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India: Ghettoisation changing demography of rural Muzaffarnagar post riots

Wednesday 18 December 2013, by siawi3

Source: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/ghettoisation-changing-demography-of-rural-muzaffarnagar-post-riots/article5472349.ece

Sandeep Joshi

Photo: Construction work for a housing colony by displaced Muslims under way at riot-hit Bassi Kalan in Muzaffarnagar.– PHOTO: S.Subramanium

With at least six small colonies being built in the rural areas of Muzaffarnagar for settlement of riot-hit Muslims who have permanently left their villages out of fear of the dominant Jat community, ghettoisation, which was till now relevant in big cities, is the new phenomenon in this agrarian belt that is bound to have a deep social and political impact in the years to come.

While 70-odd houses with two rooms each have already been handed over to affected villagers in Khampur village, similar small colonies of 60-70 houses are being built in Muslim-dominated villages like Bassi Kalan, Malukpura, Loi, Dadhedu and Jaula, all within 30 km from the district headquarters. This trend is also being seen in the neighbouring Shamli district .

“Muslims who left their homes during the riots and took refuge in nearby villages, mostly dominated by their community members, have refused to return. Now with relief camps being winded up as compensation-distribution exercise coming to an end, people of these villages have come forward to give them land at minimal charges so that riot-affected people can leave camps and build their new homes,†social activist Shandar Gufran told ‘ The Hindu’ .

It is the residents of villages worst affected by riots who have refused to return fearing yet another backlash from their “influential†Jat neighbours. These villages include Kutba-Kutbi, Tavli, Budhana, Lisad, Phugana, Kakra, Mundvar, Hussainpur and Lakh Bardi. Initially religious organisations came forward and constructed houses for displaced people in Khampur, but later the State government announced Rs.5 lakh grant to built houses to people not willing to return to their villages.

No displaced Muslim wants to leave his home and property and start living in another place, but riot-affected people allege that Jats have threatened them with dire consequences if they returned.

“My house has been occupied by an influential Jat family and is being used as cow shed, I do not have the courage to go back…If I take police protection and return that would only create more problems for me. I am now getting a small house constructed in Bassi Kalan so that my family can settle there,†said Mursalim, a resident of Kutba-Kutbi now living in a relief camp. Similarly, Akbari of the same village has left behind a house and six ‘ bighas ’ of her land. “With two kids, I have nowhere to go. I got the Rs.5 lakh compensation which is not enough to build a proper house similar to what I had or buy agriculture land to earn a living. I have lost all my property…I feel cheated by my own people,†she rues. There are similar stories of desperation that can be heard in other camps running in the district.

Acknowledging the fact that some affected Muslims are not willing to return, Muzaffarnagar District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma told ‘ The Hindu’ that it was the choice made by these people. “They told the State government that they would never return to their villages and sought Rs.5 lakh to build houses…Their demand was met and over 90 per cent of those who demanded money for building houses have already been given the amount,†said Mr. Sharma.

He, however, pointed that this has happened in only a few villages, while people of almost 150 villages who had fled their homes during riots have returned. “In the last three months we have not seen any kind of violence or tension resurfacing. Even today if these people want to return, we will provide them security and other logistical support, but they will have to return the money they have taken to build houses,†he added.

Pointing towards social, economic and political impacts of this ghettoisation, Mr. Gufran said : “The entire demography of the region is changing as Muslims are moving towards areas dominated by their community…It will drastically change political equations, particularly in the State Assembly and local bodies polls. The rift is growing between Muslims and Jats as social contact is minimising.â€

“Similarly, on the economic front both communities are bound to suffer as landlords Jats would struggle to find skilled and farm labourers, mostly Muslims, while Muslims will find it hard to earn a living as there will be shortage of jobs. It will take a couple of years before the real socio-economic impact of riots emerges on the ground,†Mr. Gufran added.