16 years on, Uphaar fire victims' kin seek justice

New Delhi, June 13 (IANS) Bound together by a traumatic incident that took place on this day exactly 16 years ago, the 28 families who lost their loved ones in Delhi's Uphaar cinema fire tragedy held a prayer meeting Thursday and pledged to continue their fight for justice.

With tears in their eyes and hearts full of grief, family members of the victims of the tragedy assembled at Smriti Upvan, a memorial for the victims near the now-shut cinema hall in south Delhi's Green Park area, and lit lamps.

On June 13, 1997, during the screening of Hindi film "Border", a fire engulfed the theatre, killing 59 people and injuring over 100 in the subsequent stampede.

The prayer meeting was organised on the anniversary of the inferno by the Association of Victims of the Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT).

Association president Neelam Krishnamoorthy, who lost her two children in the fire, said: "The law has failed to give us justice since 16 years. All my appeals have only fallen on deaf ears."

"It is the responsibility of the courts and not the citizens to keep track of justice. It is time that the courts come down heavily upon the accused. Or else the people will lose faith in the law of the country," she added.

The family members of the victims said the departed souls may not rest in peace without justice.

After a lengthy trial, Sushil Ansal and Gopal Ansal, who owned the theatre, were found guilty of "causing death by negligent act".

A Delhi trial court awarded them two years' rigorous imprisonment in November 2007. In December 2008, the Delhi High Court reduced the duo's sentences from two years to one year.

The victims' family claimed the punishment handed down to the accused was less.

"It's high time we get justice. For how long will all this go on," said Jyoti Joshi, who lost her friend and grandson in the fire.

The association said it will continue its struggle till the accused were given adequate punishment.


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