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Archives for : muzaffarnagar riots

Muzaffarnagar Riots — Clutching at FIRs

Published: June 25, 2014 12:30 IST | Updated: June 23, 2014 15:05 IST

The victims of the Muzaffarnagar riots still live in abysmal conditions in relief camps with no hope of justice or rehabilitation. By AJOY ASHIRWAD MAHAPRASHASTA IN Shamli

TWO powerful dust storms this summer left in tatters Anisha Begum’s tent—thin tarpaulin sheets borne by two weak bamboo sticks. It had been her residence ever since she and her family were forced out of their village, Phugana, after riots broke out between Hindus and Muslims in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, last September.

With two young children to take care of in the absence of her husband who is working somewhere in the south of India, the 26-year-old is braving 40-plus °Celsius. The heat is the last thing on her mind. “I can bear the heat but not my fears,” said Anisha while she searched for a bunch of papers amid a heap of dirty clothes. The papers, as it emerged, were three copies of the first information report (FIR) she had filed at her village police station accusing some lumpen elements in her village of vandalising her house.

“They robbed us, destroyed our property… they had come to kill us. We escaped empty-handed, leaving behind our cattle and jewellery at home, and took shelter at the police station where we filed this FIR,” Anisha recounted her traumatic experience of September 2013. “How will we go back home now? They know we have filed an FIR against them. They are roaming around freely in the village waiting for us to return so that they can take their revenge. We will never go back but we don’’t know where else to go,” added Anisha.

Overwhelmed by a sense of fear and insecurity about the future, Anisha derives comfort from the fact that she is not the only one to have gone through the trauma of being uprooted from her native land. With Anisha, there are thousands of Muslims from disparate backgrounds, being forced to take shelter in the relief camps that mushroomed soon after the riots in western Uttar Pradesh. And for thousands of them, as a result, even 10 months after the riots there is no choice but to stay in temporary tents since they have lost all their properties in the riots.

The FIRs that they had filed against the rioters are their most important possession now. Some also flash their Voter Identity Cards. Since September, many Islamic organisations, non-governmental organisations, government bodies and political leaders have showed up at the camps. They believe that the FIRs or identity cards are probably the only legal documents that will establish their place of residence, and help them win some compensation to start their lives afresh. “We have lost all hope in the U.P. Police. Perhaps, people who come here from Delhi can help us,” said Saleem, a resident of Malakpur relief camp in Kairana.

There are at least 14 relief camps, some privately funded and some unfunded, in the Kairana block of Shamli district, adjacent to Muzaffarnagar. These camps are located on a piece of panchayat land in the Muslim-dominated villages of Kairana, between fields bearing the newly sown rabi crop and a 14-kilometre stretch of the Yamuna that flows along the region. Amidst the greenery, these camps come across as deserted ghost towns from a distance, but, as one goes closer, one realises that they are places where a host of people live in abysmal conditions. The camps lack proper toilet facilities, water and electricity supply, so the riot victims rely on the mercy of the villagers for their daily supplies. Severe malnourishment, along with bouts of dysentery and malaria, have become common among children in these camps. Sunstroke is something the residents have become used to.

With a Muslim population of almost 90 per cent, Kairana was the safest territory for people who were forced out of Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Meerut, Baghpat and other districts of western Uttar Pradesh. “Where else could we have gone? We realised that if we die, we may get some land for burial here. In our own villages, our dead bodies would have been fed to animals,” said Md. Sajid.

Sajid’s comment indicates the volatile situation in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli. State government records acknowledge only nine villages (six in Muzaffarnagar and three in Shamli) as riot-affected, thereby making the residents of only these villages eligible for relief and compensation. However, the riots that occurred in these nine villages had repercussions for others too. Throughout western Uttar Pradesh, Muslims left their homes in fear. And in most cases, their fears were not misplaced.

“Our village did not see any fight but the Jats moved around with weapons in their jeeps to scare us. They openly passed snide remarks about our women and threatened to rape our sisters. Our relatives asked us to leave the village as soon as possible. Every Muslim we knew in other villages was on the run too. We too ran away in the middle of the night,” said Qayyum, a resident of Hanifa village in Meerut, who is now in Barnawi relief camp.

The riots resulted in the death of around 100 people but displaced more than a lakh. They proved to be the best way to grab land. Most of the people in the relief camps claimed that their houses had been destroyed and whatever little land they had were encroached upon. The landed people (Jats in this case) ended up with more land at their disposal after the riots. The affluent among Muslims managed to buy land in Muslim-majority areas and start their lives again. However, the poor, landless families are left with no choice but to stay in the relief camps. Western Uttar Pradesh presents an ahistorical image at present. A region in which every village had an almost equal number of Muslims and Hindus is now strictly divided along religious lines. One can easily identify every village as a Hindu village or a Muslim village. With riot victims reluctant to go back to their own villages, the demography of the region seems permanently transformed.

Sense of victimhoodThe Jats, on the other hand, are a happier lot. For the first time, they have voted out their traditional party, the Rashtritya Lok Dal, in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Ajit Singh, the son of the legendary Jat leader Charan Singh, and his son Jayant Singh suffered massive losses in the recent parliamentary elections. The BJP won all the 10 constituencies in western Uttar Pradesh owing to a Hindu consolidation irrespective of caste and communities. Significantly, the results reflect the communal polarisation and the deep “Hindu sentiment” that has now crept into the area. “All these years, we voted only for Charan Singh’s party. But it did nothing of benefit to us. It fielded affluent Muslim candidates and made us transfer our votes to them. Do we not have the right to represent ourselves? The BJP was the only party that fielded Jat candidates from here, so we voted for it,” said Sonaram Baliyan, a Jat Pradhan in Muzaffarnagar.

This notion of Hindu victimhood is deeply entrenched in him, and reflects the general sentiment of the Hindus of the region. “The so-called secular parties wanted to give reservation to Muslims too. At a time when we should enjoy the benefits of reservation, they wanted to field Muslims against us,” said Baliyan. A similar thought was echoed by Amit Shah, who was in charge of the BJP’s campaign in Uttar Pradesh, at a Jat mahapanchayat in Shamli just a month before the election. When asked about the displacement of Muslims in his own village, Baliyan said that they were free to come and settle down there but added that he and his community would not tolerate their dabang (lumpen) nature any more. In the absence of Muslim agricultural workers, he has hired migrant labourers to work in his fields at a much lower wage rate, a trend that is fast becoming popular in western Uttar Pradesh.

In such a scenario, the riot victims dread the thought of going back to their villages. Western U.P villages look like ghettoes divided on religious lines. However, the riot victims fear that the State government will eventually ask them to evacuate the panchayat land on which the relief camps are located. In fact, a few residents claim that the district administration has been asking them to go back to their villages. Consequently, people are slowly moving out of the camps but not to go back to their villages but to nearby cities where they can rent a place and work. Some of them have taken to construction labour and are working in brick kilns. The camps look deserted now. Only women, children, and the elderly inhabit many camps because men have gone to cities looking for work.

Political gamesBoth the Samajwadi Party (S.P.) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are trying to make inroads into these camps. The relief work, too, is motivated by these concerns and is even affected by political rivalry. “The State government used to send milk and medicines to the relief camps on condition that the community remain loyal to the S.P. The supplies stopped coming when the government came to know that the residents of the camp were drifting towards the BSP,” said Md. Shabbir, a resident of Malakpur camp and a supporter of the BSP. A local leader of the S.P., however, denied the allegation and told Frontline that the medicine supply was still going on but the milk supply was stopped as many residents had left the camp.

The extent of the Muzaffarnagar tragedy cannot be measured in numbers. The State government, however, has shown little imagination in addressing it. Without a proper rehabilitation policy and with poor implementation of a formulaic compensation policy, the State government has not been of much support to the riot victims. It is in this context that some Islamic charity organisations have been funding the rehabilitation of these people. In one such case, some Islamic organisations have agreed to fund construction of 300 houses, a high school, and a masjid for the riot victims in Dabherikhurd village of Kairana. A resident of the village, Haji Dilshad, has donated 27 bighas of land for this purpose. However, the district administration has stalled the construction of the houses and has asked Haji Dilshad to furnish affidavits of the allottees first. Such bureaucratic troubles, residents of Dabherikhurd say, are common when the rulers do not see any significant political gains from giving relief.

In western Uttar Pradesh, both Muslims and the Hindus traditionally identified themselves by their caste rather than their religion. However, the riots have foregrounded their religious identity like never before. Today, people are united more by religious brotherhood than anything else. The riot victims see no assurance of justice and the perpetrators fear no punishment. The political equations that have unfolded in recent times have given the Hindu majority socio-economic supremacy. If the state remains apathetic to such demographic transformation and the plight of riot victims, the problems of the people in the region may reach unimaginable proportions.

