SHAMLI: A colony of 100 houses, built brick-by-brick by families affected by the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, incorporating traditional architectural designs, opened its doors at Kandla in Uttar Pradesh's Shamli district today.
The construction, led by UP-based Sadbhavana Trust and Vanangana and Hunnarshala Foundation of Gujarat, is designated unique as internally-displaced families were involved in the building process.
"This is special, especially when one considers the horrible and traumatic period these people had to go through. They not only picked up the pieces of our lives but did that with a lot of courage and determination," Madhavi Kuckreja of the Sadbhavana Trust said.
She said the initiative was taken because India has "no policy" of addressing post-violence internal displacement, which entails loss of entire communities, their histories, their memories.
Hundreds of paper lamps lit the sky as the settlement was inaugurated in the presence of activists, academics, policy-makers along with senior members from the local state administration, including Shamli District Magistrate Sujit Kumar and Superintendent of Police Vijay Bhushan.
As part of the rehabilitation programme, the families have also been provided new identity papers, linked to state entitlements, and children have been re-admitted to schools.
According to Sandeep Virmani, an architect who heads Hunnarshala Foundation, "Unless rehabilitation and shelter construction is done in partnership with the affected communities, and in accordance with local architectural traditions, it can never lead to true and enduring rehabilitation.