Activists of Lok Raj Sangathan participated in a demonstration and rally organised by the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT), on January 17 at the Smriti Upvan in Green Park, Delhi, to demand punishment for the guilty in the Uphaar tragedy. Along with the families of the victims, members and activists of several human rights organisations, political, social and cultural organisations, intellectuals and media persons participated in the rally.
59 people had died when a fire broke out on June 13, 1997, in the popular Uphaar theatre located in Green Park in South Delhi, during the screeing of a film, due to a faulty transformer located in the basement of the theatre. The tragedy served to bring to light the horribly inadequate safety measures in case of fire and other such disasters in public places in Delhi.
For the last 11 years, the AVUT, formed in 2003, has been fighting a legal battle for punishment of those guilty of this tragedy, namely the owners of the theatre as well as others responsible for its safety.
The owners of the theatre had been convicted by a Delhi trial court and the CBI had concluded in its investigation that the theatre owners, the Ansal brothers, were guilty of negligence towards the public. In December 2008, even while upholding the trial court’s verdict, theDelhi High Court reduced their two-year jail term by a year, citing their "advanced age" and the fact that "they were respectable citizens with no criminal background". The AVUT has termed the high court verdict as a "travesty of justice" and is continuing the struggle for extension of the term of imprisonment. The January 17 rally was organised as a part of this struggle.
Banners hoisted at the venue carried demands for greater safety in public places, for justice to the victims of the Uphaar tragedy, and for "jail, not bail" for the guilty.
Participants at the rally criticised the High Court’s decision to reduce the jail term of the convicted persons. Noted social activist Indu Prakash Singh called for justice for the families of theUphaar victims. Dharmendra Kumar of Lok Raj Sangathan saluted the brave struggle of the families of the Uphaar tragedy victims and called upon all socially conscious people to come forward and voice their indignation at this attempt to whitewash the crimes of the guilty. Chhaya of Purogami Mahila Sangathan expressed sympathy for the families of the victims and full support for the struggle.