“I remember every bit of the riots. But what can I do? Not everyone has money to ensure that one’s children, parents can forget all this restart life. Those who got compensation have moved on, and those who didn’t, got stuck. Even now people are in trouble and are driven from pillar to post.“
-Riyasat Maksood, Bavadi village, Muzaffarnagar
“I want to tell the government that if they give us the compensation, then we can make our house. Even you can’t give us five lakhs, we beg you to give us at least two or three lakhs. At least we will make a house to live. It’s very difficult to run a house of seven. My children are hungry most of the time”
Imrana, Kakra village, Muzaffarnagar.
The aforementioned statements are from Amnesty India’s report on the displaced citizens of Muzaffarnagar, Nowhere To Go, who had to flee their village in fear, in wake of the riots. In the Muzaffarnagar communal riots, that took place on 8 September 2013, 60 people were killed in the clashes, which ended only after three days. Thousands of Muslim families from around 140 villages were forced to flee their homes and take shelter in relief camps. Reports state that 200 families still wait for their rehabilitation compensation.
Four years after the riots, in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts of Western Uttar Pradesh, more than 60,000 families were displaced. On 26 October 2013, the state government had announced that it would provide a one-time compensation amount of Rs 5,00,000 for relocation and rehabilitation to the villagers of those 9 villages who were worst affected by the communal violence.
In December 2013, the apex court was hearing several petitions related to the riots, it expressed its concern over the death of 50 children in the relief camps. The state government eventually began demolishing these camps, forcibly evicting many who fled their homes in fear.
Amnesty International global human rights movement in collaboration with AFKAR India Foundation, an NGO based out of Shamli came up with a report titled Nowhere To Go. This report focuses on the state government’s failure to provide any remedial assistance. The UP government has failed to meet its obligations under international and Indian law to provide an adequate remedy, reparation and protect human rights of those displaced in 2013. Even four years after the riots, hundreds of families in Muzaffarnagar continue to be denied their rights and dignity.
Promises made, but not kept
UP state government announced that it would provide assistance to the families of those killed and affected by the Muzaffarnagar riots; Rs 20,000 for those who were injured, Rs 50,000 for those who were seriously injured and Rs 1,00,000 to the family of each person who was killed. The central government had made promises that Rs 2,00,000 would be provided to the families of those killed and Rs 50,000 for those who were seriously injured, from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. Promises of employment to at least one member of each of the families of 59 people who were killed in the riots. The government had also promised Rs 50,000 as assistance for rehabilitation to the 1800 families from the worst affected villages.
All these promises were made but none were kept, no measures were taken towards rehabilitation or resettlement. Several petitions were filed with the Apex Court seeking rehabilitation and protective measures for the survivors. The court ruled, “We prima facie hold the state government responsible for negligence in communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas.” The UP government’s one-time offer of financial help did little to provide comprehensive reparation with those displaced in the communal riots. Farah Naqvi, an activist working in close quarters with the victims from Shamli said, “Relocation compensation is certainly necessary to help internally displaced citizens from Muzaffarnagar to rebuild their lives. However, it is merely one part of the package of comprehensive reparations which states owe citizens who fail to protect them.”
Complexities in providing compensation
These internally displaced persons were supposed to be protected under the international humanitarian law and standards. Adequate housing, water, sanitation and medical services are meant to be provided to the displaced communities as soon as possible. There has been little assistance to the survivors, with a lot of the women have been pushed to ghettoised colonies in the areas.
“Communal riot survivors are yet to receive compensation and continue to stay in squalid condition in resettlement camps,” Amnesty International’s Indian arm said in a 19-page report. The report also alleged that inconsistent definition of family was laid down by the authorities in an attempt to deny people compensation.
The report further added, many families from Muzaffarnagar were denied compensation because authorities claimed they were part of a joint family which had already received the money. Even in case of families, who could prove, they were living separately, compensation hasn’t been paid to them.
Another problem in this context is how the official have assessed who needs how much. The officials have decided Rs 5,00,000 to be the rehabilitation amount. In lieu of this amount, a victim gives up his right to live in the village and has to move away and not ask for any more compensation.
Four years later, these families still continue to live in temporary camps, with little access to water and electricity. Many have been rendered homeless and several children are orphaned. Everyone still remembers how their village turned into a battlefield within no time.
A report by The India Today said, many families have run pillar to post seeking rehabilitation and Yasmin Hamid is one of them. He says, “Many of the clerks are corrupt. If you are willing to give them a lakh or two, then you will get what’s left of the compensation. Otherwise, you will get nothing at all and be like me.”
The executive director of the Amnesty International, Aakar Patel, sais, “Earlier it was Samajwadi Party and now it is Bharatiya Janata Party. Half of the officials are corrupt and the other half don’t want to be accused of bigotry.”
Recommendations by the Amnesty
As a part of its recommendations, Amnesty International India has demanded a vigorous pursuance of the cases to bring justice to the women, an investigation into the threats or harassment of survivors, provision for effective legal assistance and rehabilitation. They have also recommended for a robust law to respond to communal violence, an adequately resourced victim and witness protection program and comprehensive police reforms.
You can read the full report here.