Weeklong vigil for Uphaar tragedy victims


New Delhi : A week-long vigil observed by the families of the 59 people who lost their lives in the Uphaar cinema tragedy in the capital will culminate Wednesday morning with a memorial service.

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The Association of the Victims of the Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) is organizing a prayer service on the 10th death anniversary of the victims June 13 at Smriti Upvan, the memorial built in the memory of the victims right opposite the now shut cinema hall.

"The tragedy struck us on June 13 in 1997. We lost our loved ones, our children to a perfectly avoidable accident. It's been ten years and we are still awaiting justice," said Neelam Krishnamoorthy, president of AVUT who lost both her children in the accident.

"During the week-long vigil that we observed in memory of our children, we had friends and supporters coming to us to support and express their condolences. However, amid the 300-400 people who came everyday, there were a very few strangers.

"But that is not surprising. Considering how insensitive this city is to others' woes, this reaction is only natural," she said.

In 1997, 59 people died and 103 were injured when a major fire broke out in the packed Uphaar cinema hall in south Delhi during the screening of a movie, following a fault in the electric generator.

By the time the audience realized the hall was on fire, it was too late. Many died of asphyxiation while others lost their lives in a stampede.

Although 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, the families of the victims are not satisfied.

"Monetary penalties are not enough. We are awaiting the verdict of the criminal liability case against the guilty. The trial is on July 2. We are hoping for the best," said Krishanmoorthy.