were filed on 24 May 2007 in Lucknow– to mark 20th anniversary of the Hashimpura bloodbath and their unduly agonising long wait for justice!

Most of the critical information pertinent to the case, including the Crime Branch - Central Investigation Department (CB-CID) report, has not been provided. RTI Act had earlier provided hope to these people who have been struggling despite of all odds for justice since past 20 years.

Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel had allegedly gunned down over 40 people on 22 May 1987 (all muslim). The Hashimpura massacre occurred during the communal riots that broke out in Meerut in May 1987. Apparently, the immediate provocation was the Rajiv Gandhi-led Central government's decision to open the Babri Masjid for worship by Hindus.

The triad of police, administration and judicial system made all efforts to delay or even expunge the case in some instance.

On 24 May 2007, they had asked the State to tell them why these PAC accused have not been suspended from service while being prosecuted for custodial murders? What departmental proceedings and disciplinary action, if any, were initiated against them? Why was there a delay of almost a decade in even charge sheeting the PAC accused? Why were most of those indicted by the CB CID Report let off the hook? They are asking for the CBCID Inquiry Report into the PAC killings to be made public.

In 1988, the State government ordered an inquiry by the CB-CID. The CB-CID 's report, submitted to the State government in 1994, was never made public. In 1995, some of the victims moved the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court to make the report public and to prosecute those indicted in it.

Also in May 2007, Senior Supreme Court advocate Vrinda Grover had filed 2 RTI applications with the Home Department of UP Government. These RTI applications asked for a copy of CB-CID inquiry report. The State was also asked to reveal how many persons were indicted by the CB-CID report as complicit in the PAC killings and why did the State sanction criminal prosecution only against 19 PAC men and not all the others indicted in the CB-CID report?

No reply has been given to these two RTI applications filed by Vrinda Grover. The State has simply chosen to stonewall the citizens' right to information.

Today (3 September 2007) Vrinda Grover met the Appellate Officer at CB-CID who accepted that the information should have been provided in response to RTI applications, and assured Vrinda and other activists including Magsaysay Awardee (2002) and senior social activist Dr Sandeep Pandey that prompt remedial action shall be taken.

In response to the remaining 613 RTI applications filed by victim families and survivors in May 2007, some information has been provided which also includes duly-attested blank pages! The Annual Confidential Report (ACR) of the accused PAC men reveals that mass custodial killing of muslims doesn't even invite a negative entry. Ironically the ACR noting for the year 1987 gives the accused PAC men a glowing and congratulatory entry. Further documents provided in response to these RTI applications disclose that accused PAC men were suspended very briefly and then quickly re-instated in service on flimsy grounds.

The struggle of survivors and family members of those killed in Hashimpura massacre, has undoubtedly intensified over the past 20 years, despite of all disappointments and multi-prong attempts to wash-it off. It also raises valid questions on the extent to which our systems in governance have turned communal.



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Bobby Ramakant, who serves as The Seoul Times' Asia correspondent, is a member of NATT, Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals, and edits Weekly MONiTOR series, reporting violations of tobacco control policies as a senior public health and development journalist. He writes for newspapers in 11 countries and can be reached at bobbyramakant@yahoo.com)

 

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