Uphaar victims' kin still await justice
New Delhi: Fourteen years on, tears brought alive sour memories of pain, fear, and agony of losing loved ones as families gathered Monday to remember the 59 people asphyxiated and trampled to death in south Delhi's Uphaar cinema.
With eyes welled up and hands folded, the families observed a two-minute silence at a prayer meeting that started at 9 a.m. in front of the Smriti Upvan, a small remembrance patch near the cinema hall which has remained closed after the tragedy.
Even as the 28 families sat with silent tears and the disappointment at cases dragging on even after 14 years of the tragedy, the hope for justice eventually did not fade away.
"We hope that we get justice, but this is wrong that the culprits have not been given any punishment till now," said Neelam Krishanamoorthy, who lost her teenaged daughter and son on an afternoon outing to watch the film "Border".
She added, "It is very sad that the families are still fighting for justice in an incident that could have been avoided and so many lives could have been saved."
Krishnamoorthy is also the president of the Association of the Victims of the Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT).
In 1997, 59 people died and over 100 were injured when a major fire broke out in the packed Uphaar cinema hall in south Delhi during the screening of J.P. Dutta's war movie "Border".
"I lost my daughter. She was just 21 years old. My whole family is present here and we all miss her badly," said Naveen Sawhney, as tears welled up in his eyes.
The fire was sparked by a blast in a transformer in an underground parking lot in the five-storey building which housed the cinema hall and several offices.
By the time the audience realised what had happened, the hall, owned by real estate developers Ansals, was on fire.
It was too late. Many died of asphyxiation while others lost their lives in a stampede.
The Delhi High Court held the owners of the building and several government agencies guilty of not adhering to safety norms at the cinema and slapped monetary penalties.