“That small one is my cousin,” a remorseful Ishtiaque (25) points at the graves of riot victims adjacent to the Basi-Kalan relief camp in Muzaffarnagar.
Barely few metres away, amid a colony of decrepit tents, Zareena shudders as she narrates the murder of her husband Fayyaz in the violence in Kutba-Kutbi villages, where eight persons were killed in September. “Our home was set on fire.We would have all died had the military not saved us. But what good is compensation without loved ones?”
In the relief camps in riot-affected Muzaffarnagar and Shamli such tales of woe are common. While many are yet to be compensated, even for those who have received Rs. 5 lakh for rehabilitation, the process of rebuilding homes is proving to be tedious, owing to the unforgiving winter and “insufficient” amenities. For most, it is a brick by brick process. In Shahpur, where the inhabitants of Khakra village are settled, inmates are building homes at the camp site. On an average, they are acquiring land at Rs. 2500-3500 per yard, leaving them little money in hand. Zakir Hussain acquired 150 yards of land at Rs. 3000 per yard. The bricks cost him Rs. 5000 per 1000 units. However, despite the difficulties here he is steadfast on not returning to his village. “I fear for my life. This time we were saved by God’s grace. We are not sure if we will be safe next time. Atleast we won’t have to live under suppression here.”
Inmates wishing to live outside the camps have purchased homes in nearby villages. However some are yet to find land to purchase. While touring the camps with a local doctor, The Hindu also found numerous cases of skin diseases such as Scabies and respiratory ailments. Junaid Khan, a teacher, says that the State has abandoned the riot victims after paying them compensation asking them to clear the camps. “Only few private organizations are still distributing imdat (amenities).”
In Shahpur all but 100 families have got compensation, yet the victims contend that their extended members were excluded from the compensation list despite them holding separate ration cards and living in separate households.
Amna lives in Shahpur relief camp after the riots displaced her from her village Kutba. However, she has not received any compensation. "My sons were married off and lived separately before the death of my husband Rafeek. I fend for myself and have my own ration card. My sons live separately with their own ration cards," she points out. Over 500 such families have sent representations to the district magistrate and the home secretary. According to documents available with The Hindu, the number of families alleging exclusion could go up to 1000. “The agents (caretakers) within the camp have sabotaged our compensation,” Amna alleges. Mohammad Akram, one of the caretakers of Shahpur camp, however, dismisses the charge. “Some people, not many, have not received compensation due to the laxity of the administration,” he explains.
The State claims that it has so far compensated around 1800 families. The victims are also aggrieved by the fact that the State has recognized only nine villages as “riot-affected.” Inhabitants of more than 50 villages in Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and Baghpat demand that they also be recognized as "riot-affected." Many of these villages are in the proximity of the nine villages and have registered FIRS of violence. The villages have sent their representations to the Chief Secretary.
The victims also claim that the compensation for loss to their property is less than the actual estimates. According to Asad Hayat, senior advocate and co-petitioner in the Muzaffarnagar riots case in the Supreme Court, in Bhauri village, the total cost of the 40 houses that fell to arson was much more than the amount projected by the State.
“At the circle rate of Rs. 10,600, they have shown the costs as Rs. 69 lakh. But the actual losses are in crores,” he said.
The inmates are also gradually feeling the pressure of having to earn for their families. Mohammad Yusuf says the rebuilding of homes will take another two months, which means that the inmates will have to endure the winter. “We are all labourers. We cannot even leave our families and go to the cities to earn. There is no security here. The State has abandoned us,” he says.