Ten years is a long time. It is even longer when you have to live through them day after day with grief as the constant companion. Justice will take care of some of the grief but ten years since 59 people were snuffed out in the Capital’s Uphaar theatre, their relatives are still fighting a desperate battle as if their loved ones were children of a lesser God.
Ten years since June 13, 1997, the case filed by the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) is still being heard in the lower court. avut did well when it lodged an fir alleging death due to negligence against the owners of the cinema hall, Gopal and Sushil Ansal, and 14 others including fire safety and mcd officers who had certified the place as being safe from fire.
The association is doing well by not losing hope, by not falling prey to the middle-class mechanism of coping with a tragedy that teaches you to tell yourself it was all part of destiny.
The fire in the transformer that sent bilious smoke into the cinema hall that asphyxiated the innocent film watchers was no accident. The hall was not safe and all the government departments that colluded to give the Ansals a green signal are guilty. So is the fire department and the health department. The ambulances that were sent were more like hearses because they had no oxygen with them. The fire tenders came, too, but with empty water tanks. The injured had no hope of surviving.
The distraught relatives got together soon after they had laid their loved ones to rest and started the Association, and if there is anyone to be saluted in this grim tragedy it is the Association.
But justice still eludes them. An order by the Delhi High Court to complete trial in the case by December 2002 went unheeded and the trial is still on. The court has had to step in once again and has mandated that the trial judge finish the case by August 31.
The relatives deserve justice. Ten years later, they are being made to feel like victims again; like victims of the system