This Article is From Aug 13, 2016

3 Years On, Victims Of Muzaffarnagar Riots Find New Homes

Nearly 140 displaced families have set up homes in two settlement colonies in Shamli, near Muzaffarnagar.

Muzaffarnagar: In a part of Uttar Pradesh, near Muzaffarnagar where riots in 2013 left 66 dead and 50,000 displaced, Hadeesha Begum, 45, is putting up blue and green streamers outside her new house.

It is her first proper house since her family was driven out of their home and their village during the riots.

Housewarming festivities ripple through the little settlement.

Nearly 140 displaced families have set up homes in two settlement colonies in Shamli, the district next to Muzaffarnagar.

Hadeesha and her family of six ran away from their village Hassanpur when the riots erupted. No one died in their village, but in a neighbouring village, at least 10 men were killed.

Forced to spend three years in a relief camp, Hadeesha has never returned to her three-room house.

Her family bought a piece of land around 10 km from it.

Her new home looks similar to the one she lost. "We bought the land a year and half back with the 5 lakh rupees compensation given by the state govt. I worked hard, digging the foundation, laying bricks and cementing them. My family chipped in as well."

It was hard to let go of what she had. "It was difficult initially when we moved from the relief camp to this place and had to start a living all over again. My husband was earning almost a thousand rupees less per month at first," says Hadeesha.

That wistful feeling is not enough to compel her return to the village where families lived together for years, irrespective of religion.

"We chose Kandla because most families who fled from Hassanpur bought land here. All Muslim brothers are staying together," she said.

Madhavi Kukreja, a social activist who has been helping displaced people build their homes says: "They chose spaces where there are more Muslims, where they feel more welcome. But even in those areas they are always seen as riot victims...outsiders."

When we visit Hadeesha's old village, we are shown through narrow alleys where homes of Muslims are abandoned and locked up.

In the village of 4,200, the Muslim population has dropped from over a 1,000 to just 100.

Villagers claim they visited relief camps and tried to bring back the displaced people several times, but only 20 families returned.

"We organised a committee and made several visits to the relief camps even after the riots to try and bring them back," explains Amit Dixit, a member of the village panchayat.

"Because they have got compensation from the government and help from NGOs, they have recovered their losses and don't want to return. But there are no ghettos here. Still a few Muslim families live in the middle of the village and they are absolutely safe," he said.