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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 8, February 15, 2014

FDCA’s Appeal to Restore Peace and Harmony in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli

Monday 17 February 2014

The following is an appeal addressed on behalf of the Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity (FDCA) to the Union Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, and the UP Chief Minister, Akhilesh Yadav, for restoring peace and harmony in the riot-affected districts of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli in Uttar Pradesh. It was released to the press on January 28, 2014.

The Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity (FDCA) was established in July 1993. The main objective of the Forum is to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood among all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic, regional or sectional diversities; assist in the prevention of conflicts, riots and other acts of communal violence; and help the victims of such conflicts or violence to rehabilitate themselves and seek redressal of their grievances.

The FDCA held a meeting in New Delhi on December 30, 2013, to discuss, in general, the existential threat of communalism to Indian society and polity, and to consider, in particular, the possible role it can play to restore peace and harmony in the riot-affected districts of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli in Uttar Pradesh. At the end of the meeting, a decision was taken to dispatch a delegation of the FDCA to this area in order to study the current situation and the needs of the riot-affected people.

Accordingly, a seven-member team of the FDCA visited the riot-affected areas for three days (on January 4th, 5th and 10th, 2014) and met victims, their families, community leaders and senior members of the local administration. The team’s report, which is in the process of being prepared, will be released to the press and made available to the authorities of the Central and State governments and to other concerned as soon as it is ready. However, on the basis of the oral presentation of their findings by the team members in a meeting of the FDCA held in New Delhi on January 20, 2014, the Forum calls upon the Central and the UP governments to take the following measures on an urgent basis:

Conditions must be created to enable those uprooted from their homes in the riot-affected villages to go back to the villages. They have the fundamental right under the Constitution to safe and peaceful stay at their homes and occupation of their properties. This will also be the most effective means of restoring communal harmony and amity in the riot-affected areas of these two districts. Finally, it will restore confidence among the Muslim population not only in the rest of UP but also in India.

The following steps should be taken in order to create the conditions conducive to the return of those displaced by the riots, to their hearths and homes:

(a) A suitable job should be given to a family member of the deceased;

(b) The State Government should forthwith withdraw the condition that those who have been provided compensation of Rs 5 lakhs will have to surrender this amount if they go back to their homes.

(c) Those who have not been given or are not qualified to receive this compensation but have fled their homes out of fear, should be provided, both as a means as well as an incentive, for returning and resettling in the homes/shelters from where they have fled out of fear of life. A sum of Rs 3 lakhs per person could be the appropriate level of such assistance.

(d) An additional incentive should be given as temporary employment until cultivation by those who have land is resumed and the landless on return are able to find jobs. For this, a fund of Rupees five crores should be created urgently either by the State or the Central Government or by both of them jointly. The operation of the fund should be entrusted to a committee consisting of local representatives of affected people, social activists of the area concerned and a qualified officer of the State Government of reasonable seniority.

(e) The State Government should deploy an appropriate number of personnel to liaise with the Gram Pradhans of the affected villages for locating and inviting those displaced to return to their villages. For this, help should be taken of the volunteers of the NGOs active in this area. The FDCA itself will be happy to designate a team for this purpose;

(f) In spite of these measures, the displaced families may not return to their villages so long as justice is not done to them and those directly involved in perpetrating the violence are freely roaming around in the affected villages. It is, therefore, essential that most of those against whom FIRs have been lodged should be arrested without delay and those involved in violence and arrested should not be released without a court order. (By all accounts, 540 FIRs have been registered in connection with the violence in which 6000 persons have been named. Out of this, only 208 have so far been arrested. This is hardly conducive to restoring confidence and doing justice to the riot-affected people.)

(g) Immediate steps should be taken to make special arrangements for the education of the displaced children and special exami-nations should be conducted, if necessary, to ensure that these students do not lose their academic year.

Signatories:

Professor Muchkund Dubey (President, FDCA); Kuldip Nayar; Justice (Retd) Rajinder Sachar; Advocate N.D. Pancholi (Life Member, FDCA); Mohammad Salim Engineer (Acting General Secretary, FDCA); Nusrat Ali (Member, FDCA); Professor Prem Singh (Delhi University); Professor K.B. Saxena (Council for Social Development); Professor Imrana Qadeer (Council for Social Development); Shafi Madani (Social Activist); Dr Javed Jameel (Writer and Social Activist); Father M.D.Thomas (Social Activist); Muhammad Ahmed (Social Activist); Ms Rakhi Gupta (Social Activist); Dr Rakesh Rana (Bundelkhand University); Alaauddin (Social Activist); Dr Ashwani Kumar (Delhi University).