1987 : Twin Massacres of Muslims at Meerut and Maliana by the Police

(Following is an excerpt from the book, Rivers of Blood: A Comparative Study of Government Massacres, by Brenda Uekert.)

In mid-April 1987, widespread communal violence between Hindus and Muslims broke out in the city of Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. Riots broke out again in May after large numbers of Muslims were indiscriminately arrested. From May 19 to 23, the entire town of Meerut was under a curfew. On May 22, Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) rounded up several hundred Muslim men in the Hashimpura area of Meerut. Most of the arrested were taken to the police station or jail but around hundred men were driven to the Upper Ganga Canal. Once at the canal, the PAC lined up the man, shot them one by one, and threw their bodies in water. The floating bodies were discovered after a few days, and two survivors chronicled the massacre. The Times of India commented :  “Here is a clear case of an organ of the state going out with cold-blooded calculation to raid and roundup a whole group of citizens, whisk them away, shoot them while in custody and then throw their bodies into the river.” 

The following day, the PAC arrived in the village of Maliana, under the pretext that Muslims from Meerut were hiding in the area. The PAC went on a Rampage, deliberately shooting unarmed men, women and children and burning some of the victims alive in their own houses. Eighty bodies were found in the area believed to be those of victims of these killings. 

An exact count of the number of dead as the result of Meerut/Maliana massacre is not known, although most experts agree that dozens of people were killed. According to official figures, from may 19 to 23, 117 people were killed, 159 persons injured, and 623 houses, 344 shops and 14 factories were looted, burned and destroyed. Another report notes that in the first three or four days of the riot, 51 Hindus were killed, and from May 21 to 25 at least 295 Muslims were killed, almost all by or under the active supervision of the police and the PAC. Violence, including bomb explosions and isolated incidents of killing and stabbing, continued until June 15.


Those killed in the Meerut/Maliana massacre were Muslims. Their guilt or innocence of any kind was never an issue. Rather, the men who were killed at the upper Ganga Canal were picked up and arrested for one reason : They were Muslims. In Maliana, the killings were carried out in an entirely indiscriminate manner, with no regard for the gender or age of the victims. The Meerut/Maliana massacre was a genocidal massacre targeted against a particular ethno-religious group regardless of any other factor.

 The initial response of the government to the massacres at Meerut and Maliana was one of denial, followed by attempts to cover up the crime. In a desperate attempt to find someone else to blame, an Indian Embassy official explained the allegation by stating that “Police uniforms were stolen and used as a disguise by anti-social elements.” Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh administration, led by Chief Minister VB Singh (Congress), claimed that the Muslims were the real aggressors, implying that the PAC’s behaviour was justified. Singh did suspend the PAC’s commandant, Tripathi, but after one day he was reinstated for the fear of Revolt in the PAC. 

In an attempt to download Play the massacre, Union Home minister Buta Singh (Congress) told the National Integration Council that only 10 persons were killed in Maliana. The Indian government led by Rajiv Gandhi, despite granting compensation to the relatives of the Meerut victims, has never acknowledged that its security forces were responsible for the massacre.

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Saquib Salim

Saquib Salim is a well known historian under whose supervision various museums (Red Fort, National Library, IFFI, Jallianwala Bagh etc.) were researched. To his credit Mr. Salim has more than 400 published articles on history, politics, culture and literature in English and Hindi. Before pursuing his research and masters in modern Indian History from JNU, he was an electrical engineering student at AMU. Presently, he works as a freelance/ independent history researcher, writer and works at www.awazthevoice.in

One thought on “1987 : Twin Massacres of Muslims at Meerut and Maliana by the Police

  • May 26, 2021 at 5:48 am

    इतिहासकार का धर्म है कि इतिहास की यथा स्थिति (सही-सही) समाज के सामने प्रसतुत करे! आपने अपने कर्तव्य को निभाया! आप को धन्यवाद…..

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