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Letter to Minorities Commission on Muzaffarangar Relief camps and rehabilitation

 

To
The Chairperson
Minorities Commission, New Delhi

We are writing to express our grave concern regarding the continuing insecurity, hardships and distress faced by the riot victims of Muzaffarnagar who have been living in makeshift relief camps since they were forced out of their homes in September 2013.

Thousands of families who were sheltering in makeshift camps were forced onto  the streets when the sites were bulldozed in December 2013. The few camps that remain are also now threatened with closure.

We note with outrage that the government that did not protect the lives and properties of these families, and has done absolutely nothing to ensure either their safe return to their homes or their rehabilitation in alternate sites, is now washing its hands of all responsibility for their survival by criminalising them as “illegal occupants of government land.”


Most of the families living on the roadside for the last six months have received no compensation or any substantial support from either the state government or the central government. Women’s groups and citizens collectives have been providing some support to these families with their limited resources, but the government has completely ignored its duty of compensating and rehabilitating them.
 

These families are living in extremely insecure, unhealthy and inhuman circumstances. The monsoon will increase their distress, with children, old people, ill people and pregnant women being rendered even more vulnerable than they are already.

As concerned citizens we demand that the camps be retained until all these families are assured of rehabilitation in safe and adequate locations. We demand that the government ensure the provision of rations and basic services at all the camps – whether formally recognised or informal/self-built shelters.

 We demand to know:

– What compensation has been given to the survivors of the violence? How has the quantum of this compensation been decided? How many claims remain to be settled?

– What support has he government provided to the survivors for rebuilding their lives?

– How many FIRs have been lodged? How many people have been booked for their role in the violence?

 

– What is the government doing to pursue the cases of sexual violence against women that have already been filed?

– What measures has the government taken to ensure the safety and protection from intimidation of those who have filed cases? 

We look to you to take pro-active steps to ensure that camps and informal sites where survivors are sheltering are protected and that adequate services are put in place before the monsoons.

We also hope that you will make sure that the government does not abdicate its responsibility for long-term support and rehabilitation of riot victims. This responsibility cannot be passed on to civil society groups – it is the job of the state.


Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is a non funded grassroots effort started in November 2009, to put an end to the violence being perpetrated upon our bodies and societies. We are a nationwide network of women from diverse political and social movements comprising of women’s organizations, mass organizations, civil liberty organizations, student and youth organizations, mass movements and individuals. We unequivocally condemn state repression and sexual violence on our women and girls by any perpetrator(s).

 

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TISS students expose UP govt’s apathy for Muzaffarnagar riot-hit

English: Tata Institute Of Social Sciences

English: Tata Institute Of Social Sciences (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Sunday, 23 March 2014 – 9:15am IST | Agency: DNA

 

The Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP) government in Uttar Pradesh has sought to downplay what many have called “deplorable conditions in the refugee camps where the Muzaffarnagar riot-hit stay,” calling it opposition propaganda. Now, a team of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) students, who have spent a month at the camp, have come out with a damning report and sent it to the chief minister.Shivani Saria, one of the six students in Masters of Social Work (Public Health) told dna, “We knew the conditions would be bleak from news reports, but nothing could prepare us for the horrors we witnessed. It is appalling to see the condition of infants and their mothers who are struggling against infection and disease in the absence of any health service whatsoever.”

The students, working with the riot-hit in the camps of Loi, Juwala, Shahpur and Bansikala in Muzaffarnagar under Joint Citizen’s Initiative (JCI), a collective association of five NGOs — Astitva (Muzaffarnagar), Sanath Kada (Lucknow), Humsafar (Lucknow), Vanangana (Chitrakut) and Nirantar (Delhi) — working in the camps, say the administration has abdicated.

“At the collectorate, education officer KK Singh and local Samajwadi Party office-bearers kept asking us how we could help canvass for the SP,” Saria recalled.

Students say, in the face of apathy from the district administration, they were forced to write to Yadav. “Most riot-hit are living in extremely poor conditions in tents that hardly provide protection in the changing weather,” reads the letter. “The surroundings are very unhygienic with no sanitation. Mosquitoes and flies are spreading disease like diaorrhoea, skin infections and upper respiratory tract infection. Young children and elderly are the most vulnerable.”

The lone primary healthcare centre at Budhana claims to organise mobile health camps at Jaula camp regularly, reads the letter, which points out that the claims are just that.”Most people complain about the attitude and behaviour of the health personnel in the government health facilities like the Health Sub-Centre (HSC) and Primary Health Centre (PHC),” reads the letter which adds, “In Budhana and Shahpur, female doctors don’t respond appropriately to urgent needs of the women like pregnancy, delivery, reproductive tract infections.”

The students found the Budhana PHC understaffed despite large number of people flocking there for treatment constantly. “With only two female doctors, many women don’t seek treatment for their sexual and reproductive health issues. There’s only one pharmacist and the no immunisation officer.

On education too, the letter raises several concerns, “The new students from camps haven’t received uniforms, stationery and scholarships. They find it difficult adjusting as they face criticism from other students and teachers and they don’t feel accepted. The teachers in Juwala village school seem to be reluctant to accommodate them.”

It raises several livelihood concerns about camp-dwellers. “Most riot-hit worked as hawkers, masons or farm labourers. Now rendered homeless and jobless, they’ve no resources to start afresh.” It further points out, “Even those willing to work can’t, as they are scared to leave their families alone and go to work.”

“The state government,” the letter points out, “claims only nine villages were riot-hit and and only these villagers have received meagre compensation. Others have been forgotten.” It mentions Hasanpur, a cluster from Lisaad village, completely excluded from any survey and, hence, compensation.

Raising questions on safety and security, it reads, “The camp residents fear anybody could enter the camps and harm them. Such fear seems to be greater among those who have lodged complaints against perpetrators.”

When reached for comment, the UP CMO said, “Our hands are tied because of the election model code of conduct is in place.” TISS faculty in-charge Brinelle D’Souza of the Centre for Health and Mental Health, School of Social Work, TISS wondered, “How can matters of such urgent public interest be on hold because of the model code of conduct?”

 

 

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Appeal for Volunteers and Contributions for Survivors of Communal Violence in Muzaffarnagar

pic courtesy-Indian express 

 

 

It appears today that refugees from hate in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts of Uttar Pradesh have little to look forward to, except a long and lonely winter of continued exile. A hate campaign – falsely claiming that Muslim boys were enticing Jat Hindu girls in a ‘love jihad’ – led to violent murderous attacks in September on Muslim settlements mainly of poor agricultural workers in the two districts. Some fifty thousand people fled in fear, and took refuge in Muslim majority villages mostly in the grounds of madrassas and mosques; belatedly the state commenced food supplies to these camps.As the winter cold descends this year on Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts in Western UP, some twenty thousand people camp in makeshift unofficial camps amidst squalor and official neglect, or survive in small rented tenements or with relatives – exiled from the villages of their birth. Four months after one of the grimmest communal outbreaks in more than a decade, the dominant mood among the survivors is still of fear and despair, amidst a persisting climate of orchestrated hatred. Most relief camps had been officially terminated, even though several displaced persons are still unwilling to return home because they continued to feel unsafe. Whereas displaced persons in camps should be officially assisted and supported to return to their original homes, to force them to do so by premature closure of camps can result only in thousands being left without even the meagre food and health support which the government had extended in the camps.The sense of fear and alienation of the survivors is enhanced by distressing reports of organised social and economic boycott of Muslims after the mass violence. Many men testify that if they go back to their villages, they are told they should cut their beards off if they wish to live in their village. People also report similar hate exchanges in buses and public spaces. Three young men were killed when they went to work in their fields. Sporadic incidents of sexual assault are also reported. Survivors recount intimidation and boycott in employment as farm labour, or economic activities like pheris¸ or selling cloth and other goods from house to house. The confidence of survivors to return to homes is further shaken because of the very low numbers of arrests. This reflects regrettably low political and administrative will to ensure legal action against those who indulged in hate mass violence in September 2013.

In a very small initiative, humanist young people in Aman Biradari have decided to work together for relief and reconciliation.  The first task is to survey more than 150 affected villages and all the formal and informal camps to get a final picture of who have returned, and who are still displaced; also the needs of affected people, of relief, rebuilding livelihoods and habitats, and justice. There is also urgent need to battle the climate of manufactured hate, and rebuild relations of trust and goodwill between the Muslim and Jat communities.  And we need to continue to demand from the state that it performs its duties for the affected people.

