People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXVII

No. 45

November 10, 2013


UTTAR PRADESH

 

CPI(M) Relief Committee Visits Muzaffarnagar

 

Subhashini Ali

 

A RELIEF committee of three Subhashini Ali, D P Singh and Shyamvir Rathi has been set up by the CPI(M) Central Committee to organise and oversee relief measures in the aftermath of the communal riots and clashes in Muzaffarnagar which have forced more than 50,000 Muslims to take refuge in camps being run in madrasas and mosques by community members and organisations.

 

The committee visited three areas on October 28.  The first was Khampur village where the local relief committee has been able to acquire a few bighas of land and is helping some of the victims with material to build their own homes.  We were able to see for ourselves that more than eighty houses are nearing completion and there are plans to build another 500. 

 

After this, we visited two large camps of about 5,000 people each at Loi and Jaula.  The conditions under which people are living are pathetic.  In both places, small tents have been put up.  They are so small that families are spilling out of them and are actually forced to live in the open.  This despite the fact that there have been heavy rains in the area and now the cold weather has set in.  The land on which the camp is located is owned by the state government and is very low-lying, unfit for cultivation or housing.  In fact, the organisers of the camp had to spend a lot of money to level the land and put up the tents.  They are now hoping that the government will allot the land to the victims and allow them to build homes there.  They have approached the team of ministers led by Shivpal Yadav who are supposed to be organising relief in the area with this demand but have not had any response so far.

 

Similar to this camp, is the Jaula camp.  The victims in both these camps belong to the worst affected areas of Kutba, Fugana, Kharad, Shamli, Bahvari, Lisadh etc.  Many people in these areas were killed or badly wounded.  There are also six rape victims whose FIRs have been registered.  There are seven widows between the camps.  One of the members of the organising committee is Yameen, who has been a Party sympathiser and supporter for many years.  Two comrades, whose families have been associated with the CPI(M), Pawan Jain and RD Maurya  also belong to Jaula village.

 

Almost all the people in the camps are landless and poor.  They belong to the labouring classes of barbers, blacksmiths, tailors, construction workers etc.  They have lost what little they had and most of their houses have been completely destroyed and their possessions looted.  They have even lost their tools and the implements they need for earning a livelihood.  We felt that this was a problem that we should immediately try to address.  At the Jaula camp, we were told that land is available for housing the victims in the vicinity.  The organisers of the camp are planning to buy some land and then ask for help from others to construct the houses.  The state government had also announced that 1800 families who had been identified as having lost their homes would be given compensation of five lakhs each.  While this figure is much less than what it should be, payment of this compensation without any further delay would help in the rehabilitation process.

 

After visiting the camps, we decided on some immediate steps.  All widows and rape victims in the two big camps will be given sewing machines.  A headcount of people in different professions at the Jaula camp would be done without any delay and tools and implements would be provided to them from the local market.  The possibility of constructing at least 50 houses on land to be accessed with the help of the local Relief Committee will be explored.  If this becomes possible, it is proposed that the colony be named in memory of the legendary Communist leader, Major Jaipal Singh who belonged to Muzaffarnagar. 

 

Despite the fact that a month and a half has elapsed since the vicious attacks on the minority community that took place on September 8 in many villages, the situation remains very tense in the area.  There are many reasons for this.  The first is the inability of the state government to instill a sense of security and confidence among the victims and among the minority community in general.  In the camps, the very inadequate supply of grains and milk that the government had started in mid September were stopped more than two weeks before our visit.  People in the camps told us that government doctors and medical workers visited the camps for only a few days and then that also ended.  As a result, many babies have died we were told more than 30 in two camps.  While we were in the camps, we certainly did not see any government doctors of medical supplies.  Many people were suffering from high fever and there is ever possibility of an epidemic breaking out.  Even minimum sanitation is not being ensured by the government nor is there any security at all.

 

Arrests of killers and rapists has also not been ensured.  Only recently, a special task force has been set up to study the FIRs.  As a result, there is tremendous pressure being exerted on the victims by the perpetrators to withdraw cases.  This pressure is not restricted to threats but, in one case, the husband of a rape victim has had three false cases registered against him by the accused rapists.  Even the political leaders accused of inciting violence and communal hatred have not been arrested.  While two BJP MLAs were arrested after several weeks, a third is still at large.  Similarly, a BSP MP is supposedly absconding while his family organises a huge wedding in their home, and an ex SP MLA has not even been charged.  We met the DIG and raised these issues with him and he assured us that the rapists would be arrested within a week.

 

The Hindi press is also playing a very incendiary role.  Its reports are very slanted and written in a way that exarcerbates communal feelings and polarisation.  For example, there are reports that talk about the victims in the camps as if they are having a picnic.  Then there are reports of people having set fire to their homes in order to get compensation.  There is no sympathy at all for victims of terrible atrocities and violence.  This is, of course, furthering the campaign of the Hindutva forces.

 

All our fears and misgivings were, unfortunately, proven correct when the ghastly murders three Muslim villagers took place on October 30.  This incident was reported in the most duplicitous fashion but, fortunately, the police and administration have intervened effectively, accepting their earlier errors of judgment.  While some arrests have been made, there are allegations that have not been dismissed by the authorities that some PAC personnel were also involved in the killings.  There cannot be a more horrible example of what the minority community is suffering than this.

 

Our committee felt that all efforts must be made to bring secular-minded people into the campaign, to bring people of the two communities together.  Although our Party has a very small presence, we have planned large anti-communal conventions in and around the district in early December.  We are hopeful that our campaign will gain momentum and that all those who are feeling the need for the restoration of peace will join us.