A recent Netflix series Trial by Fire based on the tragic incident of the Uphaar cinema displayed the dark and painful side of the fire massacre. Because of the release of the Netflix mini-series, Trial by Fire, Uphaar Fire Tragedy has become the nation’s talk again.
The fire broke out during a screening of JP Dutta’s war fiction Border at Green Park, Delhi. It was reported that 59 people died of asphyxiation and nearly 103 people were seriously injured in the subsequent stampede. The Uphaar fire tragedy took place in Delhi on June 13, 1997, 26 years ago.
The limited series received immense love from the audience as it showcased a hard-hitting yet compelling journey of two parents fighting for justice for over two decades. The series shows the brutal legal battle and the tough journey of two parents who lost their children in the fire. The Netflix series stars Abhay Deol and Rajshri Desphande play the couple.
The parents, Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy penned their tragic legal battle in a book titled, Trial by Fire: The Tragic Tale of the Uphaar Fire Tragedy. It has been a best-selling book and the series is based on it.
We have been curious to know the full story of the Indian couple who went against all odds and fought to seek justice for their dead children. The story is not only inspiring but also eye-opening.
The legal battle of Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy, who spent over two decades seeking justice after they lost their kids in the tragic Uphaar fire in Delhi
Neelam Krishnamoorthy and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy lost their children Unnati who was 17 and Ujjwal who was just 13 to the devastating fire that consumed Uphaar Cinema.
There is another story that everyone needs to know, the story of Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy’s pursuit of justice with the country’s poor legal system. Once caught in the maze of the Indian legal system it is difficult to get out of it successfully. The influence of wealth disrupts the fair practice of law and affluent people often get the upper hand. Ordinary citizens seldom get justice fast and in a hassle-free way. The couple had to go against major powers to seek justice.
How did the Uphaar fire break out?
It was reported that the cause of the fire was due to bad repair work done on a faulty transformer. The cinema was underprepared for a fire which was the major cause of the deaths. With lost power and total chaos, the cinema hall was engulfed in smoke.
The people in the balcony area were trapped badly as they found it difficult to escape. While those on the lower floor managed to escape. To make matters worse, the firefighters took more than an hour to reach the site.
A senior advocate appearing for the CBI, Harish Salve told the Delhi High Court in 2007,
“Safety measures, meant for panic situations, were not in place in the ill-fated theatre… the persons, who were getting financial gains from the operation of the cinema, were criminally liable for the lapses.”
The owners of the cinema hall were Sushil and Gopal Ansal. They made a lot of mistakes during the construction of the building. Their insincere work cost the lives of 59 people including Neelam’s children.
The equipment was poorly maintained and its placement was wrong too, which disregarded a whole set of norms. There were not enough safety measures in place in the cinema hall.
According to an Indian Express,
“There were no exit lights, foot lights, or emergency lights in the cinema — when the building lost power, the hall became pitch dark. There was also no public announcement system to alert the movie-goers of the fire. In the darkness of the cinema hall, it took a significant while for viewers to even realise there was a massive fire in the building.”
To add to the commotion, the exits were locked and the passage between rows of seats (gangways) was blocked too. To raise the number of seats, the owners had made unauthorized extensions that blocked the ways. Even the areas that were supposed to be empty were full because of some illegal businesses operating.
Neelam and Shekhar fought for justice after realizing that their children were trapped and could have been saved
When the tragedy occurred most people didn’t know the actual reason and accepted it as an accident. But when it was investigated and the cause was published in newspapers, it caught the attention of Neelam and Shekhar. After 13 days of the fire incident, the mourning parents came to realize that their children could have been saved.
The couple talked to others who also lost their loved ones, those who had survived the tragedy. They came to know about the horrific fact that the balcony exits were locked for those watching the film from there.