Muzaffarnagar riots: Activists slam `hasty` closure of relief camps

Alleging forcible closure of relief camps in riot-hit Muzaffarnagar by Uttar Pradesh government, civil society group demanded that they be reopened with all basic facilities.

New Delhi: Alleging forcible closure of relief camps in riot-hit Muzaffarnagar by Uttar Pradesh government, a civil society group on Friday demanded that they be reopened with all basic facilities till a safe environment for the displaced has been created in their villages.

A six-member fact finding team from Centre for Policy Analysis (CPA), which recently visited the relief camps in violence affected areas of Muzaffarnagar district, claimed that people were still insecure about returning to their homes.

The team, comprising former IAS officer Harsh Mander, journalists Seema Mustafa and Sukumar Muralidharan and Professors Auradha Chenoy and Kamal Mitra Chenoy -- also asked the state government to reconsider its policy to award a compensation of Rs five lakh to those who undertake not to return to their original villages.

"This is creating a permanent divide in the social fabric of the village as people are preferring to live in a Muslim dominated areas. Instead, it (government) should assist and support all families and try to create an environment of security so that people feel confident about returning home," Mander said while releasing the report.

She questioned the "unspoken hurry" to close the camps by the administration, when around 20,000 people were still living there.

"Even after 2002 Gujarat riots, the camps were closed after six month. What was the hurry for the administration to wind up the camps in three months, when the situation on the ground was not favourable for the displaced people," she said

She said the women and children were the worst sufferers of the premature closure of the camps as there was no effort by the administration to create a safe environment.

"There have been around 540 FIRs against 6,000 people but the number of arrests were just 200. This reflects the regrettable failure of political and administrative will to ensure legal action against the perpetrator of the violence," Mustafa said, alleging that traumatised rape survivors were not given financial or even the proper medical care.

Mustafa said children were facing an uncertain future as
they have not been to school for past three months and government should ensure they make up for the lost period.

While addressing the media, Sukumar Muralidharan said bail was granted to BJP MLAs Sangeet Singh Som and Suresh Rana, who allegedly instigated the riots, after detention of one-and-a-half months when charges levelled against them were under the stringent National Security Act (NSA).

"On November 7, the statutory review board that has to authorise every detention under the NSA, held that special security law did not apply in the cases of Som and Rana. There is need for some guidelines on the matter, as there is no clarity on the issue," he said.

The committee demanded action against those allegedly attempting to threaten the minority community.

They also asked the government to issue a clear report on the "falsehoods" that led to the outbreak of violence, including unfounded rumours of harassment of women and so called "love jihad".

The fact finding committee, which had earlier visited the affected areas just a week after the outbreak of riots, also found no police picket in the villages or any police patrol to instill confidence.

"The administration should exhibit neutrality, which does not happen in this case. Police has to be neutral and should not take sides of any political party," said E N Rammohan, former DG Border Security Force, who was also the part of the team.

Police and administration should have shown courage to escort the people back to their homes and register cases against those who tried to create fear in their minds, he said, adding police should rise above their investigative and enforcement roles and assume the role of peacemaker.

"Visits by the District Magistrate and the Senior Superintendent of Police to all the villages which have been affected by violence would restore confidence and also persuade intending aggressors to stand down," the CPA team said.