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Seeking safety in numbers, riot victims re-draw map of districts, build new colonies

Some areas are being christened by new inhabitants, with most still not recognised by the administration.

Houses don’t have electricity or water. (Source: Express photo by Oinam Anand) Houses don’t have electricity or water. (Source: Express photo by Oinam Anand)

A year after the Muzaffarnagar-Shamli riots, with political visits dwindling after the Lok Sabha elections and no success in efforts to rehabilitate riot victims back to their home villages, there has been a slow and steady change in the maps of the two districts. Muslim riot victims have purchased land around villages with a significant Muslim population, finding security in their numbers.

These areas are being christened by their new inhabitants, with most still not recognised by the administration, and no water, electricity or basic sanitation measures yet — identified officially only by the neighbouring villages.

About five kilometres from what used to be the Idgah relief camp of Kandhla after the riots, three of the six women who filed FIRs alleging gangrape are among the 100-odd families who have bought plots of land, 100-200 gaj in size, from the Rs 5 lakh compensation they received from the state government. This includes 30 families from Fugana village, where the highest number of riot-related FIRs were filed, and others from Lakh, Lisadh, Bawdi and Hasanpur. The land was purchased from two Pathan families, traditional land owners in the village.

Children studying at newly established Ahmednagar near Shahpur. (Source: Express photo by Oinam Anand) Children studying at newly established Ahmednagar near Shahpur. (Source: Express photo by Oinam Anand)

A 28-year-old rape complainant, who was pregnant when she was allegedly raped, nurses her newborn under the open sky, on a plot filled with bricks. Her family invested all its money on the land, and till her labourer husband saves enough, they cannot start building their home. “This is about 30 kilometres from our village where the accused are still at large. We were afraid all the time at the relief camps… we were often threatened by their relatives. Everyone at the relief camp knew about my case, there were so many questions… how long can you live like that under a shelter… we had to move on and get a place to make our home again,” she says.

But moving on is not easy. The 100 houses have just one hand pump, installed only last week. So there are fights over potable water, and already many children are falling ill with diarrhoea and fever. There is no electricity, drainage or toilets. “There are no fields here that we can use to relieve ourselves. We have to walk at least three kilometres through the city to reach the fields… toilets are a big problem,” says another rape complainant.

Kadamdin with his grandson in front of the newly built houses of his sons in Ahmednagar. He is staying in the tent (left), as his yougest son's house is under construction. He will be staying with his youngest son. (Source: Express photo by Oinam Anand) Kadamdin with his grandson in front of the newly built houses of his sons in Ahmednagar. He is staying in the tent (left), as his yougest son’s house is under construction. He will be staying with his youngest son. (Source: Express photo by Oinam Anand)

The access road, from Gangheru road in Kandhla, is a waterlogged bylane. The residents have chosen “Aman Colony” as the name of their new home, in the hope of the peace they now seek.

Ahmednagar is another such emerging colony, surrounded by a triangle of Muslim-majority villages — Paldhi, Paldha and Basi Kalan — where 150-odd people from the two riot-hit villages of Kutba and Kutbi have already built homes. About four kilometres from Kutba, the settlement does not have a pradhan or a representative yet. The name was coined by an Imam of the adjoining Basi Kalan madrasa, who also designated a tin shed as the village masjid.

On paper, these families live in Paldhi village. The intezamia committee of the Basi Kalan madrasa, which operated as a relief camp immediately after the riots, had bought land from local Muslims to distribute among the riot victims. But after the state government announced compensation, the land was sold to them.

Zahoor Hassan, a government school teacher who stays here, says, “Land was purchased in bulk in two lots from the intezamia committee — nine bighas and three bighas, which was divided between families. The plots near the road were bought at Rs 3,000-4,000 per gaj, while the inner plots were bought at Rs 1,500-2,000 per gaj.”

Again, there is no water supply, but two hand pumps have been installed. There are no arrangements for electricity yet. With many families still living under tarpaulin sheets on their plots, security is a big concern.

Hashida, 38, sent away her 14-year-old daughter Rahil to her uncle’s place in Kairana, after a few boys in the colony “disturbed her”. “I have three daughters and two sons. I have been making the two younger girls cut their hair like boys… We had a refrigerator, a washing machine and a toilet at our house in Kutba, now I don’t even have a gate outside the house,” she says.

The residents recently negotiated the price for a bigha of land, to be developed as a graveyard for their new village, at Rs 6 lakh. Qadamdin, whose wife was one of the eight victims of the riots from the villages, says, “The circle rates vary between Rs 1,200-1,400 per gaj, but everywhere we go, Muslim land owners are charging us more. It is a simple equation of demand and supply. We want to stay near our brethren after what we have seen in the riots, so we have to pay what they want… we need land for a graveyard, the cycle of life has to go on.”

On the road from Budhana city to Shamli, at least four such colonies have come up: Ihmadadnagar, near Joula, where 50 families are staying; a colony of 150 dwellers in Loi village that is yet to be named; another of 200 people in Shahpur; and a settlement of 35 families. In Shamli, 30 families have settled down in Dabheri Khurd village.

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