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Home > Communalism Repository > India: Report of AIDWA visit to Muzaffarnagar

India: Report of AIDWA visit to Muzaffarnagar

9 October 2013

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Report of AIDWA visit to Muzaffarnagar

8th Oct.2013

A delegation of AIDWA [comprising Sehba Farooqui (Gen Secretary, Delhi), Madhu Garg (President, UP), Seema Rana (Secretary, Lucknow), Asha Sharma (Working President, Delhi), Anjana Jha (Treasurer, Delhi) and Maimoona Mollah (Vice President, Delhi)], visited some of the camps set up for the riot affected people in Muzaffarnagar on October 5, 2013. The delegation met a large number of violence affected women in the camps.

The delegation first went to Jogiakhera, a village in Tehsil Budhana. Most of the affected people here are from village Fugana, one of the worst affected villages. Fugana is a village in this tehsil with a population of about 20-25 thousand. Muslim population there is about 3500. The attack happened on the morning of September 8. There are 5 reported cases of rape (all gang-rape) from this area – all of Muslim women.

The delegation then went to another village, Loyi, where there is a camp housing about 3700 people from many villages - Hisad, Lakh, Bahavdi, Kharad, Fugana, Hasanpur, etc. 80% of the people in this camp are from Fugana.

The delegation also heard the background in which the incidents happened which confirmed many of the details that have already been reported in the media. This report mainly focuses on the impact on women in the violence affected areas.

About Muzaffarnagar

Muzaffarnagar has often been in the news for the wrong reasons primarily because of its dismal record with regard to women’s status. Sex ratio is an abysmal 889 females per 1000 males. Child sex ratio is even more pathetic: 863/1000. Female literacy is only 58.69 as against the average literacy rate of 69.12. Most girls are not able to pursue their studies beyond matriculation; only the very fortunate ones are able to go to college.

Muzaffarnagar is an area where women have been targets of sexual harassment (some reported but most of these incidents largely unreported). Girls of both communities suffer sexual harassment and the perpetrators of the crime also are from both communities. Nor is it the case that the perpetrator and the victim need necessarily belong to different communities. But this reality has been deliberately covered up in the recent build up to the violence.

Muzaffarnagar district also has the dubious distinction of having the highest number of “honour” killings in UP, an average of between one to two killings a month. The ‘khap’ panchayats have especially been active in cases of honour killing and women of both communities have been targets of violence in different ways.

Some of the currently affected villages- Fugana for example which is the centre of communal killing and rape, have witnessed such honour killings in the past. It was in the same village- where rapes of Muslim women in this communal attack have occurred- that had seen the stripping and killing of a young Hindu girl by her community in 2006, a victim of “honour” killing. The point here is that the deeply patriarchal and anti women concept of so-called honour has made victims of women of both communities.

Today, young girls of both communities are greatly affected – they fear even going to school or college.

It is a measure of the criminal and cynical planning of the communal forces that they deliberately chose an issue of so-called honour in an area known for “honour” killings to incite communal hatred and organized a communal carnage in the name of bahu-beti bachao ostensibly to curb sexual harassment in the area. One incident was given a communal colour by the BJP/RSS which is actively working in the area to polarise people on communal lines. The result was the worst incident of communal violence the area has ever seen, in which it was the Muslim minority community which suffered the worst violence, and muslim women were sexually assaulted.

Sexual Assault

  • Regarding cases of sexual assault: there were 5 cases of rape reported to the delegation – in 4 cases FIRs have been registered but no statements have been recorded under Sec 164 which is mandatory for the filing of a chargesheet. In two of these cases no MLC was done. So far not a single person has been arrested, even though these are named reports.
  • The delegation was told that there have been many more cases of sexual assault and molestation but women and especially young girls who were the victims are too shocked to speak.

The delegation met almost all the victims who have registered cases of rape.

Cases of Sexual Assault (all the names have been changed)

1. Saba w/o Saleem: Saba’s husband is a hawker who sells cloth. On the 8th morning, the attackers (Badlu, Nilu and Amardip) came with knives, held Saba and all three of them raped her and killed one of her brothers-in-law with a knife. Then, while they went to bring petrol to burn the house, Saba and family escaped and came to Jogiakhera.

2. Sameena: Around 10 am Rupesh, Ramvir and Bhim came, raped her and burnt her house. The assaulters threw out her 2y old daughter who was injured in the process.

3. Qudsia: Around 2 pm, five boys, all her neighbours came – Sunil (s/o Sadhu), Devender (s/o Harpal), and Ramesh (s/o Virma), Ramkumar (s/o Patvari) and Joginder (s/o Pradhan). Ramesh tore her clothes, Sunil, Devinder and Ramkumar raped her. Qudsia tried to run but they pulled her back. When she resisted they banged her head against the wall which incapacitated Qudsia. Around 4 pm the force came, rescued her and brought her to Loyi village.

4. Farida w/o Salman: Farida was making rotis when they came at 2 pm. When she tried to run they pulled her back by her plait. Farida then hid in the pen, but the attckers saw that and almost throttled her. They were 5 boys – Sachin, Vedpal, Shani, Ajit and Yogesh. Sachin and Vedpal broke her shalwar strap and raped her. Before the others could come forward, Farida ran towards the jungle and came to the Madrasa in village Loyi.

5. Salma w/o Nasir from Fugana. 6 people raped her. She is currently recuperating in the hospital.

6. Sabeena from Fugana: Sabeena narrated the plight of her family. When the rioters came they were shocked as they had no inkling of an impending attack. She said that she and both her daughters aged 16 and 22 were molested and told to stay back, but Sabeena’s family did not stop. The attackers burnt the house; Sabeena and family ran and reached Jogiakhera through the jungle route. Saleema from Khera Mastan said though they were not attacked but they ran out of fear.

