A ten minute shared auto ride from the above T-point leads to Mohalla Toli. This stretch has several newly erected flex boards from Shiv Sena which read, “Hindu ho to tilak lagao.” (If you are a Hindu, put a vermillon mark on your forehead.) In the last ten days, close to four thousand people from the riot affected rural areas of Baghpat, Shamli and Muzaffarnagar have taken refuge in this area. While several thousand people are living with relatives in the vicinity and the other two and a half thousand are camping at the Madrassa-e-Zeenat-e-Islam.
As one walks through the narrow lanes that lead to the madrassa, locals react on seeing a camera, “What will you do with this? How will it help us? Why don’t you tell us?” The façade of the madrassa with its semi-plastered walls is falling. On the other side of the gate, there is not an iota of hint of what awaits inside. Brisk business continues at the soda shop and the grocery store outside.
“The fire had already reached the lane behind our house. I had to run with my two daughters,” recounts twenty-something Khushi as she breastfeeds her daughter. Her younger daughter was just two days old when she had to run away. The police tried to arrest her husband, a daily wage labourer, for ‘causing riots’. He was let off and joined her two days later. “I have not been able to get in touch with my parents-in-laws for the last six days.” Other women in the room nod in agreement and empathy as she speaks. Another one points out at a woman in the next room.
Farzana and Khushi do not want to return back to their village ever. The nurse stationed in this madrassa Suman Arora says, “The women who ran away after delivering babies are now suffering from elongated uterus because of stress. Because of lack of amenities here like drinking water, there is a risk of epidemic like typhoid. We are also ill-equipped to prevent dengue in the current situation where these refugees are living.”
Twenty two years old Jasmeen cries inconsolably as she narrates what happened. It has been eight days and her parents are still missing. “I ran to the Pradhan, the village head for help. He and his supporters kept telling me, ‘Go back to Pakistan’. What do I have to do with Pakistan? I live here, eat here, pray here in Hindustan,” Jasmeen was set to get married next month. “The mob took away all the jewellery in front of my eyes. All the money too. Then, they yelled, ‘take away all the girls. They must know what it means to be dishonored.’ They also threw acid on my neighbour’s daughter’s neck. She fell on the ground right in front of me. I don’t know what happened to her after that.” That’s when Jasmeen ran away barefooted with her three younger siblings. She had to cross the jungle to board a truck carrying 50 more people to reach Loni. She has been trying her parents’ number but to no avail.
As one walks past, young kids peel several kg of potatoes for the next meal, some of them wash utensils for the same. Meena, a local resident from Toli Mohalla, Loni recounts as she distributes Parle G biscuits and pouches of drinking water, “These women had no clothes to wear for the first 4-5 days. They hadn’t bathed all this while. The kids who accompanied them were naked. The local residents took out a procession to collect old clothes, soap, money, food grains to help them.”
While the official figures suggest that only 48 people have died in the riots, the inhabitants of this camp verify a different number. Abid, in his late twenties from Lankh village recalls, “The Pradhan in the village, Ballu, bluffed us. He kept assuring us that they will protect us but instead sent us in a different direction. It is there, the mob was waiting for us. They maimed over 80 people in my village. This includes my grandfather, my uncle and my mother.”
Similarly, Irfan from Bhaju village is completely shattered. His two-and-a-half-year-old son looks away in fear as he tells us, “My wife and two children have been missing for the last one week. I don’t know how to look for them.” Irfan is a rickshaw puller. Most of the riot victims in this camp are from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
From Muzaffarnagar, violence also percolated to nearby districts like Shamli and Baghpat. Also, the police’s apathy is evident in the testimonials of several riot victims who were turned away. Forty-something Saleem from Dharona village in Baghpat lived on the outskirts of his village near the jungles with 6-7 famlies of his community. His house was surrounded by a mob of three hundred people. “When I called the police, the police scolded him for lying. The SHO later said that there are no police constables in the police station to send,” he tells. Several riot victims we spoke to repeated that police accused them of lying when they were seeking help instead of providing immediate help.
The organisers at the madrassas believe that 500 people are coming in every single day. Ghauri Mohammed Shakeen, incharge of the madrassa says, “we can provide them food and shelter but they are in dire need of rehabilitation and livelihood.”
Published by newsclick.in on September 17, 2013
Original link: http://newsclick.in/india/unacknowledged-and-unwept