 

We appeal for volunteers and contributors from all over India to undertake the survey, relief and reconciliation efforts in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli. We request young people – both students from universities and working young people from across India – of all faiths and communities to kindly volunteer for periods ranging from ten days to one month in March, 2014, starting after the 3rd of March onwards. Those who wish to volunteer kindly send a message to Anubhav[email protected]

 

We would also like to request you to widely circulate this appeal amongst your friends and family.

 

With best wishes,Admiral Tahaliani, Sharmila Tagore, Jazur Bandukwala, Ram Punyani, Navsharan Singh, Vijay Pratap, Sister Cyril, K. Anuradha, Harsh Mander

For Aman BiradariMob: 9891121333

Email:  [email protected]gmail.com

 

 

 

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Press Release – Report of fact finding and assessment – Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts

 

PRESS NOTE

Report of fact finding and assessment – Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts

by Aman Biradari- Centre for Equity Studies

The entire report can be read at the Centre for Equity Studies Website

 http://centreforequitystudies.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Aman-Biradari+IRI-Muzaffarnagar-Fact-Finding-and-Assessment-Report.pdf

 

1.      From December 23-25, 2013, a team of 11 persons from Aman Biradari, visited 8 camps of persons displaced by the recent violence in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts. The main goal of the mission was to understand the experiences and every day conditions of the survivors of violence and those who have fled their villages in fear, so as to map humanitarian needs. The team spoke with women and men, children, youth, the elderly, and persons with disability, and witnessed first-hand, the situation of abject need and neglect. For those who have suffered violence – physical and/or mental – living in the camps in such difficult conditions is a continuance of that trauma. A related goal was an attempt to understand the possibilities and challenges of long term justice and reconciliation.

 

2.      The study team heard from survivors that after much delay, some government assistance reached them, but this was a case of too little too late. In the absence of adequate government interventions, NGOs and civil society organisations have been trying to intervene, but their limited resources are a constraint

 

3.      Main findings: The majority of camps visited were unofficial camps located near Muslim-majority host villages. State government has not officially recognised the majority of these camps and claims it is not in any way accountable to the people there. Consequently, survivors are on their own and have faced neglect with respect to accessing basic necessities. They have done so during the harshest weather conditions including scorching heat, heavy monsoon rains and harsh winter. The numbers of those who have died in these camps are comparable to official statistics of the government on the number killed during the riots, including mostly children as well as older women and men. Acute needs include access to weather-proof shelter and sufficient bedding and clothing; healthcare, particularly for pregnant and lactating women, children, the elderly, the disabled; food security including proper nutrition and drinking water; sanitation needs; employment opportunities; education needs including remedial learning; financial security; and addressing needs of those who have suffered sexual violence.

 

 

4.      Below are some specific and actionable recommendations made by the report:

A.    The State must officially recognise all camps that are functioning, in order to adequately provide for the rights of affected persons and ensure that the suffering is ended.

B.     It must stop all forced evictions from relief camps, as most people have nowhere else to go. Indeed Government must establish its own camps, to house shelterless victims, and provide the full range of services there.

C.     Immediately, in all camps, the range of entitlements under various provisions of law as well different services be ensured, whilst prioritising the most vulnerable. Specific interventions should include:

i.     Adequate shelter in the form of weather proof tents, and pucca housing.

ii.     Special ration cards for victims to access entitlements under PDS.

iii.     Special old-age pension cards, disability pension cards and widow pension cards

iv.     Identification documents that include voter ID cards

v.     Camps must have community run anganwadis serving hot-cooked meals, childcare support, mobile health clinics, and on-site doctors, prioritising needs of women.

vi.     Long-term psychosocial care and counselling for survivors

vii.     Provide on-camp educational facilities (books, notebooks, stationery, bags etc.); remedial classes for children taking their board examinations, admission in schools in the neighbourhood of camps. Accompany this with awareness and advocacy drives around education for girl child and against early marriage of girls.

viii.     Need and skill based employment assistance and material aid to riot-affected men and women at the earliest, to enable them to earn their living.

ix.     State should make provision for emergency cash for work to provide for the loss of livelihoods suffered by people living in camps.

D.    Alongside, the following measures are required, for all victims:

i.     Clear and transparent guidelines on compensation for loss of property. Little clarity exists on what the criteria are in deciding eligibility of beneficiaries. The list of victims too is contested. Victims need to be helped in securing compensation.

ii.     Sustained effort by the administration to create a secure environment, the absence of which is compelling people to not go back to their home villages. This includes speedy arrest of the accused named in FIRs, irrespective of community or social standing. This is imperative in order to create an environment of greater security and to prevent further outbreak of hostilities. Legal aid must be provided to assist people in filing FIRs and following those up.

iii.     Security arrangements should be made at victims; home-village and survivors should be assisted in rescuing/securing items they left behind. Also parents need to be encouraged to follow-up on the whereabouts of their missing daughters.

iv.     Efforts need to be made the district administration for long-term reconciliation by facilitating meetings between leaders of the Jat and Muslim community must be restarted and continued.

 

E.     Going forward, state government must conduct an assessment of numbers of displaced persons, losses they have suffered and what relief and services they have been provided, to act as the basis for planning a comprehensive response. Aman Biradari and MAJMA Muzaffarnagar Adhikaar Jan Manch (formed as an alliance of civil society and aid agencies, for a collective and coordinated response to the humanitarian crisis in Muzaffarnagar) would welcome the opportunity to assist state government in this effort.

F.      To maximise administration-civil society partnership to ensure effective delivery of relief and entitlements to victims, establish a system of periodic (weekly) coordination meetings at the DM level, both in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, with MAJMA and other like-minded civil society partners.

G.    The violence and its aftermath in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, resulting in continuing suffering of thousands of victims, is a huge blot on our common humanity. State government must send a clear signal to all, public officials as well as society at large, that continuing exclusion of the victims already suffering much, will not be tolerated and redress must be provided urgently and effectively

 

Given this scenario we appeal for volunteers from all over India to undertake the survey, relief and reconciliation efforts in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli.
We request  people – both students from universities and working people from across India – of all faiths and communities to kindly volunteer for periods ranging from ten days to one month in End February and March, 2014, starting after the 25th of feb onwards. Those who wish to volunteer kindly send a message to Amin Khan : <[email protected]> and [email protected]com

 

We would also like to request you to widely circulate this appeal amongst your friends and family.

 

With best wishes,

Harsh Mander, Admiral Tahaliani, Sharmila Tagore, Jazur Bandukwala, Ram Punyani, Navsharan Singh, Vijay Pratap, Sister Cyril, K. Anuradha, 

 

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#India – Identity and inclusive governance

AJAY GUDAVARTHY, The Hindu

Only a party that combines governance with a welfare agenda that is inclusive of social identities such as Dalits, OBCs, minorities and women can surge ahead in the coming elections

One of the key issues that occupy voter imagination with regard to the coming elections is the tension between identity and governance in Indian democracy. Most of the political parties, especially national parties, are claiming to have moved to a governance paradigm as against the mobilisation of social groups on the basis of a ‘narrow’ identity. The Congress claims to have introduced a new discourse on ‘good governance’ with the introduction of economic reforms; the BJP under Narendra Modi is projecting governance to induce growth, prosperity and higher GDP as a solution to many evils plaguing the nation; and the newly formed Aam Aadmi Party says it has introduced a post-identity and post-ideology politics to strengthen democracy by way of foregrounding corruption as an issue concerning all castes, classes and regions.

What exactly was the problem with identity politics? India has seen an exponential growth of identity politics in the last two decades. While it mobilised the marginalised, it ushered in piecemeal changes and introduced competitive mobilisation by different social groups leading to sectarianism and identity-fetishism. This has led to the creation of new social elites among the hitherto marginalised social groups such as Dalits and Muslims, leaving behind the bulk of the population in whose name the specific identity groups are mobilised. It is these elites who then make demands of their own such as the need for ‘Dalit Capitalists,’ unmindful of the fact that such an economy would exploit Dalit labour more than anything else. Further, identity politics entrenches patron-client relations in between the social elites of the identity groups and the rest of the population belonging to those identities.

