A little more than a year after the Samajwadi Party came to power in Uttar Pradesh, riding largely on the support of Muslim voters, communal riots ravaged Muzaffarnagar. The violence, which began on September 7, 2013, soon spiralled out of control, claiming at least 65 lives and displacing more than 50,000 Muslims.
The aftermath saw mass exodus of Muslims from villages, which had been their homes for decades, to seek refuge in hastily erected camps across the district. As horror stories of murder, rape and destruction poured in, police went from camp to camp, registering complaints and promising swift justice.
But, despite a total of 567 FIRs being filed and several promises by the state government, victims are still waiting for justice. A year after the riots, investigations are still underway and court proceedings are continuing at a sluggish pace. A look at where the crucial riot-related cases stand:
August 27, 2013
It was the murder of three youths — Shahnawaz, Gaurav Kumar and Sachin Taliyan — that first triggered the violence. The Special Investigation Cell (SIC) set up by the UP government alleged that Shahnawaz was murdered by Gaurav and Sachin after he passed lewd comments about Gaurav’s cousin.
But while the FIR lists at least three other accused being present when Shahnawaz was allegedly killed by Gaurav and Sachin, police said that they have not found any evidence to back that claim. “One of those named as accused in the case had, in fact, died in a railway accident two months before the riots. There is no evidence against the other two,” said a senior police officer. The SIC is yet to file a chargesheet in the case.
After the attack on Shahnawaz, Sachin and Gaurav were allegedly lynched. The police filed a chargesheet in the case and arrested five people, who are facing trial under sections pertaining to rioting, criminal intimidation and murder.
Even though these murders triggered the riots, court proceedings remain sluggish, claimed the public prosecutor.
“Charges were framed in the case in April this year, while the chargesheet was filed in November 2013. But it was only last week that the testimony of Gaurav’s father Ravindra Singh was examined in court,” said Firoz Ali, the public prosecutor in the case, adding that the court is yet to hear the testimony of 35 other witnesses.
Jauli canal ambush,
September 7, 2013
After the Kawal murders, a series of mahapanchayats were organised in the district by both Muslim and Jat communities. Tension reached boiling point on September 7 when a group of Jats, returning from a mahapanchayat at Nangla Madhor near Kawal, were ambushed near the neighbouring Jauli canal around 4.30 pm.
The police later fished out six bodies from the canal and registered a case under sections pertaining to rioting, murder, promoting enmity between groups on the basis of religion and mischief by fire.
But, of the 60 people who were named in the initial FIR filed at Jansath police station, the SIC arrested two individuals after gathering evidence against them. The chargesheet in the case was continued…