MUZAFFARNAGAR : Empty bags stitched to each other and a blanket — all tied to a few wooden sticks, erected in four corners — is what Muhammed Furqaan calls his home. Hardly five feet, it is just enough to cover the family. But then, there is no roof.
Come a light breeze and the cover, which Furqaan calls a home, blows away. He would then wait for the wind to calm down, get the empty bags and blanket together and once again “build” his “house”. When it rains, he would request some of his neighbours to provide him temporary shelter.
Not that Furqaan did not have a house in his village nearby. He did, but all of it is now in ruins and he cannot go back as he fears attacks.
Post-September 2013, when thousands like him were caught in communal clashes across Muzaffarnagar and their properties damaged by violent mobs, all were forced to flee the village and live in temporary camps in other villages. With the ruling Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi party government assuring all help and `5 lakh compensation for each family besides a plot, Furqaan, who lost his relative in the clashes, had hoped that he could re-build his life.
Now, more than three years later, Furqaan and his family say they would have preferred death than leading this kind of life. Like Furqaan, there are hundreds of families who have either not got compensation they were promised while some received partial amounts. They continue to live like refugees in the most bizarre conditions as the State administration is all geared up for the upcoming elections.
About 90 people died and over 50,000 families displaced, all belonging to the Muslim community, in the clashes which started in September 2013. “For two years (post riots), I met the tahsildar and other officials. They promised I would get my compensation which I was eligible for. But now, I have given up. Instead, I am focusing my energies on doing some odd jobs and get food for my family,’’ informs Furqaan, sitting on a “” inside his “house” even as he braves the harsh winter chill. “Most of us got this tiny pieces of land but have no money to build a pucca structure. We lost everything in the clashes. My house was damaged and set on fire, all our belongings, money... everything. Death would have been better than leading such a miserable life,’’ says his wife Razia.
This family had a two room pucca house in their village Phugana, a few kilometres away from Loyi village, where they stay now. It is now in ruins. There are about 350 families staying in a slum-like conditions in this part of Loyi village out of which 150 families are yet to receive compensation and other benefits which they were assured of.
While some people bought tiny pieces of land and built single rooms with the `5lakh compensation they received, there are others who continue to stay there with little or no hope of any help from the state administration. There are about 30,000 people who are living in similar conditions across different villages in the two districts of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli where nearly 60 resettlement colonies for riot victims had come up.
Not far away from Furqaan stays Muhammed Saleem who too has not received compensation. His aging mother sleeps on a “khatiya’’ by the side of the road while his family, just like Furqaan, stay in a temporary structure. “So many babus and netas came here and promised us the moon. All we wanted was justice and some financial help so that we continue with our lives. Despite repeated pleas, we were not given any assistance and left to our fate.
I am working in a brick kiln nearby,’’ says Saleem, whose brother, hardly 19, died a agonizing death in the riots. “First, the mob caught hold of him while he was trying to flee, chopped his legs, then his hands and after sometime, they slit his throat,’’ recalls Saleem.
Haji Anwar, another riot victim says that he spent the money in buying a plot in their newly adopted village and thereafter, took loans to build a single room house. ‘’My sons too were assured of compensation which they have not received till date. I too have a house in Shamli but we cannot go there as we may come under attack again,’’ he says.
While no compensation has made lives difficult for them, it is the slum-like conditions they are living in is what is even more disturbing.
Those who managed to make single room houses, have no drinking water facility, no drainage leave alone street lights. The filth and garbage is only making it worse. Crisscrossing the lanes and bylanes of this area gives an impression that the victims are a neglected lot.
In fact, due to change in address, a majority of them are running from pillar to post to obtain ration cards while other benefits like old age pension or disability pension too have evaded them. “After the riots, due to the media glare, many promises were made. Now, not a single neta or babu comes here. On the contrary, most of us are running around government offices for ration cards, pensions and other benefits,” says Abdul Rehman, who lost his brother.