Even as the temperatures dip in western Uttar Pradesh, inmates of the Malakpur relief camp in Shamli have offered resistance to the administration's attempts to vacate the camp, the last major one remaining in the district. Around 4,000 people still live in Malakpur, many from riot-affected villages.
Shamli DM P.K. Singh appealed the inmates to shift to safer places to avoid the cold. A group of officials from neighbouring Baghpat district also visited the camp on Saturday and urged the victims to return home. But the villagers, who contend that they are being coerced, have refused to budge. They have threatened to stage a dharna with representatives from other camps if the administration continues with its drive.
Malakpur inmates have spent two restless nights, with many staying up at night, to prevent any "forceful" action by the administration. The Shamli and Muzaffarnagar administration have, however, dismissed the allegations of forceful eviction. Malakpur camp in-charge Gulshad said the inmates would not return to their villages till the administration gave them "written assurances" of security. The inmates have submitted a memorandum to the district administration stipulating that they will return home if only they were given adequate security, two months ration and their damaged property be repaired.
"We will not allow them to chase us away. How can they guarantee our safety when they are yet to arrest the culprits? The violence took place under the nose of the same police," said Mr. Gulshad.
Shamli SP Anil Kumar Rai said the police and administration had given assurances to the inmates of their security. "There is no reason that people villages that are not riot-affected should not return. Even for those from riot-affected villages, we understand they are in fear, but a long time has passed and things are normal. People who returned two months are living safely."
A section of the inmates feared that they would have to endure "social harassment" if they returned home. Many still perceive threat from other communities.
Meanwhile, Shehzad Poonawala, an activist who is running a campaign to rehabilitate the riot vitims, alleged that he received death threats after he announced a fast at the camp site to protest any forceful eviction.
He also alleged that the UP Local Intelligence Unit was "intrusively calling him" to keep a tab on his whereabouts.
"Any violence or planned action against me will be just an excuse to create confusion among the inmates and claim that due to law and order problems the camp should be wound up," he said.
Mr. Poonawala has written to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and the Home Ministry demanding security.