Riot victims refuse to go home saying everything is finished

Riot victims refuse to go home saying everything is finished

"Sirf apni jaan layein hain saath mein baki sab mar gaya" (Only we are alive, everything else is finished).

These words of 26-year-old and homeless Mehraaj sum up the tale of the people in two big relief camps in this riot-torn city who have refused to go back to their homes.

A number of families from nearby villages of Khedipatti, Kutba-Kutbi, Dulehra, Kirthar, Kharad, Bawdi, Sisouli, Marwada, Nawad, Badeh and Kilori are based at these camps at Bassikalan and Tawli which were also visited by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi today.

While at Bassikalan (about 30 km from the district headquarters), a madrasa has been converted into shelter house, at Tawli the yellow-coloured Islamia school is housing those who have fled their homes in the wake of the riots which broke out about 10 days ago and have claimed 48 lives in this district till now.

The government calls these places 'sahayata shivir' (helping camps), but the locals say they will make these locations their homes.

"We told the PM, Soniaji and Rahulji that we will not go back. Talk to anyone and they will say the same thing. There is no guarantee of life to our families...
everything has been looted or burnt so how can we go back," 42-year-old Jameel Bassi, a resident of Kutbi village and the elder of four brothers told PTI.

Bassi could not hold his tears as soon as the Prime Minister and the Congress leaders arrived at the camp.

The families at Bassikalan, estimated to be around 120 and about 2,000 people, say the camp at Tawli, about 10 km away and Sanjhat are their new neighbourhoods.

"There is no news about my family members and other relatives. I go to the nearby camps to see and check if I could find someone there. We will never go back to our village. We feel scared," Mehraaj said.

Mehmood Hasan (32), is anguished that he has to leave his farming in Paldi village and is anxiously waiting for things to get normal as he says he has "only tried to save his and his family's life and nothing else" since September 7.

The refugees in these camps also include a number of youngsters who either worked in their villages or made a trip to the city market for work.

These youngsters scribbled many a requests and grievances on small pieces of paper, some borrowed from journalists in the camp, and handed over to Rahul.

"He (Rahul) told us he is with us...he said he will make sure we are put back to our normal lives and that the guilty will be punished," 27-year-old Saleem from Kutba village said.

The camps, which have been provided with beddings, utensils and other logistics by the locals and district administration, are abuzz with anxiety about what would happen next.

"We read all the newspapers here. But we are not sure if things are improving and hence we have decided we will not go back," 32-year-old Shaukat said as he tends to his brother who he says has sustained some injuries in their attempt to make a hasty retreat after riots broke out.

Religious leader in Paldi village Mohammed Irshad alleges police did not help them and that the police force in the district are lopsided with the presence of personnel from the Hindu community.

"They (police) didn't act when we called them for help. The police should be responsive to its people and this did not happen when the riots were on," he alleged.

The displaced say they see some hope in the latest VIP visits to Muzaffarnagar.

"We are hopeful that we will get our lives back...," Aishaa, a resident of Kirthar village said who shared her grievances with the Congress President at the Tawli camp.

Gandhi, on her way to slain journalist Rajesh Verma's house, stopped at two locations and urged the people to "maintain peace and calm" even as Rahul was greeted with 'Rahul Gandhi zindabad' slogans at these places.

At Verma's house, the VIPs met the scribes mother, wife and other relatives and offered their condolences.

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