The worst outcome of sustained identity mobilisation is the proliferation of intra-subaltern conflicts as we have witnessed among the various Dalit sub-castes in Andhra Pradesh, between Dalits and the Other Backward Classes in Khairlanji in Maharashtra, and between the OBCs and Muslims during the recent riots in Muzzafarnagar in Uttar Pradesh. These conflicts are not only replacing the conflict with elites, within and outside their respective groups, but are also making an alliance with social elites possible or rather a necessity to win elections, as is clear from the shift in the BSP’s language — from Bahujan to Sarvajan — making an uncanny alliance between Dalits and Brahmins a viable strategy in Uttar Pradesh. Finally, identity politics has failed to deliver material benefits and open up widescale economic opportunities.

Symbolic mobilityInstead, it has propelled symbolic mobility and psychological empowerment, of the kind displayed by the symbolism of Mayawati, (who installed statues of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar) and Lalu Prasad Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal. While they contribute to ideas of dignity, respect and a sense of the self, and remain important achievements in themselves, cultural mobility invariably leads to demands for a share in the economic resources. This can clearly be observed in the case of Muslims who, especially after the Sachar Committee report, are demanding better educational and employment opportunities. In India, we are strangely witnessing a simultaneous rise of cultural assertion, and economic dispossession, which is what makes our democracy look chaotic and, for some, even unruly. It is for these reasons that there is a new consensus of sorts against the adverse impact of identity politics on Indian democracy among the upwardly mobile professional/urban classes, as well as the rural and urban poor.

While one understands why the new language of Narendra Modi or the AAP has come as a relief for many, we need to ask two follow-up questions. Have political parties and their mobilisations in fact moved beyond identity mobilisation? Is the alternative to identity politics to be found in the language of governance? First, it is a grave exaggeration if one were to believe that political mobilisation has un-problematically moved to a more universal governance paradigm from ‘sectarian’ identity politics. Even a cursory look at all those political leaders who have come to symbolise the discourse of governance will make it evident that it is laced with a ‘liberal’ dose of identity mobilisation.

For instance, Nitish Kumar’s governance is combined with sub-categorisation of the OBCs into the EBCs and the MBCs. Mr. Modi’s corporate governance and growth-centric rhetoric are combined with a deeply polarising discourse against the minorities that he returns to when he alludes to the ‘burqa of secularism’ or claims to being a ‘Hindu nationalist,’ or deliberately compares the minorities to ‘puppies that have come under the wheels.’

It is therefore untenable to imagine that the Modi of 2002 is very different from the Modi of 2012. It is not explicit identity versus governance, as popular discourse has come to perceive, but more of a certain combination of identity with the rhetoric of efficient governance. Similar is the case with the AAP. It has made a pitch for a similar shift to a more identity-blind, transparent and accountable governance, and also cited this as its mobilisational strategy for the elections in Delhi; the most cited case being Shazia Ilmi, a Muslim, contesting from a Hindu dominated constituency (though it is a different matter that it was a one-off case of a prominent face of the AAP losing the elections). Whether it is the composition of the AAP Ministry or the nature of polling where many surveys found Muslims voting in much smaller numbers for the party than others because there weren’t too many Muslim faces in it, identities have not really died out. Identity claims have only moved from claiming exclusive cultural dignity to attempts to combine them with new types of economic opportunities. It is evident in the case of Gujjars demanding the status of STs, or Rajputs wanting to be listed as OBCs. The issue here is not mobility in ritual hierarchy but a share (legitimate or otherwise) in state resources.

Finally, is the alternative to the ills of identity politics to be sought in governance, if it means an exclusive growth-centric strategy that India began with during the phase of liberalisation in the 1990s, which prompted Rob Jenkins to refer to it as ‘reforms by stealth?’ It has since moved to a judicious or otherwise combination of reforms and social welfare policies, such as the Right to Food security, the Land Acquisition Bill, and the Street Vendors Bill, apart from the MGNREGA, riding on which the Congress came back to power in 2009. Or, for that matter, the governments of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have been voted back in the recent elections in 2013 in recognition of the spate of welfare policies that were put in place. Governance as growth has very marginally translated into a trickle-down for the poor, and therefore the need to have more pronounced social welfare policies in place.

Participatory democracyHaving said this, it must be recognised that in spite of ushering in a spate of welfare policies, the prospects for the Congress are rather bleak, precisely because it seems to have failed in delivering and implementing them through effective governance strategies. It lacked transparency and accountability and got caught in a series of high-level scams. This not only makes the government inefficient but also look arrogant in a mood of ‘participatory democracy’ that we are witnessing. Strangely similar is the case with the Left-of Centre parties such as the CPI and the CPI(M) that have continued to raise issues of poverty, ill-effects of FDI on the marginalised, landlessness and displacement, but could neither creatively plug into identity mobilisation nor particularly look accountable and open to dialogue and participatory ethos, which partly explains their declining presence in electoral calculations.

This, however, does not mean we move back to an exclusive growth-centric governance paradigm. Rather, the road ahead is a choice between governance combined with a polarised polity and governance combined with a social-democratic welfare agenda that is inclusive of all social identities such as Dalits, the OBCs, the minorities and women. Identities cannot be undermined or brushed aside, nor can they simply be mobilised for cultural assertion any more without including a concrete and tangible programme of economic empowerment, while governance cannot simply mean growth any more but means the way it contributes through a discourse of accountability, institutional procedures and transparency to widening economic opportunities and a more inclusive democratic order. The chances are wide open, and the party or parties that can effectively combine the two and their new meaning that is taking shape in Indian democracy will, in all probability, surge ahead in the coming elections.

(Dr. Ajay Gudavarthy is Assistant Professor at the Centre for Political Studies, JNU)

 

Read more here — http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/identity-and-inclusive-governance/article5610245.ece?homepage=true

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#India – The Neros Of Uttar Pradesh

The Muzaffarnagar riot victims have been left to fend for themselves while leaders of the ruling Samajwadi Party enjoy lavish celebrations and foreign jaunts.

2014-01-18 , Issue 3 Volume 11

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Photo: Vijay Pandey
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No exit Thousands of riot victims have no choice but to continue living in the makeshift camps, Photo: Vijay Pandey

 supremo  can certainly brave the chill of the January nights. On the night of 8 January, he was at the annual  in his native district of Etawah, along with his son,  Chief Minister . The father-son duo looked absolutely comfortable enjoying the “Bollywood Night” as actors Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit, among others, shook their legs to various dance numbers.

Around the same time when the Bollywood performers were regaling the Yadavs, along with their select list of guests that included the who’s who of  politics and bureaucracy, about 400 km away at Malakpur village in Shamli district, Akbari, a 60-year-old widow, struggled to keep herself warm by burning dried sugarcane leaves in front of an 8×6 feet tarpaulin tent. Akbari, along with her two teenage sons, had run away from her home in Lank village on 8 September last year to escape the riots — India’s deadliest in a decade that left 59 dead and rendered over 50,000 homeless.

The tent that serves as her shelter is in one corner of a camp where there are more than 200 such tents — temporary shelters for families that were displaced from their homes during the communal riots that ravaged Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts. Like several other such camps that came up during the riots, the Malakpur camp too was set up hastily on an open field near the narrow road leading to the village.

An almost unbearable chill had begun to set in earlier in the evening. At quarter past seven, the road from Kairana, a municipal town in Shamli district, to Malakpur village was already shrouded in thick fog, with visibility less than 30-40 metres. As the mercury dipped to freezing levels, the tarpaulin tents ceased to provide any protection against the chill. As it is dangerous to light a fire inside the tent to bring in some warmth, Akbari and others in the camp had no option but to go out into the open, gather dry leaves to burn and sit huddled around the fire.

Ever since she moved to this camp, she has been eagerly waiting to be rehabilitated by the government. While several of the riot victims who have been displaced from their villages have got a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each from the  government, Akbari’s application is still stuck in red tape. Anxious to get any kind of help, she mistakenly takes this correspondent to be a local government official and her eyes brighten when she is asked about her well-being. No wonder she becomes a little irritable on learning that she was not speaking to an official but a journalist. “Can you get me my compensation? Else, what is the use of recalling all the misery that I have gone through?” she asks.

However, she later opens up and narrates her plight. “I spent two days and two nights in the sugarcane fields before others from my community rescued me and brought me here. Later, my sons reached this camp looking for me and are staying with me now,” recalls the frail woman who was working as a daily wage labourer in a brick kiln near her village until the riots broke out.

The plight of Akbari and thousands of others like her, who are yet to find a roof on their heads after being rendered homeless in the riots, flies in the face of Mulayam’s recent remark that those living in the camps are not victims but political “conspirators”. Had the senior Yadav visited the relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli even once, it would perhaps have helped him realise how cruel and insensitive his words were. Possibly, he would have been able then to empathise with the riot victims staying in the relief camps in near-freezing temperature.

