Uttar Pradesh 2017

In Kairana, riot victims miss out on voting

struggle continues: Muzaffarnagar riot victims continue to live in inhospitable conditions at the Al-Falah Colony in Kairana, Shamli district.   | Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt

Kairana recorded a decent 69.36 % voting in the first phase of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls but the inmates of Alfalah Colony in Daberi Khurd were not among them. The 230-odd families, roughly 1,000 people, living here did not exercise their franchise — they claim their names were not on the voter list though they had valid documents. The colony houses victims of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots who shifted here from the Malakpur relief camp in the summer of 2014.

Islamu’s brother was killed and his son had a narrow escape during the riots, his entire family displaced by the violence that polarised the entire western region of the State. While he is today forced to live in deplorable conditions, Islamu is also upset that he could not vote. “I have an Aadhar card. People here have ration cards. But the administration did not include my name in the voter list. We spent 10 days doing the rounds of the offices, but the BLO [Booth Level Officer] did not even bother to come here,” says Mr. Islamu, a backward caste Muslim. He makes ends meet by working as construction labourer.

The inmates allege that the administration excluded their names from the list to ensure that they did not vote against the ruling SP, which the riot victims here blame for neglecting them after they were displaced.

They say that while their names were included in the pradhan elections, they were not allowed to vote even then.

More than three years after the riots, the inmates live in deplorable conditions. The colony has no proper roads, not a single school, or any toilets. They visit the nearest fields to relieve themselves. Water supply is also not proper — seven out of the 10 hand pumps are functional, and filthy drains run over the kutcha compound, leaving inmates with the risk of infectious diseases.

The colony is built on 27 bighas of land donated by Haji Dilshad, a major farmer from the Muslim Gurjar caste. He was the caretaker of the Malakpur camp and today manages life and finance in the colony. Mr. Dilshad says that the inmates of the colony did not get their voter cards as the administration feared that they would vote for the BJP candidate — MP Hukum Singh’s daughter Mriganka Singh — and not the SP’s Nahid Hasan, who are locked in a tight battle.

‘Person matters, not party’

“The SP MLA did not do anything for the riot victims. Whatever we got was from Hukum Singh. The colony had no electricity but he ensured that we got 40 electric poles and four transformers. We will vote for the person who works for us. The candidate matters, not the party,”says Mr. Dilshad.

The BJP MP has promised the colony a school and better roads, he adds.

Another riot victim accused the ruling SP of disregarding them. “How will we vote for him [the SP candidate] when he does not come here? Hukum Singh came here thrice,” says Abdul Karim.

Supported by the Tayyab Trust from Deoband and the U.K.-based organisation, Majlis Alfalah, Mr. Dilshad is working on expanding the colony and providing it with employment opportunities. Young boys and girls are provided vocational training — sewing, handloom and construction — while a teacher has been appointed to teach them Arabic, Urdu and Hindi lessons. The pupils, however, use a wall in the outdoors as slate as they do not have any proper infrastructure.

A senior administrative official from Kairana admitted that names of some inmates got excluded from the list due to some fault and that the State would take action. He, however, said that the number was not much. “We got complaints from Daberi Khurd and have lodged an inquiry We are taking necessary action,” the Kairana SDM said.

According to the official, the names were missing from the voter’s list as these inmates were not present in the area during the inspection drive. “Possibly they were out of town then for some reasons. People here often migrate out for work,” the official said.

While the authorities probe the missing names from the list, activists say that Daberi Khurd is not alone. According to Akram Chaudhary, director of the NGO AFKAR, 6,000 of the 20,000 riot victims living in various camps around Muzaffarnagar and Shamli could not vote due to omission. He has sent complaints to the Election Commission and the district administration.

“No surveys were done in these colonies. The BLO did not even visit them,” said Akram Chaudhary. Riot victims found their names missing from the voter list in Kasaban colony, Fida-e-millat, Shahpur Patti and Jhola colonies, among others.

Mr. Chaudhary, however, suspected mischief in Daberi Khurd, alleging that Mr. Dilshad may have deliberately ensured that riot victims here do not vote as he is a supporter of the BJP.

“Only 11 voters were registered in the colony — these are all people who are caretakers of the riot victims — but none of the riot victims got their names registered. Perhaps, he did it as those living in the camp did not support him ideologically,”said Mr. Akram,

Mr. Dilshad dismissed the charges against him. Asked what motivated him to work at the camp, he said: “I am doing it for the community. Who will help these poor people if not us?”

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 8:23:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/uttar-pradesh-2017/In-Kairana-riot-victims-miss-out-on-voting/article17293254.ece

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