Rampur Tiraha firing case

The Rampur Tiraha firing case refers to police firing on unarmed Uttarakhand activists at Rampur Tiraha (crossing) in Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh in India on the night of October 1-2, 1994. The activists, part of the agitation for the separate state of Uttarakhand, were going to Delhi to stage a dharna at Raj Ghat on Gandhi Jayanti, the following day, when alleged unprovoked police firing in the night of October 1 led to the death of six activists, and some women were allegedly raped and molested in the ensuing melee. Mulayam Singh Yadav was Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, when the incident occurred.

Case history

YEARS before Gujarat became a damning case of state complicity in violence, there was Muzaffarnagar. An incident that was the turning point in the political history of Uttaranchal; a catalyst in the eventual formation of the state.

On the night of October 1, 1994, activists of the Uttaranchal movement, on their way to a rally in Delhi, were stopped at Rampur Tiraha in Muzaffarnagar. The police opened fired. Eighteen people were reported dead or missing - and there were allegations of rape and molestation. The police version was it had ordered a search after receiving reports that the rallyists were carrying arms and that it opened fire only after the activists attacked. But a subsequent CBI inquiry concluded that the official version was incorrect.

Says Pushpesh Pant, professor at Delhi's Jawaharlal University who has followed the case closely: "In Gujarat, at least you had a retrial. Here there is little hope for justice. It's very disturbing that this could happen in an area that was so close to Delhi. Also, since this was part of a movement and people had collected from different villages, the numbers of people killed, raped or missing are vague."

Five days after the incident, the Uttarakhand Sangharsh Samiti filed a writ petition in the Allahabad High Court, following which the court ordered a CBI inquiry. There were about 800 cases but the CBI looked into 64 (including earlier incidents of police firing at Mussoorie and Khatima in September 1994 and a few cases against activists too) and filed chargesheets only in 43 - of them seven concerned rape and 17 molestation.

One case has got a stay from the High Court. Of the remaining 42, three have ended in acquittal and four in conviction. But none of the top bureaucrats and police officers chargesheeted have been prosecuted.

Two cases that were against the activists have been withdrawn at the request of the Uttaranchal government. At present, 33 cases are pending in CBI courts in Dehra Dun, Lucknow and Ghaziabad. In 1994, a National Commission for Women team, headed by chairperson Jayanti Patnaik, toured the hills and submitted its findings: "It is our conclusion that on Oct 1/2 the district machinery at Muzaffarnagar not only failed to ensure safety and security of the women present in the rally.. but became totally brutal and inhuman, in outraging women's modesty, attacking, molesting and looting them."

CASE FILE CRIME LORDS The then SP, Muzaffarnagar, Rajendra Pal Singh was accused of tampering with official records In November 2000, UP chief minister Rajnath Singh refused the CBI permission to prosecute former Muzaffarnagar DM, Anant Kumar Singh Investigation revealed that 4 missing people in Khatima had died in police firing in 1994, their bodies quietly disposed Says senior journalist and president of the Uttaranchal unit of People's Union for Civil Liberties, Rajendra Dhasmana: "In my independent capacity, I had documented the confessions of many affected women - about 58 had admitted being raped/molested but not all came forward and accepted it before the CBI."

In a judgment in February 1996, the Allahabad High Court came down heavily on the Mulayam Singh-led UP government. It ordered compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the rape victims. The Supreme Court later set aside parts of the judgment, on the grounds that the state government could not afford the sum.

Last year the case sprung up again in Uttaranchal's consciousness. On July 22, 2003, the Nainital High Court quashed the charge of culpable homicide against Anant Kumar Singh, district magistrate of Muzaffarnagar at the time. There are four criminal cases pending against Singh for wrongful detention of activists.

The judgment triggered a series of protests and finally the High Court recalled its order. Interestingly one of the judges who quashed the case - M M Ghildiyal - had earlier fought the case on the activists behalf.

Meanwhile, the implicated officers have moved on, to plum postings. Anant Kumar Singh is the revenue secretary in Lucknow and Bua Singh, then DIG, Meerut Range, is now Additional DGP in the UP police. Mulayam too is back as chief minister.

In Uttaranchal, the Muzaffarnagar case comes to life occasionally as yet another opportunity for the Congress and BJP to trade charges and blame each other. And somewhere in the faraway hills, a woman is slowly losing faith in the system.

  • 1994: First Information Reports (FIRs), entails that the activists damaged public property, burnt shops and vehicles and tried to force their way through the barricades, forcing A.K. Singh, who was present at the spot, to order firing, leading to the death of six activists and several others getting injured.
  • 1995: The Allahabad High Court orders the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on January 12, to probe into the issue, taking cognizance of the Uttarakhand Sangharsh Samiti's petition. The CBI later, examines 72 witnesses and files cases against 28 police personnel. All the accused face charges under sections 376 (rape), 392 (robbery), 354 (assault or criminal force on women), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt), 509 (intent to insult the modesty of women) and 120 (b) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Though initially, the State government, then headed by Mulayam Singh Yadav, ordered a judicial inquiry by a retired judge, Justice Zaheer Hassan, which reported, 'the use of force was just and reasonable'. Later, at the Uttaranchal High Court, the CBI admitted, "The case of the CBI in the charge-sheet is that the petitioner and other police officers under the garb of checking tried to stop the rallyists from going to Delhi, provoked them to resort to violence and when they dispersed after the use of rubber bullets, the remaining few protesters were unnecessarily shot dead."
  • 2000: Rajnath Singh, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh under Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in November, refuses CBI), the permission to prosecute then district magistrate Muzaffarnagar, Anant Kumar Singh.
  • 2003: July: Uttaranchal High Court quashes the CBI charge sheet and absolved then district magistrate Muzaffarnagar, Anant Kumar Singh in criminal proceedings. Motivation by a widespread public uproar, the State government soon filed for a review petition, which resulted in the High Court recalling its own earlier order. November: A CBI special court has convicted two Uttar Pradesh State police officials and a constable for killing a man while firing indiscriminately on a crowd of Uttarakhand demonstrators in 1994. The Sub-inspector, Ramesh Chand Chowdhary was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for two years and fined Rs 2,000 while the other two - Anil Singh Manral and Bhopal Singh were awarded a seven years' rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs 5,000 each.
  • 2005: A special CBI Judicial Magistrate, at Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh acquits the four police personnel had been accused of tampering with police records after the firing over alleged rioters.
  • 2007: July: A special CBI court in Muzaffarnagar acquittes, Rajendra Pal Singh, then city Superintendent of Police, in connection with the alleged police firing, refusing the agency permission to prosecute him without the Uttar Pradesh governor's consent. After prior refusal of the State Government to prosecute him, CBI later prosecutes him on a statement of co-accused in the case, Rajbir Singh, who was then the SHO of Chapar police. October: Uttarakhand Chief Minister Bhuvan Chandra Khanduri, visited the 'Sahid Samarak' at Rampur Tiraha at Muzaffarnagar, and announced that the state government will pursue all the five pending court cases, with greater dedicated.

The incident left an indelible mark on the agitation for the state of Uttarakhand and eventually led to the division of the state of Uttar Pradesh in 1998. The Uttarakhand State government has built a 'Sahid Samarak' (Martyr's Memorial) at the Rampur Tiraha, the site of the incident, and a memorial function is observed here, each year.