It is indeed astounding that the  supremo, who had emerged as a so-called messiah of the minority community in 1990 after having ordered the police to fire on the kar sevaks mobilised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad for getting a Ram temple built in Ayodhya, has not bothered to visit the riot victims even once in the four months that have passed since the riots broke out in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli. Instead of offering a healing touch to the riot victims, Mulayam has been accusing the leaders of the other parties visiting the relief camps of indulging in politics. He called Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi a “thief” who sneaks in at night to visit the relief camps. He was shameless enough to say that “no government in the history of has done so much for providing relief to the riot-affected people, yet the leaders of Opposition parties are doing politics over the riots”.

‘Money cannot compensate for the loss of my husband’

Washeema | 17
Gulistan | 28
Kutwa Village

Washeema_and_gulistanOn 25 August 2013, Washeema married Irshad and started a new life at her husband’s house in Kutwa village. Little did she know that two weeks later, the same village would be one of the worst-hit by the communal flare-up and she would lose her beloved husband in the violence.

On 8 September, she was away at her parents’ house in Baghpat district. As the violence spread, Irshad began evacuating his family members to safer places at nearby Budhana. During one of the sorties, he was on a bike with his sister-in-law Gulistan (below right) and four children. When they reached a bridge, a mob attacked them.

“I didn’t even realise when they shot Irshad. The bullet hit him in the head,” recalls Gulistan. “As soon as we fell down, they attacked him again, smashing his head with a blunt object. They attacked me, too. I don’t recall what happened after that. When I gained consciousness, I was at a hospital in Meerut. I was told that Irshad had died on the spot.”

Back home, Irshad’s father Shamshad met a similar fate. Even as Gulistan struggles to cope with the mental agony, Washeema’s fate hangs in the balance. Though the family has received compensation for the murders, they are not satisfied. “The killers of my husband have been arrested. No amount of money can compensate the loss of my husband,” says Washeema.

Both women are staying with their widowed mother-in- law and other relatives at a rented house in Shahpur.

 

Mulayam’s son Akhilesh too has been incredibly apathetic towards the plight of the riot victims. The only time he visited Muzaffarnagar since the riots broke out was on 15 September last year, and that too just for a few hours. On the other hand, he has visited his home town Saifai nearly 60 times since becoming the chief minister in March 2012.

Meanwhile, the district administrations of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli seem hell-bent on making the homeless riot victims move out of the relief camps. On 5 January, Shamli District Magistrate PK Singh appealed to the inmates of the camps “to shift to safer places to avoid the cold”. But he did not spell out where the riot victims could possibly find these “safer places”. They are scared of going back to the villages from where they had to flee during the riots to save their lives. Most of them have no houses to return to as those were burnt down when the rioters were running amok. Moreover, as most of the victims are poor — a majority of them were daily wage labourers in brick kilns or hawkers selling utensils and clothes in the villages before the riots broke out — they can’t afford to opt for rented accommodation in new localities.

Even though many victims have managed to get a cheque of Rs 5 lakh as part of the rehabilitation package, they cannot go back to their villages to rebuild their homes for want of security. Many of them are using the compensation money to buy land elsewhere. But as land prices are quite high, they have little money left to build houses on the land they have bought.

“Why is there this hurry to push the victims out of the camps when the cold is at its peak?” asks Anwar, a native of Malakpur village in Shamli district and one of the organisers of the relief camp there. A group of officials visiting the camp had tried to force the victims to leave, but they put their foot down and refused to do so. Anwar had stood firmly on the side of the victims at the time of this incident. Around 250 families have taken shelter in the Malakpur camp, including some from the neighbouring Meerut and Baghpat districts. There are another 10 smaller camps that dot the nearly 10 km stretch between Malakpur and Bipar villages in Shamli district.

It was in the Malakpur camp that 25 infants died because of inadequate protection against the winter chill. Two infants died at the Idgah camp in neighbouring Kanshla and 10 more at the camp in Loi village in Muzaffarnagar district. Following the furore over the deaths, the  government grudgingly admitted that 34 children had died in the camps.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) also sought clarifications from the state government on the deaths of children in the relief camps. In its letter to the state government, the NCPCR stated that the “death figures of children as reported in the media and the figures accepted by the local administration need further inquiry as death figures of 25 at Malakpur camp, two at Idgah Kanshla camp and 10 at Loi camp dying of respiratory sickness/pneumonia… needs further explanation and reconciling from the state government”.

‘Officials told us that we will get no compensation’

Shabra | 12|  Lisarh Village

ShabraShabra chops onions and potatoes as she prepares dinner for those with whom she and her brother are sharing a room at an abandoned electricity department building in Jaula village. She opens up after some initial hesitation. The brother-sister duo lost their father and stepmother at the hands of the rioting mob. Shabra says she saw her father Azimuddin and her stepmother Haliman (both 50) being dragged by a group of rioters and hacked to death.

“They were smoking a hookah outside our home,” she recalls. “At around 12.30 pm, we heard a group of village youth shouting anti-Muslim slogans and saw them brandishing sharp weapons. When I went outside to check, I saw my parents were being dragged away from the house. Then the mob hacked them. I don’t remember how but someone pulled me into the house and so I survived. Later, I ran towards the sugarcane fields and hid there for several hours. I had no clue whether my brother Shabir and biological mother, who too lived with us, managed to escape or not before the security forces took us to safety and brought us here.”

Shabir points out that they have got Rs 5 lakh for rehabilitation but no money has been paid as compensation for the murder of their parents.

“The officials tell us that since their bodies could not be found, we won’t get any compensation,” he says.

Luckily, their biological mother is by their side, but the family dreads going back to their village.

 

Even as the temperature dips to near-zero degree in the open fields along the sugarcane fields where most of the relief camps are located, senior state government officials too, it seems, are trying their best to follow in the footprints of their political masters in obfuscating the truth. For instance, AK Gupta, the principal secretary of the state’s home department, recently told the media that “no one died due to cold. Had that been the case, nobody could have survived in Siberia”.

In Muzaffarnagar district, the epicentre of the riots, the district administration has tried to shut down the relief camps at Bassi Kalan, Tawli, Shahpur, Loi and Jaula. Bizarrely, that was the administration’s response to the scathing public criticism of the pitiable living conditions in the camps. While some of those who moved out of the camps were able to take up rented accommodation in the villages, others had no option but to set up new makeshift camps elsewhere.

The administration has not only tried to force the victims to leave the relief camps, but has also filed FIRs against some people who had helped organise the camps. They are now accused of grabbing the government land on which the relief camps were set up.

Political analysts believe that following the series of blunders by the government both in tackling the communal violence and then in handling the rehabilitation process, the ruling  is now faced with the spectre of the Muslim voters shifting their loyalty away from the party. This has become a hotly debated issue in the political circles of  and it is impossible to miss the palpable frustration in the .

Ashok Mishra, former state secretary of the CPI, uses an interesting metaphor to describe the situation in which the  finds itself today. “Instead of killing the snake, if you only try to fill one snake pit, then the reptile will emerge from another pit and bite whosoever tries to protect the people from the snakes,” says Mishra. “The  seems to have lost the resolve and the strength to fight the snake of communalism. The perception that Mulayam’s party is the only protector of the Muslims in  is fast vanishing.”

This is a sentiment shared by many others, including Shahid Siddiqui, former Rajya Sabha MP and currently chief editor of Nai Duniya, an Urdu weekly published from New Delhi. Siddiqui had been expelled from the  in July 2012 after he published an interview with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. “Any kind of intoxication clouds the senses. Mulayam Singh is drunk on power and has got into a self-destructive mode,” he says. “The bizarre behaviour of the leaders is manifested in the Saifai festival where Mulayam Singh and CM  are busy enjoying dance performances by Bollywood stars while the riot victims are being pushed out of the relief camps and children are dying because of the biting cold.”

Even as thousands of riot victims are forced to face the winter chill amid the pitiable living conditions in the relief camps, another crass display of apathy by the state government came to the fore. At a time when it should have been using its resources for the relief and rehabilitation of the riot victims, it has sanctioned an expenditure of around Rs 1 crore for eight ministers and nine MLAs to undertake an 18-day trip to Turkey, Greece, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and UAE. Beginning on 8 January, the foreign jaunt has been christened as a “study tour” of the ministers and MLAs organised under the aegis of ’s Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Critics, however, point out that it is more of a paid leisure trip. The “study tour” is being led by senior minister Azam Khan, who is also the ruling party’s in-charge of Muzaffarnagar district.

