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.