The Muzaffarnagar riots in Uttar Pradesh’s rich sugarcane-producing land has had its worst effect in the form of escalating agrarian costs, besides creation of a chasm between Hindus and Muslims.
Displacement of thousands of poor Muslims left the land-owning “Jat” community with no option other than to seek help from other villages for small work in the fields, forcing them to pay higher cost for such work.
Similarly, migration of a large number of dalits to Muslim-dominated villages affected the farming community.
The riots affected the poor in both communities.
“None of those displaced in the riots are from the land-owning community. A large number of the people affected used to work as masons, blacksmiths and potters, besides helping in agricultural activity,” said Supreme Court lawyer Sanjay Kumar Tyagi, who hails from Muzaffarnagar.
Pushpendra Malik, a farmer from village Jagra Heri on Shamli Road, says with the prevailing scenario, 75 per cent people associated with agriculture do want to continue. “There is acute shortage of farm labourers, which has escalated costs. Secondly, we are still waiting for payment for our last year's produce from sugar mills,” he said, ruing that it would take four-five years for the situation to return to normal.
The communal riots in Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and their adjoining rural areas last year had claimed over 60 lives and rendered thousands homeless. What started as a reaction to the killing of three persons from two communities soon took communal colour, affecting large parts of western UP.
Even though the dust seemed to have settled following the intervention of law enforcement machineries as well as the Supreme Court, the bitterness is still writ large on the face of riots victims.
Uprooted Muslims, who used to render help in farming, waited for feelers from farmers, but the calls never arrived.
The 75-year-old Mohd Yasin, who, along with about 1,000 others, has been staying in tents at Shahpur, said there is no question of going back to Kutba village, from where he originally hails.
About 150 families have been given shelter by the head of the local Vasi Kalan village, Mohd Mursaleen. All of them have now purchased 100-square-yard plots after receiving Rs 5 lakh compensation from the state government for resettlement.
“Eight among us were killed and 43 others injured in the riots. We have lived for years with them (Jats). Since we left our village, no one came to ask us to return, even though we worked for generations in their fields,” said Yasin.
Mohd Yakub, another victim, who fled his village out of anxiety and fear, said he too has purchased a plot at Shahpur, but his immediate worry is how to build a house.