KERALA

Marad rehabilitation enters critical phase

KOZHIKODE OCT. 13. The rehabilitation programme in Marad has entered a critical phase.

A majority of the displaced families are back home. Today, 18 more families returned to Marad, taking the number of rehabilitated Muslim families to 203.

The resettlement process has slowed down considerably since there is a general feeling that resentment still persists among a section of aggrieved Hindu families in Marad against the return of the relatives of the accused in the Marad massacre case. Among those waiting to return home are the relatives of the accused. About 300 families are believed to have left Marad on May 2 fearing retaliation after eight Hindu fishermen were mowed down in a one-sided attack.

The families whose relatives are accused in the case are now staying in a portion of the Government Higher Secondary School at Payyanakkal, near Marad. The authorities have advised them to stay there for a few more days, until the conditions in Marad were conducive for their return.

Unconfirmed reports indicated their number might be higher than 34. The decision to delay their return is reported to be in line with an `unofficial understanding' reached at the recent talks in Thiruvananthapuram in the presence of the Chief Minister. But it is not part of the official Marad peace package that was drawn up there.

The Araya Samajam leaders, K. Dasan and T. Suresh, said all the participants in the talks at which the Marad peace formula was evolved in Thiruvananthapuram were aware of `this unwritten understanding'.

The Hindu Aikya Vedi convener, Kummanam Rajendran, who was in the city today, also confirmed that there was such an understanding to ensure smooth implementation of the resettlement plan.

The authorities have veered round to the view that the return of the kin of the accused in the Marad case should take place only after the Muslim League leader and Industries Minister, P.K Kunhalikutty, came back from his foreign trip towards the end of this week. The IUML leader was present at the meeting at which the Marad peace formula was drawn up.

The District Collector, T. O. Sooraj, has said that he had no knowledge of any such understanding. That was why the relatives of the accused in the case were brought to the Government School in Payyanakkal by the district administration from the relief camp where they were staying. It is from this school that the families to be rehabilitated are taken to Marad.

Sarvodaya workers and the authorities are of the view that rehabilitation had to be a slow process since its larger objective was to restore peace in the troubled village and not merely to send all the displaced families back home without any concern for its impact on the social life of the region.

The Marad Araya Samajam secretary, T. Suresh, today said there were members of the Hindu fishermen community in Marad who were still upset and angry that eight members of their community were brutally slain.

A majority of the Hindu fisherfolk believe that the Muslim families in the region had prior knowledge of the plan to carry out an attack and had left their homes much before the incident, to escape retaliatory attacks.

It was this belief which manifested in resistance to the two failed rehabilitation attempts made by the Government weeks ago. The Marad Araya Samajam leader said it was with great difficulty that the community was made to accept the Marad peace formula.

It was for these reasons that there was an understanding that the kin of the accused in the case need be brought back to Marad only towards the end of the rehabilitation programme after the Hindu fishermen got used to the presence of Muslims who had returned to their neighbourhood.

The families that are back home are in the process of settling down. Women were seen collecting water from storage tanks installed at various points under the rehabilitation plan.

Many do not have access to potable water at home since their wells have become dirty. Cleaning of all house-wells had not been completed. Many complained that their houses were looted and valuable removed when they were away. However, the Marad Araya Samajam leaders refuted these charges.

They pointed out that many families had returned to Marad a few days after the attack and taken away households goods from their homes under police escort. Newspapers have published these photographs, they added.

In spite of the uncertainty about the return of the families of the accused, the authorities said the rehabilitation programme would continue until it was completed.

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