The Muzaffarnagar relief camps and the total mess – who’s to blame

The riots in Muzaffarnagar were a big surprise to everybody, except maybe the people who helped organize the riots. For a long time, the communities of Jats and Muslims lived as one, living in these villages that were essentially farming communities. Even when there were riots in other parts of UP, this region remained unaffected; importantly for one party, Ajit Singh’s party, it was the support base. So, it was a big surprise when there were news of some disturbances there in late August, but since this was UP, some kind of disturbances in which a few people got killed was seen as no big deal by people outside the region (and this state of affairs is shocking – how easily deadly disturbances in UP are accepted). Over the next few days, there were stories coming in about how the Samajwadi Party Government in the state was trying to turn the situation to its advantage, trying to ensure that the Muslim community could see that the SP Government was its true savior. And yet things grew steadily worse – a situation that could have been controlled through some effective and tough policing was allowed to fester while the Government put many controls on the police. In between politicians, including those from the BJP, BSP, and the Congress besides those from the SP did their best to make the situation worse. And amid many allegations of the police not acting, or acting in a biased manner under the influence of the SP, the tension continued to grow; and then there was an explosive round of violence that shocked everybody. People were killed, including neighbors killing and allegedly raping.
When the SP Government was pushed to the wall, it had to save itself, and what better way than to blame others – primarily the BJP. That is not to say that the BJP is blameless, since some of its members did play a role in ensuring that the Jat community did not lie down; but it remains the responsibility of the party in power to prevent violence, something that the SP was not able to do. Even the BJP legislators it got arrested under the severe NSA act were let go by the review committees. The net result of all this violence, besides the deaths, was that a number of the Muslim community had to move out of their villages under the threat of violence and moved to makeshift camps. Now, considering that Mulayam Singh Yadav had always claimed to be a great friend of the Muslim community, and the SP gets a lot of support from the community, one would have considered that these camps would have been provided with more than adequate facilities for medical aid, food, and other essential supplies including blankets. However, this is where the entire scenario has diverged.

Over the next few months, as these camps remained, the common line through the entire scenario was the fact that the administration was not providing any level of facilities that could be provided as essential or adequate, and they were doing this even when they were warned by clerics that their level of support was not earning them good marks in the community. However, things got even worse as the cold level started increasing, and the lack of hygiene and medical support started causing the deaths of children and adults both. The Government denied all such claims and claimed that they were providing adequate relief, sticking to this stand even when the media showcased the abysmal level of facilities. Even strict warnings from the Supreme Court did not seem to move the Government. Even the monetary support provided by the administration was causing problems since the provision of such funds seemed to be either inadequate or was provided at the elder level even though they were many adult children with families.
But what really took the cake was the apparent feeling by Mulayam that all this was just a plot against him and his party, where he claimed that there is nobody left in the camps, the people who could be seen being apparently either Congress or BJP agents. He certainly did not win any friends with this statement, and yet there was no improvement in the relief. In the last few weeks, the media has been reporting that it was private relief measures that helped people in the camps. As of now, the aim of the UP Government seems to be to close these camps and move everybody out, in the assumption that once there are no camps, they could claim that they have done proper rehabilitation and are the true friends of the Muslim community.

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