12 years after Uphaar tragedy, victims’ families fight on

June 13th, 2009 - 1:59 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 13 (IANS) Bound together by one traumatic incident that shattered their lives exactly 12 years ago, the 28 families who lost their loved ones in the Uphaar cinema fire tragedy held a prayer meeting Saturday at Smriti Upvan, opposite the cinema hall, and vowed to continue their fight for justice.
It was on June 13, 1997, that a fire, caused by a faulty transformer, engulfed the Uphaar hall, snuffing out the lives of 59 people, including many children, who had come to watch the matinee show of the Hindi movie “Border”.

Devastated by the tragedy, the 28 families came together to share their grief and formed the Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) to fight for justice and also against the apathetic attitude of the civic authorities.

At Saturday’s meet, the gathered people said prayers and offered floral tributes to all those who lost their lives in the tragedy.

Neelam Krishnamurthy, convener of AVUT, said: “Twelve years have elapsed since the tragedy, but public safety remains a low priority for our government and society and we are collective victims of this carelessness.”

“The past 12 years have been an excruciating legal battle for us. Last year, the Delhi High Court held the Uphaar management responsible for the tragedy but the sentences of the theatre owners, Sushil and Gopal Ansal, were reduced to one year on the grounds that they are educated, of an advanced age and have no past criminal record.

“This has added to our woes,” said Krishnamurthy, who lost her two teenaged children in the fire.

A trial court in 2007 sentenced the Ansal brothers to two years’ in prison while the other nine accused were given terms varying from two to seven years.

The high court in December 2008 reduced the sentence of the Ansals to one year. The two brothers have since been granted bail by the Supreme Court.

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