Popular Front of India Muzaffarnagar Emergency Relief: A Brief Report

Many villages in Muzaffarnagar and nearby districts of Western Uttar Pradesh witnessed one of the worst communal riots of recent times during August-September 2013. Members of minority community residing in the majority dominated villages were killed, attacked, houses were burned and families were driven away from their homes.
Though officially confirmed deaths are below 60, as per the reports collected from victims their number is much more and many people are reported as missing. The same is the case with the number of people who are driven away from their villages. Contrary to the official figures released by the district administration that are much lower than the actual, it is estimated that there are around 50,000 people living in different refugee camps and in the houses arranged in various places. There are about 60 such places where the victims are temporarily sheltered. These shelters were provided by local Mohallas and Masjid/Madrasa committees.

Leaders Visits

A team consisted of Popular Front National Executive Council members and local leaders of Western U P and Delhi reached riot hit areas on 14th September and made an on the spot assessment of the situation. A delegation led by Popular Front of India chairman K. M. Shareef toured the riot hit Uttar Pradesh district on 16th September and visited the victims who are sheltered in different villages away from their homes. They interacted with the refugees in Nangla village panchayat hall and Jaula village relief camp. The victims from different affected villages narrated their horrible experiences at the hands of communally frenzied mobs constituted by their own neighbours who acted at the behest of outside leaders. The Front leaders also held discussions with the local community leaders in the refugee camps and villages that are giving shelter to their hapless fellow beings. The visiting team has appreciated the local families who have accepted their brothers and sisters in their own homes.

Relief Committee and Volunteer Teams
Popular Front central secretariat met in New Delhi and an outline of the proposed relief activities was prepared on the basis of the preliminary inputs. A Relief Committee was constituted with Mohammed Roshan as In-charge. The committee was entrusted with the primary tasks of supplying emergency relief materials after making a household survey of victims sheltered in different village camps and houses. Since most of the refugees were getting daily food through various channels, the attention was concentrated on other household items. The following three Working Groups were set up and about 100 youth from Muzaffarnagar district came forward to volunteer relief services.
1. Relief Distribution Group
2. Village Survey Group
3. Legal Aid Group

The Relief Committee Office started functioning in Nangla village on 16th September.

Demanding Justice

Simultaneously the national leaders of Popular Front tried to appraise the authorities about the prevailing grim situation and the plight of the victims. A delegation headed by the Chairman went to Lucknow and submitted a memorandum to Shri. Akhilesh Yadav, Chief Minister of UP. They have demanded immediate arrest of all perpetrators of violence including village community and political party leaders who were roaming free in spite of being booked under criminal charges and also immediate rehabilitation of the refugees. The delegation also held discussions with Mr. Arun Kumar, ADGP (law and order) about the immediate steps to be taken for providing justice to the victims of violence. They shared the first hand information gathered from victims about incidents of violence including rapes which the authorities were not ready to accept for want of evidences or complaints. Popular Front leaders also discussed the matter with Muslims leaders like Moulana Rabi Nadvi, Moulana Salman Nadvi and Adv. Zafaryab Jeelani while at Lucknow. Popular Front chairman and general secretary met chairpersons of National Human Rights Commission and National Commission for Minorities in their offices at New Delhi and sought immediate interventions of both commissions.

One Day Fund Collection
Popular Front of India units across the nation have pioneered a relief fund collection drive on Friday 20th September. Responding to the appeal by Popular Front, people in different states generously contributed to Muzaffarnagar Relief Fund.
Survey Work
At Muzaffarnagar Popular Front volunteers have started spot surveys among victims and made assessment of their basic needs. During the first phase, 7 teams worked for 8 days and 14 camps were covered. The details of 10989 persons belonging to 2141 families were recorded on the prescribed data sheet. The second phase of the survey was carried out by a team constituted by 10 members. The survey lasted 7 days and was able to record the details of 14337 persons of 2717 families in 23 camps. The tabulation of the collected data continues. Due to unavoidable reasons, they could not reach all the refugee villages.
Relief Kits Distribution

The first phase of distributing relief kits to the refugee families sheltered in different villages began on 25 September and the work continued next 5 days. Sixty volunteers were engaged in this service. Popular Front general secretary O. M. A. Salam inaugurated the distribution at Kalyanpur village. All India Imams Council president Moulana Usman Baig graced the occasion with his presence. Each kit contained 2 blankets, 2 plates, 2 tumblers, one bucket, one mug and one packet of 500 grams baby food.
The relief kits were distributed to 3000 deserving families in the following 15 villages during the first phase. (No. of families covered shown against name of each village).
1. Baisani 57
2. Sonta Rasulpur 60
3. Jasoi Chathella 86
4. Sapur 380
5. Khataula Kabirpur 52
6. Dhabedi 75
7. Loi 600
8. Bangwara 11
9. Budana 182
10. Jola 820
11. Jokia Keda 150
12. Husainpur 127
13. Nangla 65
14. Manwara 175
15. Kalyanpur 160

