Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Riots and Displacement: Voices from the Camps of the Muzzafarnagar

Umakantha V

Muzaffarnagar, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, also known as the sugar cane capital of India, comprising of 18.5 percent of Muslims and a sizeable Jat population, catapulted into a place of communal riots recently that left hundreds displaced from their homes. The tensions snowballed from an incident of eve teasing, led to clashes between the two communities that ended up killing around 50 people and leaving many injured. The most shocking outcome was that in no time 50,000 people, mostly from the Muslim community, were forced to flee their homes.

Continuous media coverage revealed displaced families seeking refuge in madrasas and relief camps just a few hundred kilometers away from the national capital city of Delhi. The living conditions in these places of refuge kept worsening due to the acute scarcity of basic requirements. Many of the madrasas were hit by infectious diseases which increased the susceptibility of the causalities. For e.g., the Zeenat-Ul Islamia Madrasa near Ghaziabad where around 6000 people had sought refuge had glaring absence of basic amenities for women and children. There were around 13 newborns reported, who were at the verge of catching these infectious diseases. There was no assurance of medical care by the authorities. Doctors were raising the alarm that if immediate remedial steps were not undertaken on a war footing by the concerned authorities and relief agencies the situation could become worse.

Most of these relief camps had very scant provisions for sanitation forcing those displaced to travel to neighboring villages just to bathe. With limited toilets in these camps many had to resort to open defecation. Only recently hand pumps were installed in these camps that provided those living there to get access to water as before this they mostly relied on water tankers. Besides, relief camps were also failing to get essential supplies as was particularly witnessed in the Malakapur relief camp set up in the Shamli district. The people living in these camps were worried and knew that their vulnerability would increase as winter approached.

Official governmental relief was reportedly inadequate. In places like Shahpur, even the tents were in shortage and were instead being provided by the Jamaat. Parents were unable to enroll their children into madarasas because documents required for regular schools had gotten lost. Security became another critical issue of concern, when a 19 year old staying in one of those relief camps was allegedly raped by two men. Thus the urgent need for the state government is to find durable solutions for people with no other choice but to be resettled at these camps.

Amidst all this the politics with numbers continues. While the district administration denied reports of any deaths in relief camps, the reports of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) led by Justice Cyriac Joseph stated they were seven deaths. Besides around eight babies had reportedly died in Malakapur camp and the NHRC blamed the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for its “highly irresponsible behavior” who were initially denying any deaths. On another poignant note it may also be added, the organizers of Joula camp had said that, of the 30 deliveries in the camp, three babies had died. The NHRC team also submitted the report to state administration for the immediate up gradation of these medical camps, as the basic conditions of most these camps were appalling.

Within no span of time this issue has been made into a political one by political parties, each seeking to maximize its own political expediency. Rather than sorting the problem they have started riding on it; each blaming on other for allegedly fanning communal hatred and engineering riots. What is most unfortunate is that none of the leaders have stressed upon the need for communal harmony and peace. Nobody detailed the action that should be taken by the government to restore normalcy in this riot-hit district and to ensure the return of more than 50,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) languishing in relief camps.

Riot victims, who are demanding punishment for culprits, homeless, who are asking for commensurate compensation for the lands and the homes that they have lost, family members of the dead, who need jobs, are still awaiting assurance of adequate relief from the government. Unfortunately it appears as though the politics of Uttar Pradesh has become divisive and has wrecked the administration. The police and administration have also, allegedly, shown compliance with the rioters. This is evident also in the fact that the police have repeatedly failed to either make any major arrest on riots or to do much to stop what happened. People who were forced to abandon their villagers are in the mode of denial that they ever want to return in spite government promising safety as well as financial help. People are accusing the district administration of having pressurized them to sign affidavits which state that they have to leave the relief camp and return to their villages after availing financial assistance. So there are reports of forced return. There are also reports that people are skeptical about forgoing their claims over their properties that will be either be allegedly taken over those who force them to flee or be confiscated. These kind of claims reflect the deep sense of suspicion that has developed among the people who have unfortunately seeing the government as a polarizing agent prior to elections.

Nonetheless, distant from all of this, it cannot be denied that some victims have quietly started to rebuild their lives. Attempts are being made to restore children’s education. New homes are coming up on the land donated by the local community. But when it comes to expectations from the government or the administration, a fear psychosis has unfortunately developed. The biggest challenge that confronts the administration is filling up the trust deficit between the two communities. While the urban areas have shown some sign of improvement, the communities in rural areas still see each other with an eye of suspicion and this is where the administration will have to concentrate to try and restore normalcy.


“Conditions at relief camps appalling: NHRC” Accessed October 30 URL :http://www.indianexpress.com/news/conditions-at-relief-camps-appalling-nhrc/1185589/
“Government asking us not to return: Muzffarnagar riots” Accessed November 11 URL :http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Government-asking-us-not-to-return-home-Muzaffarnagar-riot-hit/articleshow/25520562.cms
“Muzaffarnagar Riots: Uma Bharti warns of more tension if BJP leaders are arrested” Accessed September 26,2013 URL :
“Muzaffarnagar riots: 13 babies born at refugee camp, but no medical help for them” Accessed September 28 URL : http://ibnlive.in.com/news/muzaffarnagar-riots-13-babies-born-at-refugee-camp-but-no-medical-help-for-them/423039-3-242.html?utm_source=ref_article
“MuzaffanagarViolence : A Detailed Report of Citizen” (online web) Accessed September 28, 2013 URL : http://www.indiaresists.com/muzaffarnagar-violence-a-detailed-report-by-eminent-citizens
“Muzaffarnagar: Women Living at relief camp alleges rape by two men” Accessed November 11 URL :http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/muzaffarnagar-woman-living-at-relief-camp-alleges-rape-by-two-men-41134
“Their homes lost, riot-hit victims unite to rebuild lives on their own” Accessed October 30 URL:
“Muzaffarnagar violence” Accessed October 30 URL :http://www.indianexpress.com/news/muzaffarnagar-violence/1168962/

1 comment:

shekhar nm said...

Liked it n shame on Govt couldn't provide proper shelter to all