Standing Still

The absence of justice for the Maliana massacre is a blot on our democracy

Residents of Maliana visit the graves of those killed in the anti-Muslim violence. More than three decades on, the families of the deceased still wait for justice. CK VIJAYAKUMAR FOR THE CARAVAN
31 August, 2022

It has been thirty-five years since 72 Muslims were brutally killed in the small town of Maliana, in Uttar Pradesh, during communal violence in Meerut district. Their families still await even the first glimmer of justice. The Maliana case, pending in a local court, stands as a blot on our criminal-justice system.

Tensions had been high in Maliana due to the riots in Meerut that followed protests against the unlocking of the Babri Masjid, in Ayodhya, for Hindu worship. However, residents of Maliana described the violence in the town as the targetted killing of Muslims by state forces. A day earlier, at least 42 Muslim men had been killed in Hashimpura, a neighbourhood in Meerut.

The testimonies of survivors and eyewitnesses detail the horror of what transpired in Maliana. It is appalling that there has not been a single conviction for these murders. I spoke to survivors who recounted how, on 23 May 1987, members of the Uttar Pradesh Provincial Armed Constabulary surrounded the town from all sides and shot at Muslim men, women and children. The PAC’s firing also provided cover for Hindu mobs that looted and burnt Muslim homes.

Among those who died was Mohammad Ali, then 80 years old, and ten members of his family. Ali’s grandson Ismail Khan, as well as Ismail’s wife, survived. The couple was not in town that day as they were distributing invitations to the wedding of Ismail’s younger brother Yusuf, who was also among those killed. Ismail told me that all the bodies—of his grandfather, mother, father, five siblings and three cousin sisters—were thrown into a well in their courtyard.