Issues

Riot victims of Muzaffarnagar have no interest in Elections

By Piyush Babele, in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh.
 
Baba Harikishan Malik, 84, head of Gathawala Khap of 52 villages, is enjoying smoking his hukka in the village of Lisadh in the Shamli district of Western Uttar Pradesh.

His son Rajendra Malik, 60, and other villagers are discussing a Supreme Court ruling which slams Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’sgovernment for failing to get advance notice of last September’s anti-Muslim riots in Muzaffarnagar, and then failing to arrest the accused.

But this hukka-chat under a wood-apple tree is in reality a mockery of the Apex Court’s order, as the elder Malik stands accused in 26 cases, including murder, and Rajendra Malik is accused in 36 cases, including murder, in the riots.

Rajendra Malik disputed the accusations as he offered a cup of tea to this reporter.

“Can my father commit such crimes at this age when he cannot even stand up without a support? All these allegations are false,” Malik said, taking a list of the cases against him from his left pocket. Nothing untoward took place in this village.”

His body language shows clearly that he knows well that no one dares arrest him, though the Pradhanmantri Sadak road runs only five kilometres straight from Phugana Police Station to his house.

But this Jat leader’s profession of innocence cannot deny the fact that, although he may not be able to walk, the elder Malik led the panchayat assembly held at Lisadh’s Inter-College.

In the riots, 13 Muslims were killed in Lisadh. The National Commission for Minorities found it to be one of the worst riot-affected villages.

But this is not the sole case where the main accused in the riots are roaming free, in the vicinity so close to a police station. There are 804 cases where the accused have not been arrested.

This reluctance by police to arrest suspects compounds the fear and pain of the Muslim refugees who fled the villages last September 7th and 8th and are now living in tent camps near Muslim-dominated villages for protection.

The first fortnight of the last September changed the demography of several western Uttar Pradesh villages forever. Today, the Muslim districts in these villages are vacant. Vandalized household goods still lie around in the torched houses. Some of the Muslim homes are being used by local Jat herders as sheds for their cows and buffalos.

The story of Lisadh is replicated in the nearby village Hasanpur.

“I happened to visit Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra to sell clothes and had seen jhuggis there,” said Hasanpur resident Tayyab, 30. He told this reporter his story sitting in Jola camp in Muzaffarnagar district. “But I never imagined the time when I along with my family would be staying in one of those mud-and-iron huts.”

Tayyab said that although no casualties were reported in Hasanpur, the killings in Lisadh frightened more then 150 Muslim families into fleeing the village the evening of 7th September. These villagers are still waiting for compensation from the UP government.

Tayyab said once he receives compensation, he will settle his family in some Muslim-dominated village, and will never go back to Hasanpur.

The riots of last September permanently changed the western UP villages.

Jat-dominated villages have turned Hindu villages as no Muslim lives there any more. Go to Phugana, Etawah, Nala, Kharad, Ellam, Hasanpur, Bawdi, Hadalli or Nirpuda — each village will tell the same story of riots.

Yet there is a single village, Basi, which tells another aspect of the riots.

Basi is the only village in western UP where Dalit Hindus fled their houses.

This is the village where Muslims pelted a Jat mob with stones as the mob returned from the 7th September Panchayat at Muzaffarnagar. One Jat resident was stoned to death and this frightened the Dalits.

Twenty eight Valmiki Dalit families immediately left the village and came straight to Muzaffarnagar.

“When we left the village we had to cross the village pond which was full of water,” said Babita Valmiki, who came to Muzaffarnagar with her husband and four children. We were running for our safety.”

Valmiki’s 11-year-old son Aman is now a school dropout. The family found shelter in Gandhinagar, a dalit district of Muzaffarnagar city.

“Muslims got the compensation, but we didn't get a single penny,” said Ravi Valmiki, 30, who is also from Basi. “Is it crime to be Hindu?”

Neither Tayyab nor Ravi is getting the answer totheir questions.

The politicians, whether in power or in opposition, are still calculating whether the riots will bring them political profit or loss. That's why there is no effort to resettle the vandalized villages.

But the same administration is smart enough to start the process of voter registration. Now these refugees are getting voter ID cards — giving the refugee camps as their addresses.

Some Muslim organisations came forward to help them. Jamiat Ulama-e Hind has settled a refugee colony named Shaikhul Hind Nagar at Saray village.

A refugee at Jola camp said, "CPI-M is also constructing some flats for Muslims in the vicinity of a camp."

Refugees of the famous Loi camp purchased land there and are constructing houses, but no one is going back to the place where they were born and brought up.

This pathetic scenario is attractive for politicians. One can see a number of Samajwadi Party flags on the ragged tents of Loi camp. S.P. is optimistic that this time Muslims will vote for them; last time they voted for Mayawati's BSP.

SP thinks that riots have undone the Dalit-Muslim election equation of BSP, making  victory more difficult for the sitting BSP MP Kadir Rana.

If Samajwadi Party flags found a place on refugee tents, BJP's hundreds of campaign posters “Ab kee baar Modi sarkaar” are visible inside the villages. The posters are comparatively small now but they were larger before the notification of the election code of conduct.

BJP is smelling victory in the Hindu-Muslim divide. That's why the party declared Sanjiv Baliyan and Hukum Singh, both accused in the riots, as its candidates from Muzaffarnagar and Kairana Lok Sabha — a new equation that is alarming for the Jat-dominated Ajit Singh's RLD.

These things make politics much complex here. The ruling party is still thinking what will be more useful: to arrest the accused or put the issue on the back burner?

Victims are in pain, the accused are roaming free and enjoying their role as community leaders and the government is being slammed by courts.

(This is an English translation of a report published in the 9 April 2014 issue of the Hindi edition of India Today.)

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