By Sreeraj TK, Newsblaze, in Shamli, Uttar Pradesh
Four months after the horrific communal riots in the Muzzafarnagar district of western Uttar Pradesh, an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty continues to prevail. What started as a minor altercation over the issue of eve-teasing or vehicles colliding ended up being a full flare communal riot between Hindu Jats and Muslims, endangering adjoining places and killing many for reasons still unknown and unclear.
According to official estimates, these riots claimed around 64 lives and property worth 30 crore was destroyed. This had led to people fleeing their homes out of fear and uncertainty of their safety.
Shamli is an exception. This district alone has around 16 camps in Kerana (a Muslim dominated area) which are still very much active and not in favour to be dismantled despite repeated efforts by the government. A visit to Malakpur camp in Kerana (the largest of them all) presents us the real picture. The camp has approximately 600 people living in tents. The locals are playing a key role in providing food, clothing and other utilities to the campers. Various NGOs are also involved.
Mufti Mohammad Aslam, a Madrasa teacher, is the head of the camp who monitors every activity. He told Newsblaze, “There was absolutely no help from the government apart from some initial symbolic gestures. People here are still living under fear and are unwilling to go back. How can the government expect us to dismantle the camps when it fails to provide solid assurance?”
One of the victims, Kareem, 42, a labourer from Bijadpur village talking to this correspondent said, “We left everything just to ensure the safety of our family. We do not want to go back. We feel much safe here in the camps and are expecting that the government provides us with relocation somewhere else.”
Another victim, Mohammed Moin, 18, from Simbalka village said that he was attacked several times and his house was set on fire.
The education of children has been severely affected as they have stopped going to school. The local Madrasa offers only Islamic teaching thus depriving them of Mathematics, English and Science.
The rehabilitation efforts have been significant. Numerous NGOs and organisations are working around the clock to provide relief and assistance. Rajan Singh, Programme Officer for Action Aid – an International NGO says, “We have been providing assistance in the affected areas right from the beginning. We are providing different types of food kits, medical first aid kits and clothes to the people. But our main aim is to make them independent and self-reliant. We are also planning to rope in informal education volunteers who will be paid an honorarium of Rs.1000 per month who will teach the kids in the camp.”
Jamiat Ulama -E-Hind, an Islamic organization, is providing assistance in building homes for the riot victims. Naushad Ali Qasmi, member talking to Newsblaze said, “We are bearing the full cost of construction. In total we are constructing 125 houses on the lands which the victims bought from the government through relief schemes. The houses will be built in a month’s time. Once people get settled we plan to construct a mosque and a primary school in the area.”
Indian Youth Congress has also set up a camp in Terana. Chaudhary Muzzafar Ali, a local Youth Congress leader says, “We have put in our best efforts in helping the riots victims. We are providing tents, food, clothes and books to the camps. I have personally persuaded my party authorities in the provision of maximum assistance.”
One common grievance which all NGOs and social welfare organizations shared is the lack of necessary support from the state government. Rajan Singh says, “We did not get any assistance from the state government. We are now approaching them by filing a petition through Supreme Court.”
Intrestingly, the authorities and the government have a different version to say. Kaushal Sharma, District Magistrate of Muzzafarnagar says, “There has been no lapse from the administration. We are carrying out the best possible rehabilitation efforts in our district. To check any possible lapse, a judicial commission has been constituted.”
“We are continuously engaging in social harmony and brotherhood initiatives between the two communities and we have successfully convinced people to return back to their villages. We are positively engaging in talks with the leaders of both the communities. However there are some miscreants who were not all affected in any way but are staying purposely in the camps for ulterior motives.”
When asked about why there was lack of support for NGOs from the administration, the DM was quick to disagree. “We have been continuously requesting NGOs to help us out in the rehabilitation process. Apart from a local NGO Astitva, none responded positively. It is sad that media only highlights government’s failure. It has become a trend to attack the government by the NGOs.”
Hari Narayan Singh, Senior Superintendent of Police, Muzzafarnagar said, “We have arrested all the culprits involved in the riots. We have registered 550 cases and will bring every guilty one to justice. There was absolutely no delay in reaction time of the police. We have deployed adequate police personnel in all the affected areas. Apart from law and order we have also introduced various peace initiatives between the two communities of which organising a volleyball match is one such example.”
SreeRaj writes for Newsblaze from NewDelhi. He is pursuing his Journalism studies from Delhi.