‘We are scared of what awaits us if we go back to our village’

Saeeda | 40|  Sisauli village

saeedaAfter the Muzaffarnagar district administration shut down the relief camp at Bassi Kalan, Saeeda and her husband Yameen have been forced to live at another makeshift camp nearby.

The couple took shelter at the house of Gulab Thekedaar, an influential Muslim villager, for four days before escaping. Yameen was attacked while taking his family members to a safer place in Shikarpur. Initially, he managed to take his wife and children to a relative’s place. However, when he went back to bring his brother and other children, he was waylaid and attacked.

“We don’t want to go back to Sisauli,” says Saeeda, who used to sell utensils along with Yameen. Ever since the attack, Yameen has become too weak to go out for work.

Both Yameen and Saeeda are trying to cope with the horrific memories of the riots, but what adds salt to their wounds is that they don’t have enough money to buy a piece of land and start life afresh.

The couple says that the government has shrugged off its responsibility by just handing over Rs 50,000. They lost their house but no compensation has been paid for that.

“We have been refused the rehabilitation package. The officials are putting pressure on us to go back to our village. But we fear for our life there,” laments Saeeda.

Kanpur-based author and political analyst AK Verma believes that the narrow political ambitions of the  leaders will not go unnoticed. “The people are watching, and this is the cause of the frustration in the ,” he says. “The Muzaffarnagar riots was a glaring case of bad governance and failure of law and order. The state government allowed it to happen so as to serve the narrow political ends of the , but the plan backfired. Even now, they are only resorting to knee-jerk reactions. See how they suddenly decided to close down the relief camps to escape the intense media and public scrutiny over the inhuman living conditions there.”

Clearly, the  government is yet to learn any lessons from its gross mishandling of the Muzaffarnagar communal riots and its aftermath. While it commits one blunder after another, its the hapless riot victims who are paying the price. It will be a miracle, however, if the  manages to emerge unscathed from the unholy mess it has helped to create by its acts of omission and commission.

‘Officials put pressure on us to leave the camp’

Alibaaz | 50 |  Lisarh Village

AlibaazAlibaaz and his wife Haseena are huddled inside a tent at Malakpur village in Shamli district as the temperature touches freezing point around midnight on 8 January. Alibaaz’s father Naseeruddin was reportedly killed during the riots in Lisarh village. However, they have got no compensation as his body could not be found.

They have been marked ineligible for the rehabilitation package of Rs 5 lakh as they were staying at Paonta Sahib in Himachal Pradesh for work. “Our house was burnt down. What if we were not living there? Does that make us ineligible for compensation?” asks Alibaaz.

The officials, they allege, have been selective while distributing compensation packages to riot victims. Alibaaz’s brother, who lived in the same village, has received compensation. “They say that because we belong to the same family, we are not entitled to anything more,” says Haseena.

At Lisarh, all the Muslim houses have been burnt down. “They want us to go back. But how can we?” she asks. “Officials come almost every day and put pressure on us to leave. Those who got compensation money have bought plots elsewhere, but we have to stay here in the freezing cold.”

In the night, they sit near the fire to escape the cold. They have taken up odd jobs at nearby markets and brick kilns to sustain themselves until the time they find a way to impress the officials so that they sanction some compensation for them.

With inputs from Virendra Nath Bhatt

[email protected]

Read more here — http://www.tehelka.com/the-neros-of-uttar-pradesh-2/

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#India – After riots struggle to reclaim life in Muzaffarnagar

AGRIMA BHASIN, The Hindu, Jan 11, 2014

  • Loi Camp in Muzaffarnagar district. Photo: Amin Reza Khan
    Loi Camp in Muzaffarnagar district. Photo: Amin Reza Khan
  • At the Dabedi Khurd Camp in Shamli District. Photo: Amin Reza Khan
    At the Dabedi Khurd Camp in Shamli District. Photo: Amin Reza Khan
  • Loi Camp in Muzaffarnagar district. Photo: Amin Reza Khan
    Loi Camp in Muzaffarnagar district. Photo: Amin Reza Khan
  • Saneti Khurd Camp of Shamli district. Photo: Amin Reza Khan
    Saneti Khurd Camp of Shamli district. Photo: Amin Reza Khan
  • Two shy girls playing with mud at the Dabedi Khurd camp, Shamli district. Photo: Amin Reza Khan
    Two shy girls playing with mud at the Dabedi Khurd camp, Shamli district. Photo: Amin Reza Khan
  • Two shy girls playing with mud at the Dabedi Khurd camp, Shamli district. Photo: Amin Reza Khan
    Two shy girls playing with mud at the Dabedi Khurd camp, Shamli district. Photo: Amin Reza Khan
After the mind-numbing violence of the riot comes the struggle to reclaim life.

Ten-year-old Farah is using a humble whip to spin a lattoo (top) with repeated strikes. She pieced together this whip by tying a thin strip of cloth to one end of a slender wooden stick. The lattoo required more hard work for she had to skilfully chisel a small block of wood to give it a conical shape. These self-carvedlattoos and whips are a common sight in the relief camps of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli district in Uttar Pradesh. With their toys, books, stationery and other playthings left behind, looted or burnt in the riots that broke out between Jats and Muslims in early September 2013, Farah and her friends at Barnavi (II) relief camp in Shamli draw on their own resourcefulness to create modest enjoyment.

For Sajid and Hamir at the Malakpura relief camp, a strenuous one-hour trek to and from school leaves them with sore feet. The 11-year-old boys explain with an embarrassed smile: “Ji, our feet hurt. We ask our parents to get us a bicycle, but they refuse.” The boys return from school only to undergo three hours of rigorous training at the makeshift madrasa in the camp. “Ji, we don’t get time to play,” the boys lament, given that evenings are spent running errands — scouting the camp site for firewood or fetching water from the hand pump — to assist their mothers in preparation for dinner. At the school and madrasa, the boys are learning only Urdu. In Kharad, the village their families were forced to flee, Sajid and Hamir remember studying diverse subjects, seated alongside their Jat friends.

Fourteen-year-old Rizwana animatedly reminisces the games period at her old school. “We had a great teacher! She even taught us games that boys play, like bat-ball!” A spirited Rizwana illustrates playing bat-ball, jumping-the-rope (rassi kudna), singing songs and studying Hindi textbooks as lost joys, inaccessible in the past four months, since the fateful night of September 7, when her family ran barefoot to save their lives from armed rioters returning from a Jat mahapanchayat. At the relief camp in Daberi Khurd, Rizwana is relieved that a toilet unit is under construction using private aid from an NGO, and will offer privacy to girls and women and spare them the daily hassle of making a perilous journey in the dark to a distant area each time they have to defecate.

Rizwana is alert that her passion for education may soon take a knock if her parents prematurely arrange a marriage. Alarmingly, in the last four months, relief camps have witnessed child marriages in great numbers. “Where are we going to keep young girls?” asks Rizwana’s mother, Chando, echoing a common rationale offered by most parents across camps.

The rationale veils a societal mentality that regards girls and women an economic burden, where it is a natural choice to get them married or worse, sell them, especially in the face of severe adversity. This is notwithstanding the sheer grit and courage with which the women are fiercely opposing the UP state government’s ongoing inhuman evictions of riot-affected survivors staying in the relief camps.

Chando wraps eight-month-old Safia warmly, since the local media is abuzz with reports of untimely and preventable child deaths. The causes are diverse — zero medical aid, severe cold, pneumonia, snakebite, paucity of milk, starvation or fever. “The Youth Congress set up its health clinic (first since the riots) only last week, thanks to the media,” says Chando, partially dismissive of the Youth Congress’ belated relief effort. A stitch in time, Chando believes, would have “saved our children from dying.” The premature deaths of children (and even women and elderly persons) are increasingly attributed by survivors to the negligence and head-in-sand approach of the Samajwadi Party-led State Government, which continues to deny urgent medical assistance to survivors in dire need. “If they don’t want to come here, at least the sarkar can send a pair of gloves, scissors, blades and a hygiene kit,” says Rano (45), a respected midwife (dai) who has helped deliver 20 infants at Barnavi (II) since the riots. “We also need a vehicle that can ferry pregnant women to the hospital in case of an emergency,” adds Rano.

Twenty-six-year-old Mehnaz sits awake at night, clasping her four-month-old daughter Taira under her shawl so that she survives the biting winter chill. Mehnaz prefers daytime to nightfall; the icy winds at Loi camp betray the poor quality tarpaulin tent and combine with the stillness of the night to rudely scrape her wounds. She was nine months pregnant when her husband Nadeem lifted her and haltingly limped across the sugarcane fields to evade the rioting mob. Their daughter Taira was born on September 12, four days after the riot. “Week after week, I was troubled by horrific nightmares. I still cannot sleep but I am tired of crying,” recalls Mehnaz. She is reeling under severe post-traumatic stress disorder, which needs psychosocial care and counselling, often neglected in relief efforts.