On the occasion Bakrid qurbani meat was distributed among the refugees. The second phase of Relief Kits Distribution in the remaining villages containing blankets and household items started immediately after Bakrid on 21st October and continued 3 more days. The relief kits reached 3775 families in 32 village camps. Kit contained 2 blankets, a bucket and a set of household items. The activities were volunteered by 96 local activists.
A list of places where distribution was undertaken and the number of beneficiary families is given below:
1. Jalalabad 60
2. Timrsha 103
3. Kandhla 250
4. Shikarpur 41
5. Basikalan 175
6. Hardoli 52
7. Mandi 5
8. Baghra 75
9. Malakpur 760
10. Suneti 73
11. Rohtan 201
12. Mansoora 220
13. Noorpur Khurgan 300
14. Suneti Road 50
15. Dhakla Kheda 83
16. Jandhedi 13
17. Babypur Hatya 220
18. Jhinjana 10
19. Vigyana 120
20. Panchili 49
21. Harra 162
22. Kairana Eidgah 144
23. Kairana P. Station 67
24. Panjeet 28
25. Ambehta 55
26. Jidana 24
27. Kandhla 150
28. Suneti 21
29. Pathed Road 100
30. Barneeo 121
31. Bareda 18
32. Dadheru Klan 25

Total number of kits distributed in both phases: 6775
Total number of refugee villages covered: 47

Legal Aid
Along with distribution relief materials, collecting details of the riot-affected people and identifying the requirements of legal assistance were also being attended by the volunteers in the above villages. A Legal Aid Committee consisting of 21 members with practicing lawyers, activists and law students has been formed to provide legal aid to the victims for fight their cases in a meeting chaired by Adv. K. P. Muhammed Shareef on 6th October at Muzaffarnagar town. The committee includes Chairman Adv. Saghir Ahmad Saghar, Vice-Chairman Md Azam Samshi and chaudhary Nawab Ali and Conveners Ikram Raj and Sajid Rana. The work is being coordinated by Adv. Muhammed Yusuf (Popular Front NEC member) and Adv. Saifan (Mumbai). A Legal Aid Centre is opened in Muzaffarnagar city to coordinate the activities. Raheemuddin is appointed as the office secretary of the Legal Aid Office.
So far, many complaints are filed with the help of this team. During the first phase of 8 days, they interacted with victims at 9 camps. Contrary to the denial of any reported rape incidents by the authorities, 5 such gang rape cases were identified and 2 complaints were lodged. And assistance is being rendered to them. These victims were not ready to lodge complaint till the women lawyer in the team convinced them and took their statement. The primary task undertaken by Legal Aid Committee is to initiate, study and monitor FIRs. The details of murders, missing persons, physical assaults, burning of houses were recorded to the extent possible.
The back issues of Muzaffarnagar edition news papers have been collected and reports are being examined for legal purpose. The camps are visited to collect details of criminal incidents and to ensure FIRs. The Legal committee has collected 130 FIRs so far which include murder cases, rape cases, attempted murder cases and house burning cases.
Fact Finding and Public Hearing
The local leaders and members of Popular Front fully cooperated with the Fact Finding mission and Public Hearing programme conducted by National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO). All local logistic supports including volunteers were provided by Popular Front. The fact finding was done on 27 & 28 Sep 2013 by a team consisted of Reny Ayline (Secretary, NCHRO), Adv Y.K. Shabana (CPDR, Mumbai), Adv. A. Mohamed Yusuff – Tamilnadu and Adv. Vijendra Kumar Kasana – Delhi. They have collected evidences from three relief camps situated at Loi, Jogia Geda and Kandhla. They also visited the Meerut Medical College Hospital and met victims under treatment. The team held discussion with Dr. Subash Singh, Superintendent of the Hospital; Mr. Koshal Raj Sharma, District Magistrate of Muzaffar Nagar and Mrs. Kalpana Suxena, Senior Superintendent of Police (in-charge), Muzaffar Nagar.
National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO) has conducted a Public Hearing on 29 Sep 2013 at Jola Camp in Muzaffar Nagar. The panel headed by Adv. N.D. Pancholi (PUCL, Dellhi) and consisted of Prof. Nandini Sundar (Delhi University), Adv. K.P. Mohamad Shareef (Vice-Chairperson, NCHRO), Adv. Vijendra Kumar Kasana (Delhi), Adv. Y.K. Shabana (CPDR, Mumbai), Adv. Sharfuddin (National General Secretary, SDPI), Swati Sinha (Student Activist, Delhi), Adv. Amith (Delhi), Mool Chand (Journalist, Delhi) and Dr. Rahul Singh (Delhi) heard the vows and testimonies of riot victims of Muzaffarnagar. The report of the fact finding team was later released in press conference held at New Delhi.
Popular Front thanks all concerned citizens throughout India who have generously cooperated with this humanitarian cause. The Front also appreciates all individuals, groups and organisations that are rendering a helping hand to their victimised fellow beings, especially the local relief committees and community leaders in different refugee villages. Popular Front observes that permanent rehabilitation of the refugees in their own village homes or other secure locations is the responsibility of the state government, which still remains unaccomplished. This is task beyond the capacity of any voluntary organisation. Hence Popular Front will concentrate in the emergency relief activities along with legal and civil support as per need and to the extent possible in coming days.

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