It has been exactly three years since the Muzaffarnagar riots, but the wounds have yet to heal. The pain sears from the past, through the present and, perhaps, into the future. A book titled Living Apart: Communal Violence and Forced Displacement in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, authored by Harsh Mander, Akram Akhtar, Zafar Eqbal and Rajanya Bose on the Muzaffarnagar riots, relates the horror of those days when 63 were killed, many more went missing and around 50,000 were displaced from their homes.
The book claims that around 30,000 people, expelled from villages with mixed population, continue to live in 65 refugee colonies till date. The book also exposes the utter apathy and lack of interest shown by the state government in rebuilding the lives of displaced families. According to the authors, they conducted a detailed survey of the resettlement colonies formed after the riots and their findings have been recorded in the book.
The horrifying facts in the book talk about Lisadh village where 13 Muslims were killed. A report was filed and the witnesses gave graphic accounts of the murders. Later the reports also went missing. A few days later, two bodies were found about 70 km away from the village. “None of the bodies were recovered—they had simply vanished. This was unbelievable. If 13 had gone missing, many others must have gone missing too,” said the authors. Bodies of five Muslim women were found in Mimla forest area and the police took them away. No records are available in this regard now. Since the bodies were not shown found, the families did not get compensation either.
Just three months after the carnage in the riots, the state government closed down all relief camps even though several thousand displaced persons were unwilling to return home. The book notes, “Even in the immediate months after the riots, state support was restricted to food supplies or a few blankets in many camps, and only after the national outrage that followed the death of many children in the winter did the medical team visit the area.”
“Charitable organisations, mainly faith-based Muslim associations, also closed their offices as compassion also wearies.”
Of 6,400 persons accused of crimes in 534 FIRs, charges were ultimately pursued against only 1,540 persons. Most of the cases of murder were closed without a charge-sheet or trial, claiming that the accused were “unknown persons”.