by Aman Biradari- Centre for Equity Studies
The entire report can be read at the Centre for Equity Studies Website
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]
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,