The Battle for Relief, Rehabilitation and Justice for the Riot Victims of Muzaffarnagar

 The story of Muzaffarnagar continues to become more and more shameful and horrific with every passing day. If ever there was a riot engineered with the most sordid electoral calculation, it was the orchestrated communal violence that shook Muzaffarnagar through September and October 2013. The district which till recently had no antecedent of communal violence fell to the vicious design of the Sangh brigade after Amit Shah, Narendra Modi’s trusted lieutenant from Gujarat was entrusted with the charge of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. The SP government failed miserably in checking the riot, but no one could realise that the government’s failure in stopping the violence would only prove to be a precursor to a prolonged chapter of complete abdication of its responsibilities. Today the SP government stands thoroughly complicit in the crimes being perpetrated against the riot survivors of Muzaffarnagar.

With tens of thousands of people displaced from the riot-torn villages just before the onset of winter, the government should have taken the lead in carrying out relief work on a war footing, but relief operations were left to the initiative of various community organisations. And when sections of the media started reporting on the plight of the riot victims in relief camps, especially the most shocking cold-wave deaths of infants and children, the government began shutting down the camps. Mulayam Singh even went on to say that the people in relief camps were not riot victims but activists of opposition parties. His brother described the relief camps as a conspiracy to grab forest lands. As the mercury dipped and the number of deaths kept increasing, the principal secretary of the UP government told us that people could not possibly die of cold – how else do people survive in Siberia, he asked – even as the father and son duo were immersed in New Year festivities.

The riot-displaced people are understandably reluctant or afraid to return to their villages even as relief camps are being bulldozed and they are being re-evicted. Whatever land and other property they had in their villages is being systematically grabbed in what can only be described as a campaign of communal cleansing. Most shockingly, it is the state government which is endorsing this campaign with its seal of official approval. Riot survivors who have received compensation from the government have had to give written undertakings promising never to return to their villages or claim any compensation for the loss or damage of property suffered. And now with police stories of attempted LeT recruitments from among Muzaffarnagar riot survivors claiming media attention, the agenda of relief and rehabilitation is getting further sidelined.

Starved of relief and rehabilitation and living precariously in the shadow of fear, will the riot survivors of Muzaffarnagar ever get justice? Will the guilty ever be prosecuted and punished? Hundreds of people travelled all the way from Muzaffarnagar to Jantar Mantar on 16 December to seek justice. A public hearing took place in Lucknow on 6 January. More than 6000 people are named in 500-odd FIRs, yet only some 200 have been arrested, and many have already been released on bail. BJP MLAs Sangeet Some and Suresh Rana, two of the key accused, were felicitated at Narendra Modi’s Agra rally. The shocking rape cases reported by riot survivors are yet to see any judicial progress. Ironically enough, while the Muzaffarnagar violence once again underscored the need for effective legislative measures against communal violence, the UPA government failed to bring the long-promised communal violence bill, even in its most diluted form, in the winter session of Parliament.

So far, the Central government has remained a silent spectator to the shocking aftermath of the Muzaffarnagar violence. Under Article 355 of the Indian Constitution, the Centre has the power to intervene in such situations and instruct the state government to discharge its constitutionally mandated responsibility. But as on many previous occasions, the Centre has once again failed to intervene and guarantee relief, rehabilitation and justice for the riot victims of Muzaffarnagar.

A major implication of the Muzaffarnagar violence is a disturbing communal division within the peasantry. The Bharatiya Kisan Union led by the late Mahendra Singh Tikait has become acutely communal and this means a major political blow for the agricultural population in western UP who had already been reeling under a deep agrarian crisis and growing pressure of corporate land-grabbers. Already the sugar barons have taken full advantage of this situation ensuring that the cane growers got a raw deal.

As well as extending all-out support to the battle for relief, rehabilitation and justice for the riot victims of Muzaffarnagar, revolutionary communists must also work to rebuild the unity of the peasantry and the working people and intensify peasant resistance to the growing state-corporate assault on agriculture.

Nationwide Protests on 2nd January 2014 against Closure of Muzaffarnagar Relief Camps; for Ensuring Proper Relief and Rehabilitation for the Riot Victims

Arrest of all Perpetrators to Pave the Way for Safe Return of Survivors