For authorities, camps are “officially” over since they have completed formality of distributing compensation

Amid heightened political tempers over the plight of riot victims in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, administrations in two districts are trying to wind up at least half-a-dozen relief camps where displaced Muslims are braving the chilly weather while battling with poor conditions.

The State officials, for whom camps are “officially” over since they have completed the formality of distributing compensation, are now reportedly pressuring villagers and organisations helping these displaced people to persuade them to vacate camps and return to their villages.

The glaring example of this official callousness is clearly visible in Bassi Kalan village where hundreds of Muslims, who were forced to leave their village Kutba-Kutbi, and who had taken refuge inside a madrasa, were “forced” to leave the place a day before the National Human Rights Commission team came for inspection. “There is no camp running now in Bassi Kalan … We have settled almost all cases of compensation there,” Muzaffarnagar District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma told The Hindu on Tuesday.

But village ‘pradhan’ Mursalim has a different story to tell. “The district administration forced madrasa people to get the camp vacated as the NHRC team was coming for a visit to our village. But the fact is that affected villagers have now started living in shanties under open sky … So far they were at least getting some relief material from voluntary organisations, which has also stopped now. We have been asking them to return to their villages; but they have categorically stated that if pressured they will go to some other place but never return to their village,” he noted.

While Mr. Sharma claimed that only one camp was running in the district at Loi, where around 1,800 people have taken refuge, Mr. Mursalim said that apart from Loi, there were at least two other places where camps were being run — Jaula and Malakpura — where hundreds of Muslims are too apprehensive to return.

“Both in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, the district administration officials are under tremendous pressure from the State government to ensure that no one remains in camps … Instead of taking care of compensation issues and providing health and sanitation facilities for displaced people, they are putting pressure on camp managers to ask people to leave,” said Shandar Gufran, social activist and educationist.

But the Muzaffarnagar District Magistrate refutes all claims of poor management of camps made by media and NGOs. “We have now sought the help of religious groups and NGOs in convincing these people to at least move to government buildings so that they could be provided proper facilities. There are at least 76 pregnant women living in the Loi camp, some in advanced stages. We have been urging them to move to a proper camp or nearby hospitals but to no avail … We are helpless as these people have launched a kind of civil disobedience movement,” Mr. Sharma said.

‘False claims’

Noting that almost all cases of compensation have been cleared, including 901 cases of those who are not ready to go back to their villages and were given Rs. 5 lakh each, Mr. Sharma said they had received 925 new applications for Rs. 5 lakh relief each. “The new demand is that all married persons having kids should be considered as a separate family and given money … We did a fresh survey and found majority of cases to be untrue as all such claimants used to live under one roof. We cannot go against the rule,” he said.

‘Politics of blackmail’

“It is this demand for more compensation that has led to people not moving out of the camp. At one time, the Loi camp had just 1,000 people remaining, which has now again gone up to 1,800. It is politics of blackmail and we cannot budge … We have now approached village seniors and social and religious organisations to help resolve the impasse,” Mr. Sharma said.

Agreeing with the district magistrate’s assertions, Mr. Gufran said: “Another bitter truth is that a family of 15 or 10 was given Rs. 5 lakh which is not sufficient to build a house and start a family afresh. The government should at least give appropriate compensation to those who have lost everything. People have been thrown out of their land and made refugees, they deserve a better deal and not mere politicking.”