Five years of being forgotten in their own land
Bengaluru/ New Delhi: 8 September 2018 3:55 pm
Survivors of the 2013 communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli continue to wait for justice with little hope. Riot survivors, who were displaced from their homes still live in squalor in resettlement colonies. And the seven women survivors of gang-rape, who were brave enough to file their complaints, are yet to receive justice, said Amnesty International India said on the fifth anniversary of the riots.
“The Uttar Pradesh state government has forgotten the riot survivors of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli. This apathy towards the survivors of one of the most deadly instances of communal violence in recent years is just not acceptable. The state has done very little to redress the injustice they have faced. The government’s attempt at rehabilitation and compensation has been woefully inadequate”, said Asmita Basu, Programmes Director, Amnesty International India.
“Seven courageous women from Muzaffarnagar and Shamli filed cases of gang-rape in the face of intimidation and continuing threats. However, five years later, justice remains elusive. They have received little assistance from authorities to rebuild their lives and livelihoods”, Asmita Basu said.
There has not been even one conviction in any of the seven cases so far. In 2016, one of the survivors died during childbirth.
Aarzoo (name changed), one of the survivors, told Amnesty International India in August 2018, “I have now lost all faith. It has been five years since I last filed my complaint. No one has come to help me or my family for so many years now. What I care for now is the safety of my husband and the survival of my family”. Aarzoo, mother of five, who was raped during the riots, lives in poverty and squalor in a rehabilitation colony in Kandhla, Shamli.
Speaking to Amnesty International India, Rehana Adeeb, an activist working in Muzaffarnagar said, “Victims have faced social pressure as well as political pressure. Justice has not worked in the way it should have. Their rapists are out in the open for years now. Women are scared now to pursue their cases and they cannot be blamed for this. There are media reports of compromises being made and of money being offered and accepted by many of the seven families. We need to understand the realities in which these women have survived all these years. They are scared and have lost all faith in the system”.
In all seven gang-rape cases, the police took months to file charges – between six and 14 months in most cases. After that trials have proceeded extremely slowly.. In three cases, survivors identified and named the men they said had raped them in their First Information Reports, but turned hostile in court. Some of them later admitted that they were compelled after facing pressure and threats to their own safety and that of their families.
At least 60 people were killed and over 50,000 displaced in the violence in 2013. Hundreds of families displaced from their villages have been denied the 500,000 INR promised by the Uttar Pradesh government to families from the ‘worst-affected’ villages, for reasons ranging from clerical errors and corruption to inconsistent definitions of a ‘family’.
Speaking to Amnesty International India, Akram Akthar Chaudhary, Director, AFKAR India Foundation, an NGO based in Shamli said, “Nothing has changed on the ground. In 2013, the riot survivors were living in relief camps, now they are living in resettlement colonies without proper access to basic amenities like safe drinking water, sanitation and electricity. Many of the riot survivors were forced to leave their homes and everything in it. The state promised them relocation compensation but there are more than 200 families that have not received even a single rupee in the past five years”.
An overwhelming majority of families in resettlement colonies lack access to basic services. About 82% of colonies in Muzaffarnagar and 97% of colonies in Shamli are estimated to not have safe and clean drinking water, while 61% of colonies in Muzaffarnagar and 70% of colonies in Shamli do not have drainage facilities. In colonies visited by Amnesty International India’s researchers in 2017, many families lived in unsanitary and dangerous conditions. Toilets, which invariably lacked proper drainage, were often shared by three or four households.
“The Uttar Pradesh government’s callous treatment of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli riot survivors is a breach of its commitment to uphold basic constitutional values. The riot survivors have been forced to live in a vicious cycle of poverty and discrimination. The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister must ensure that the voices of the survivors are heard immediately and justice is delayed no further”, Asmita Basu said.