In what seems to a face saving measure by the under fire Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh,  a senior minister on Wednesday invited a delegation of riot victims, incluidng Muslim clerics, from Muzaffarnagar to a press conference here.

UP Public Works Department and Irrigation Minister Shivpal Singh said the delegation members had approached the State to express their "gratitude" for the State's efforts in rehabilitation in the aftermath of the riots. "They have come here to express their thanks for the rehabilitation work done by the State," Mr. Singh said.

The State has faced sharp criticism from all ends for hosting the Saifai Mahotsav at the cost of neglecting the riot victims in the bitter cold.

The delegation, led by prominent Muslim clerics from Muzaffarnagar, on Tuesday met UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav.

When asked if the State was using the riot victims to save its face amid heavy opposition fire, Rajendra Chaudhary, UP cabinet Minister and SP spokesperson, said the victims visited on their own accord. "They came here to thank the State for its efforts in rehabilitating them."

While talking to the media, the riot victims alleged that some parties were inciting them against the SP. Some contended that they were "happy" with the efforts of the government.

However, senior lawyer Asad Hayat alleged that the delegation consisted of persons who were "bought" by the State to present a positive picture of the riot affected areas. "How can everything be ok when more than 1700 people are yet to be identified for compensation? Many villages have not even been officially acknowledged as riot affected." Mr. Hayat will file an application in the Supreme Court on the issue.