In their gravest hour of need, the first relief aid — slippers, warm clothes, ration and tents — was provided to the survivors by Islamic charities, which swiftly swung into action to fill the vacuum created by a woefully irresponsible State Government. They set up unofficial camps in several host villages, making sewer sites, cemeteries and forestland habitable. “We are also providing electricity at the camp and distributing private ration cards to people,” says Javed Khan, a member of the Organising Committee at Loi. The male survivors huddled around him listen intently and then one of them declares, “We may die here, but we will never return to our villages.” Javed Khan volunteers an explanation for the man’s statement: “The perpetrators dispossessed the survivors of everything they owned and burnt our mosque and Quran.” He directs someone to show us photographs of a disfigured mosque, a burnt house and a charred car.

The prompt invocation of religious symbolism enables camp organisers to sustain communal tensions. Buried under this communal narrative are anecdotes in which Jats forewarned their Muslim friends or rescued them during the riots. “The longevity of relief camps allows religious organisers to profit from and control relief aid,” says Kishore with concern. A seasoned social worker who is coordinating the distribution of supplies at the camps, Kishore has a ringside view of the corruption that riddles relief work. Consistently, he says, camp organisers demand that 20 of an incoming 75 blankets or shawls are set aside for resale in the black market.

Squatting on the damp mud floor inside her tent, Mehnaz offers valuable perspective. “Begging for food, firewood or a blanket, with our arms outstretched, is humiliating.” Others around her nod in agreement.

The drastic shift from rozgari to berozgari and from pucca houses to shoddy tents violates the survivors’ fundamental right to live with dignity; dignity that is trampled upon even by a few beneficent NGOs engaged in haphazard humanitarian relief efforts, which can be far better executed. The Popular Front medical and legal aid team from Kerala is cited as a notable exception. “The sarkari doctors hand us the same medicine for cough, swelling, typhoid and burns. It was the doctor from Keral whose cough tonic I liked,” says Nafisa chachi, an octogenarian whose back hurts from sleeping on the ground. Her only wish is for someone to rescue her old charpayi.

Also without charpayi is 17-year-old Rasida, disabled from the waist below. Her strong arms grant her a certain degree of restricted mobility. She relieves herself next to her tent (or is given a tasla or shallow pan) and is confined inside during her menstrual cycles. Rasida longs for an education.

“I can walk and go to school if the government gives me a walker or steel shoes, of the kind I saw in Delhi,” she says wistfully.

At the relief camp in Barnavi (II), where Rasida is hunched over a cooking pot and Farah is still spinning her lattoo, Amrin, a single mother of four, is struggling to feed her children. Amrin’s individual entitlement to a private ration card is lost since she shares a roof with her sister-in-law’s married daughter. Amrin wants the Akhilesh Yadav government to prioritise relief for survivors who are single mothers and widows.

“My children often ask me about home. They want to go back… I give them false hopes,” says Amrin, convinced that return is not possible unless scrupulous security arrangements are made in her home village. Survivors at the relief camps, betrayed and still disbelieving, voice an unwavering aversion to returning home.

“They dismembered our people and raped our women. We want the perpetrators to be arrested,” says Shoib, a 35-year-old father of three who eked out a living by selling ladies’ suits on a cycle. Shoib is bitter that the Samajwadi Party in UP did not intervene to stop the riots. He continues, “Monetary compensation is not insaaf. Surety of punishment is.” Among the rioters were faces known to Shoib; faces whose family festivals Shoib routinely partook in.

“It is a murder of humanity (insaniyat) that the State officials cannot see our suffering. Help is needed now, not after more children die,” says Mehnaz. Insaniyat, she believes, is “if a sarkari officer sincerely listens to us.” A distant look in his eyes, Nadeem seconds his wife: “We will vote for a party that can feel our pain in this period of crisis.” Back in Loi camp (now evicted), Mehnaz is studiously teaching the days of the week and the names of birds to little children. Before her marriage to Nadeem, she was a primary school teacher. The teacher in her interprets insaaf differently: “I do not want our children to be bitter. I want to teach them everything I know and more. Insaaf for me means a good education for our children.”

(Agrima Bhasin is a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Equity Studies, New Delhi.)

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#India -The continuing violence of a communal-fascist state -Muzafarnagar

January 10, 2014

By Democratic Students Union

A preliminary report on the solidarity visit to Muzaffarnagar ‘relief’ camps

Death of over 30 infants in the extreme cold of Muzzaffarnagar ‘relief camps’ and the overall inhuman conditions in which the evicted people are being forced to thrive there, once again has churned debates in the media lately. The forgotten people of Muzzaffarnagar just a few months back had faced one of the most ghastly communal onslaughts to have been orchestrated in the recent past, which by its sheer magnitude ranks only next to the 2002 Gujarat pogrom. More than 80 Muslims were killed (this is just the official figure and with many more missing, the locals contend that the real number is more than 130) and more than a lakh were displaced and force to survive in the relief camps. The killings in the villages, the massive displacement of the muslims, the gang-rapes of women, the death of the children in the relief camps, the continued intimidation by the perpetrators of this massacre and yet the desperate yet determined battle of the people for survival is yet another glaring testimony of the reality of this communal-fascist state. While the BJP is proudly and publicly felicitating the king pin of this massacre, the SP government which through its deliberate inactions allowed the killings to continue in the first place, has now gone into a complete denial mode with regard to the scale of the carnage. The local administration, too, has brazenly denied the deaths in the relief camps, with the UP Home Secretary even ridiculously observing that no one could die of cold. For Rahul Gandhi, all these people in the camps are ISI agents while for Mulayam Singh these are all Congress agents! The latest cruelty of the government has now come in the form of an order to bulldoze the camps. According to the administration, these people are illegal encroachers on government land and are clearing them of trees! „The government cared more about the trees, than humans, said Shahzad Saifi, one of the residents of Malakpur camp. He has lost his 5 month old son in the month of November due to pneumonia. In solidarity with the people living in these camps, a 12 member team comprising student activists from JNU, BHU and Allahabad University along with an independent journalist visited some camps in Shamli district on the 4th of January. These are located several kilometres from the villages where the killings had taken place. We were witness to the extremely wretched conditions in which these people are forced to live as well as the reign of terror unleashed by the government.. Their narratives laid bare to us once more, the extreme forms of oppression and systemic brutal marginalization of religious minorities, particularly Muslims, that belies every hoax claim of this self-proclaimed secular democracy.

As the team reached Muzaffarnagar early morning on the 4th January, the local edition of the previous day‟s Hindi news daily Amar Ujala „informed‟ us that many of those living in the relief camps were not affected by the riots at all, but rather had houses in the cities and were living in these camps only because of their „laalach‟ (greed) for the relief money. Seen in the context of forcible removal of the camps that the government was carrying out when we reached, the media report was clearly aimed at creating a justification for it. The ramshackle tents made of plastic in the cold weather (the temperatures drop at times to less than 2 degrees at night) point out to the absurdity of such media claims. In fact, in these so-called „relief camps‟ no meaningful relief from the government has reached all this while. It was largely various minority organisations who had organised most of the relief. Raessudin, the in-charge chosen by the people for the Malakpur camp where there were still 649 families living (initially there were more than 1300 families there) said that the government considered them no more than a headache which it was now trying to get rid of. Some local volunteers of minority organisations carrying out relief in the area told the team that the government had forcibly removed the camps in the previous days even from the madarasas (i.e. non-government land) in Kandla and Shamli. At the Malakpur camp, the residents told us that most of the men who had taken up jobs as daily wage labourers at nearby sites had stayed back in the camps that day and they had not even sent their children to school. It was after all the last day as per the government notice to them to vacate the camp, and people were remaining vigilant against any attempt of forcible removal. The administration along with the police had also landed up the just the previous night and threatened them to leave the camps. Even while we were there, some administrative officials once again landed up at the camp to which the people immediately protested. The perennial fear of removal from the camps has forced many to completely abandon their search for jobs, even as they face complete destitution. As a strategy to counter it, now only women sleep at night while the men keep a patrol. In other villages also, we witnessed volunteers fervently going around several camps telling the residents what to do if the police and state officials reach there to evict them.

