Even as nearby towns Kandhla and Kairana in Shamli district of Uttar Pradesh have become a political battleground over alleged “Hindu exodus”, people in the relief camps where the 2013 Muzzafarnagar riot victims live, seemed starkly immune to the ongoing controversy.
“This is happening all over again. Nobody is bothered about the real problem that people face. All they care about is those subjects that interest them. These misguided debates lead to violence. We are immune to all this now because we no more have anything to lose,” said Mustafa, an elder of the shabby relief camp set up near Bhura village in Shamli district.
Even after two-and-a-half years, memories of the horrific winter of 2013 are fresh in the minds of victims as it rendered thousands of them homeless. A visit to the relief camp portrays a sordid story of the riots which forced thousands to now live in shanties under awful conditions.
Asked if the alleged news of “Hindu exodus” in nearby towns affects them, Mustafa said, “No, we are not feeling afraid because of all that news of migration. What do we have that anyone would want to take away now? We want to be left alone in peace. Since elections are approaching, we are waiting for all the big ministers to line up at our doors and tell us that they’ll help us, though none of them could stop the riots.” Residents said that after the riots ended, no minister ever came to take stock of their situation.
The dilapidated relief camp houses around 400 riot victim families. Mohammad Khalid, who was running a general store successfully in Phaguna village of Muzzafarnagr district, had to flee with his family and children to a safer location when the riots broke out in his village.
“We have seen the worst in our lives. My house and my shop were burnt down right in front of my eyes, we have lost everything we had. They have also sold all our belongings, our land and thus we have nothing left.” he said. He has been working as a daily labourer in nearby brick kilns to support his family.
People in these relief camps, who were once well-established, have been living hand to mouth since they were displaced from their homes.
Asked whether they would ever want to go back to their villages once again to start their life afresh, they equivocally said that they don’t want to go back to their villages. “Even when we are facing such hardships in life, we would still not go back, we have lost everything. We have seen our brothers and sisters being killed in front of our eyes. How can we go back to a place which has given us so much of horror?” Mubarak Khan, a resident of the Bhura village riot camp, said.
However, they also said that there is no animosity anymore. “We do not have any hard feelings for the other community. We talk to each other, people from our village also come to visit us sometimes. But we would not go back to the villages,” said Mubarak Khan.
People in relief camps started building small brick shanties after they started receiving help from Deoband and other Muslim clerics, but there is no electricity or clean drinking water available to them.
Some people had also got Rs 5 lakh as compensation from the Uttar Pradesh government. Children here do not go to school as there is no school in the area. Some of the women work in the nearby fields for a paltry Rs 200 per day.
“The riots were nothing but political conspiracies of political parties to divide the two communities as, otherwise, we were living happily. These politicians are the real culprit as they are behind every massacre in the country. People do not like to fight. Who would want their families to die in front of their eyes? Nobody,” said Zaffar, another riot relief camp resident.