| Safdar Hashmi
New Delhi, Nov. 4: More than 14 years after theatre activist Safdar Hashmi was murdered, a Ghaziabad court has convicted the 12 accused.
Mukesh Sharma, Devi Saran Sharma, Jitendra, Ramautar, Ramesh, Karan Singh, Vinod Singh, Suresh, Yunus Ali and Tahir were found guilty of murdering Hashmi in January 1989.
The others convicted, Rakhi Ram and Surjit Singh Nagar, died while the trial was on.
Arguments on the sentence will be heard tomorrow.
Hashmi, a CPM member, was assaulted on January 1 while performing a street play, Halla Bol, near Ambedkar Park in Ghaziabad before a big audience as part of a municipal election campaign.
The play, organised under the banner of the Jan Natya Manch, was aimed at attracting voters for Ramanand Jha, who was Mukesh’s rival for the mayor’s post, Ghaziabad police had said. Jha was a candidate of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (Citu).
Around 11 am, Mukesh, the Congress candidate, arrived at the play venue in Jhandapur village leading an election procession. He asked the performers to make way for them to pass through.
Jha and Hashmi requested Mukesh to wait till the play was over or take another route, police had said. Mukesh retreated, only to return with 11 others, armed with lathis, iron rods and other weapons.
Both the performers and the audience were assaulted and pelted with stones, seriously injuring Hashmi, Jha, Chandra Dhan Rai, Yadumani Vohra and Pandit Singh.
Hashmi, Jha and the others ran for cover, police said. Mukesh chased Hashmi and Vohra and thrashed them in the local Citu office where they had ducked for cover.
Jha, who ran into the house of Ram Bahadur, was beaten there. According to the police, the mob shot Bahadur dead.
Hashmi was first rushed to Narendra Mohan Hospital in Ghaziabad, from where he was shifted to Irwin Hospital in Delhi. He died there the next day.
Additional district and sessions judge Chandra Deo Rai yesterday convicted the accused under the Indian Penal Code of murder (Section 302), rioting (147), rioting and armed with deadly weapons (148), being member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence (149), voluntarily causing hurt (323) and trespassing into a house with the intention of assaulting people (452). All the accused were present in court.
Rajan Prasad of Sahmat, a Left cultural organisation Hashmi had set up, said: “Justice delayed is better than justice denied.”
Public prosecutor Ved Pal Saini blamed the delay on the influential accused who he alleged had threatened witnesses.
“It is a welcome verdict, though belated,” CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet said.