Compensation as a ploy to forcefully remove the residents from the camps: The residents that we spoke to informed that most people living in the relief camps received no compensation at all from the government. Sanjeeda (from the Bajidpur village) pointed out that the government in many places such as Baghpat denies till date that anything has even happened far from talking about compensation. Even those who received the much touted 5 lakh compensation were only given this amount after they signed an affidavit which amongst other things specified that they would not return to their villages. This is clearly a ploy of the state government to change the existing social and demographic composition of the villages where the attacks were carried out. However, what we also found out was that the state government was now using the fact that it ‘compensated’ some families as a ground to evict the rest from the camps. Mustakim, from Lak village, pointed out that the state officials had reached his camp two days back and were asking him to evict the camp on the pretext that they had compensated his father. The state government has made a lot of claim regarding the so called large amount of compensation it was offering to those affected by the ‘riots.’ How this amount is nothing but meagre crumbs in reality was brought to us by Mustakim. The compensation was given only per household, so in a situation where a family had 10 members – say a couple who have two sons, who in turn are also married and have their own children – only the head of the family would receive the compensation. Mustakim’s situation was precisely so. While his father was compensated, he and his brother (both married and having their own children) were left to fend for themselves and were now being forcefully asked to leave. He narrated to us his encounter with the state officials two days back, “when the government officials asked me to leave saying that my father has been compensated, I asked them where to go with my children. They asked me to go and live in the nearby forest. I asked them where, should we go to another country?”

“We’ll rather live on roads than go back to the villages, our killers are roaming free there. They can kill us again” -said Sameena from the Bajidpur village. There was a near complete unanimity amongst everyone that they would not return to the villages as the government had not done anything to provide even an iota of security. One old woman at the Malakpur camp told the team that she feared the government would once again remain complicit if another attack takes place. This collusion of the government with the communal-fascists and in providing them impunity was evident to people. With all the main kingpins of the attack still roaming free in the villages and even felicitated publicly, despite FIRs filed against them, how could the Muslims be expected to go back? Irshad, another resident, captured the reality of the collusion very succinctly – “when the culprits are roaming free, how can they let the enquiry happen; they themselves are the administration, and they themselves are the culprits.” Many other villagers never filed an FIR against the perpetrators for that would have entailed returning to the villages. People narrated to the team several instances when some people had tried going back to the villages, but were forced to return to the camps after facing intimidation and threats. Mohd. Dilshad at the Noorpur Khurgam camp for example told us of two families who on the insistence of the pradhan of the Kurmal village had returned to their village, but were forced to return to the camps as the dominant Jats came with petrol to intimidate them. In another incident at Kakda and Kutba-Kutbi villages, some people from the Muslim community had gone back to only fetch their goods when their motorcycles were burnt down by the dominant sections of the village and the police.

The terror regarding what had transpired in September last was so great that they did not think returning back to the villages was a possibility even in the near future. Some people recounted the gory attacks on the children and the elderly in the villages and how they were slaughtered. Another specific feature of these attacks, as in many other places, was the targeted sexual assaults on women from the Muslim community. Though initially, people were hesitant to recount these instances but later many narrated some horrific incidents to the team. Several women had been gang-raped, some were stripped naked and made to dance on broken glass pieces. A villager narrated an instance of one woman who was abducted by the attackers and was never seen again. They do not even know whether she is alive or not. Another woman recounted a ghastly murder of her younger sister who was split apart from between her legs. The women who were subjected to ghastly sexual violence and bestial torture in their respective villages or had even witnessed it, felt a lot safer living in the camps. The only danger here was from the police, but with the people from the camps patrolling the roads at night they felt a relative sense of security. The few people who could make some arrangements with their relatives had left the camps, especially those who had lost their children, but no one went back to the villages. After all, with most of their property either gutted down or appropriated by the dominant Jats, they had nothing to go back to. Wasila from the Lak village who used to work as a daily wage labourer at a brick kiln told the team that the rioting mobs after stealing her jewellery, burnt down the 10 quintals of grain and other goods, to finally raze down the house. With the Muslims not been able to return to their villages, a new pattern of ghettoization is emerging – new in the sense of what was till recently only an urban phenomenon now shifting increasingly to the countryside.

The continuing violence on the Muslims in these regions is part of a broader context of a historical process of their over all marginalization. While there was a small section of artisans, weavers and small shop-keepers, most of those living in the camps are daily wage labourers. They either used to work in the brick kilns, at construction sites or largely in the sugarcane fields owned by the dominant sections of the Jats. Hardly any owned any land. On the other hand, the dominant section of the Jats who stood to gain the most by these attacks not only owned large amount of land but also coupled up as money-lenders charging exorbitant amounts of interest. Mohd. Dilshad, from the Kurmal village, for example, had borrowed Rs. 40,000 in 2003 from one of these zamindars cum moneylenders, and in return was liable to pay 1,80,000 by 2006. An inability to pay back the amount, would make them bonded labourers in the hands of the zamindars, which at times continued beyond a generation. These dominant sections also monopolized the legal as well as extra-legal structures of political and social authority – be it the post of the sarpanch, mukhia or pradhan in the panchayats or the khap panchayats and had a complete hold over the police and the local administration. Dilshad cited the daily feudal oppression the muslims faced and the perpetual fear of attack – “if we wear new clothes, they would abuse us and call us pigs, they would never talk to us without abusing…moreover they can get anyone arrested by the police anytime.” Saying that he would not return to his village, Dilshad, in fact, went on to term life in the camps as “heaven” – “despite all the difficulties there is at least no daily humiliation and fear of an attack.”

Having lost their loved ones, having lost their livelihoods and property and forced to live in deplorable conditions in these camps, they even regard this as a state of “freedom”.Because the value of human lives is rendered not just in livelihood but also in basic human dignity which was systemically denied to the Muslims of Muzzaffarnagar not only during these massacres, but in the decades preceding that as well. The property that they left behind, their houses, places of religious worships, etc – have all been usurped by the same dominant feudal section which orchestrated these attacks. As Shahzad Saifi pointed out the Muslims have been pushed back by at least 20 years. Another woman from Rathoda village, whose family used to own three houses, pointed out „what is the use of these houses if our lives are under attack… so we are better off here, even if we do not have any houses.‟ The continuing developments in Muzaffarnagar once again confirms how communal-fascism is part of the very social relations and the structures of oppression that this state, irrespective of which party is in power, rests on.

This is just a preliminary report based on some of our findings. A detailed report will be released in a week’s time. The team members comprised Aswathi, Bhawna, Rajat, Reyaz, Shamla, Ufaque, Umar- (DSU, JNU), Mishab, Abdur Raheem -(SIO), Neeraj (Inquilabi Chatra Morcha, Allahabad University), Shailesh (Bhagat Singh Chattra Morcha, BHU) and Chandrika (independent journalist)

 

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Akhilesh Yadav attends big Bollywood night at Saifai, critics raise Muzaffarnagar pitch

All India | Edited by Devesh Kumar | Updated: January 08, 2014

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav greets Bollywood actor Salman Khan at Saifai

Saifai, Uttar Pradesh:  Unfazed by all-round criticism for its sheer scale and extravagance at a time when his government was being pilloried for being insensitive to Muzaffarnagar riot victims, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav made it a point to watch performances by Bollywood top draws Salman Khan, Deepika Padukone and Madhuri Dixit, which brought down the curtains on the fortnight-long ‘Saifai Mahotsav’ on Wednesday night. (See Pics)

Seven jets were chartered to fly the Bollywood entourage – including Ranveer Singh, Mallika Sherawat, Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan – into Saifai,  the ancestral village of the Yadav clan, to take part in the grand finale of the jamboree.

Wary of criticism from the media, organizing committee chairman Dharmendra Yadav, who is also an MP and Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav‘s nephew, said reporters would be allowed into the show, but barred them from carrying their cameras, to prevent live telecast.

The festival, part of an annual ritual, was into its 15th edition, but it had come under heavy shelling from the Opposition parties as it was held against the backdrop of the controversy over the relief camps for Muzaffarnagar riot victims, and their plight. As many as 34 children are reported to have died in these temporary shelters after failing to withstand the bitter cold that has swept the region. The state government has drawn flak for trying to drive the inmates of these camps back to their homes.

“They have lost all human values as they are celebrating at a time when so many kids have died in Muzaffarnagar,” BSP leader Sudhindra Bhadoria said.

SP leaders, however, remain defiant, and continue to defend the festival. “I want to clarify again that UP government has conducted Saifai Mahotsav to promote arts and culture,” minister Rajendra Chaudhary said.

Organisers are tightlipped about the budget, but critics have panned it for drawing heavily from the state’s coffers.

 

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