After shutting the last remaining relief camp Loi in Muzaffarnagar, the Uttar Pradesh government has started evacuating people from relief camps in Shamli.
The administration claimed that the victims were leaving the camps on their own. However, the victims disputed this view alleging that they were being “coerced” to leave.
“Are we crazy to leave the camps and die in the cold?” asked Nadeem, a resident of Lisaad village. He lived in the Kandhla relief camp, which has been vacated.
Many of the evicted victims have taken refuge close to the camp. Out of desperation, some have built tents on fields, while others have shifted to mosques, animal sheds or moved in with relatives.
The fate of the Kandhla camp has set alarm bells ringing in the Malakpur camp, the largest of the four relief camps still officially running in Shamli. It still shelters around 4,500 inmates.
Malakpur camp coordinator Gulshad said the inmates have no alternative shelter. “The administration is putting us under pressure to clear the camps. But where do we go? The administration has given us till Saturday to leave.” Apprehensive that the administration was gathering forces to evict the inmates from Malakpur, Mr. Gulshad said: “The police will harass us till we leave. At least we have some shelter from the cold here.” Around 30-40 persons have been compensated in Malakpur but many still await it.
The administration has also cleared the Sanjhak camp, where 30 families were booked for illegally encroaching upon a Wakf graveyard. Around 600 persons have evacuated the camp.
The administration said the victims were being shifted to safer places to give them relief from the gripping cold. However, inmates were still dispersed around the camps, with neither compensation nor shelter.
While the district magistrate of Shamli could not be reached on the phone, Muzaffarnagar ADM Indra Mani Tripathi dismissed charges that the inmates were being forcibly evicted.
“Do you see any police force chasing away the inmates? We are only providing them vehicles for their transfer to safer spots and government buildings.”
Although 483 families have been evacuated in the Loi camp, on paper no camps exist in Muzaffarnagar even as some camps continue to function unofficially.
Activist Shehzad Poonawala, who is campaigning for rehabilitation of the camp inmates, said the forcible eviction was taking place in haste without the government making any concrete and viable alternate arrangements.
“Akhilesh Yadav is on record saying that no orders of eviction were given. The administration has also claimed that it is yet to identity all victims who are to be compensated. So in this bitter cold how can the State ask the riot victims to leave the camps? It is human rights violation,” he said.
Asad Hayat, senior advocate and co-petitioner in the Muzaffarnagar riots case in the Supreme Court, said he would send representations to the Court on the condition of the displaced inmates.