Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh on Sunday defended the Uttar Pradesh government’s notification providing for a compensation of Rs. 5 lakh only to Muslims affected in the recent Muzzaffarnagar communal riots.

“Injustice cannot be done to those Muslim families who have lost not only their members but all possessions and did not want to return to their villages from rehabilitation camps,” Mr. Singh said speaking at a function held at the Islamic Cultural Centre to celebrate his birthday.

“What has happened is unfortunate and the lives lost cannot be returned, but we can at least provide succour to the affected families. Sixteen non-Muslims and 47 Muslims lost their lives in the clashes,” he said. No other State, including Gujarat, had given such a generous package to riot affected families.

Perhaps responding to the Supreme Court’s observation that the Uttar Pradesh government could not differentiate in its compensation package on the basis of community or religion, he said: “Both sides suffered. But the Muslim casualty and tod phod [damage to property suffered by the community] were higher.”

(On Thursday, the court asked the government to recall the October 26 order and issue a fresh one to include all people hit by violence for the compensation.)

Party general secretary Ramgopal Yadav said the U.P. government was not against Hindus but it wanted to recognise the contribution of Muslims. “You should not doubt Mulayam Singh’s intention,” he told Muslim leaders in the audience who included freedom fighter Abbas Ali Khan.