The rape survivors we met told the delegation that they recognised and identified the rapists, knew their names and had courageously registered FIRs against them. Yet none have been arrested, mocking their trauma and pain.

Missing Children

There have been many cases of parents losing their grip on the children who were running with them. The children have since gone missing and so far there are no efforts by the administration to trace them:

  • Mohammad Altaf is a hawker; he sells cloth. While he was running after the riots broke out, he lost his grip on his 5-year daughter who fell down and is now missing.
  • Naeem’s 5-month child Rehana was in his arms, but while running she fell down. The child is missing.

Homelessness

  • People are now scared to go home. The added trauma for women is that their assaulters were people from their own village. There is thus a feeling of terror and insecurity which is preventing them from going back to their village homes.
  • Unable to go back home, these families living in camps are now homeless. Those who are not in the camps and are living with other families as in Jogiakhera, there is added trauma of adjusting with other families while waiting for rehabilitation.

Health Issues

  • Considering the fact that the riot affected people are in deep trauma, there are no counselling centres for them.
  • The victims including pregnant women and victims of sexual assault are having to go to Shamli District hospital for treatment.
  • Living in open tents for long has its own health hazards and towards that the administration has so far paid no attention.

The Camps

  • Most of the camps have been set up and managed and taken care of by concerned citizens. UP government ought to step in and provide relief.
  • The insecurity continues - there is palpable tension in the area and there seems to be no effort from the administration towards easing of tension.
  • We got a feedback from camp managers that they would require tarpaulin to cover the tents. Therefore, AIDWA has provided tarpaulin to about 65 such tents.

Planned Attacks

  • The attacks were pre-planned. BJP/RSS captured the mahapanchayat, made communal speeches, and orchestrated communal conflagration. Most of the attacks are reported to have started in the morning on the same day - Sept 8th 2013.
  • The people attacked are poor and backward caste Muslims – Sheikh, badhai, lohaar, dhobi, julaaha, nilgarh (rangrez), qureshi, teli... ‘Marshal Muslims’ – upper caste Muslims – Mula Jats, Rajputs, Tyagis were not in the main, the targets. The victims were working in the fields/ enterprises of the attackers. This was probably one way of showing the workers their place as it were; to keep them subdued.
  • Only in one area, Joli there were casualties from both communities. In the rest of the places, it was one-sided - Muslims were attacked.

Role of Administration and the Ground Reality

  • The administration was unresponsive. There was failure / inordinate delay in their action which caused both human and material casualties.
  • It was also reported to the delegation that whoever among the police officers worked impartially to uphold the rule of law, was transferred.
  • Though some of the BJP leaders including their MLA have been arrested, many of the rioters are still not arrested adding to the fear psychosis of the victims.
  • Those who killed Gaurav and his brother also have not been arrested so far.

Urgent Steps Required

• Expedite all cases of rape, murder and arson.

º Arrest all those guilty of communal attacks and violence.

º Take urgent action on all the cases of rape. Arrest all those named by the women. Record victims’ statements under Section 164.

º Arrest killers of Gaurav and his brother.

• Send a team of women counsellors from trained agencies and representatives of women’s organisations to the camps and affected areas to meet the victims who can bring them out of the trauma they are in. The counsellors would also be able to instil confidence in the women to speak up about the violence meted out to them during the riots.

• There still is palpable tension in the area.

º To ease the atmosphere the government of UP should initiate concrete confidence building measures immediately.

º People are scared to go back to their homes. The government therefore should help create a conducive environment for people to return.

• UP Government should step up relief measures and continue this until the affected people are rehabilitated.

• UP Government should chalk out a rehabilitation plan for the victims of the communal violence and implement it immediately.

• Since most of those attacked are poor Muslims, there is an urgency to provide the means of livelihood to them.

• The UP government should reinstate those officers who were abruptly transferred because of their impartial approach.

Follow up

To follow up on the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of violence and the progress on the many cases of sexual assault, the delegation plans to meet the Chief Minister of UP.

Azra’s Case

Azra Khatoon is a nine-year-old girl from Baori village in UP’s Shamli district adjoining Muzaffarnagar. Her family comprises seven sisters and three brothers.

Azra’s family was among those attacked during the September 8 riots in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining Shamli. Her seven-year-old cousin sister, paternal grandmother, and uncle (father’s brother) were killed in the riot. Her mother and five-year-old sister were injured after they were shot at. They were being treated at Shamli government hospital and later at Muzaffarnagar District Hospital.

Azra’s suffered a deep cut on her stomach and more grievous and damaging injury on her right hand after she was slashed by a sickle.

Accompanied by her father and maternal grandmother, she is currently being treated at the Trauma Centre at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, after being referred from the Muzaffarnagar District Hospital.
Luckily, there was no organ damage and her wound on the stomach is healing. But, doctors are worried that she may not be able to move her right hand (wrist onwards) ever again.

The AIIMS Trauma Centre has promised to bear the cost of her treatment at the hospital. The Uttar Pradesh government, too, had come forward to help Azra’s family.

Little Azra is currently in a lot of pain and unable to speak much but has expressed the desire to study further.

AIDWA, Delhi, is assisting with the coordination of her current treatment and further rehabilitation. In Baori, Azra was studying in Class IV at the local government school. The family has lost their entire belongings and will urgently require financial assistance, particularly for her care.