Reluctantly,families start returning home

It's terrifying to return to this silence,but I own 60 bighas of land here.

Written by Pritha Chatterjee | Kharad | Published: October 18, 2013 1:15 am

It’s the only village in Muzaffarnagar where a large section of the displaced Muslim community owned land. Now,a few families are trickling back to Kharad village to take stock of that land,just in time for the reaping of the sugarcane crop — the primary produce here.

On Thursday morning,32-year-old Ali Mohammad,who spent the last month shuttling between relief camps,reluctantly returned home with his wife and six children. “It’s terrifying to return to this silence,but I own 60 bighas of land here. How can I leave it behind? I was scared it would be occupied in my absence. I stayed away for a month fearing for my children’s lives,but I had to return,” Mohammad says. Till he is sure of the situation,he says he will not send his children,aged between four and 12,to the village school. “They have missed classes for a month; what difference will a few more days make? Besides,I am not sure how long we will stay here.”

The neighbourhood houses about 100 Muslim families who own a total of 2,000-2,500 bighas. While in other villages most displaced Muslims worked as labourers,here they were landlords.

Now,with more than100 FIRs registered against the Jats in the village,Mohammad hopes he can feel safe. “I thought of selling my land,but who will buy in these conditions? We need to sell this year’s crop at least,” he says.

District authorities say they are trying to rope in elders of the Hindu community to assure Muslim families that they can return safely. Some Jat leaders visited relief camps last month to urge Muslims to return. “There are miscreants in every community. But we did not want to drag this animosity. When the district authorities requested us,I agreed to visit some of the camps,” Kalu Singh (82 ),a former pradhan of the village,says.

“We are sending members of both communities to camps to convince people to return. For villages,where homes have been burnt,the administration will first rebuild them,and then ask people to return,” ADM Muzaffarnagar Rajesh Srivastava says.

Mohammad says these efforts are being made so that Muslims withdraw the FIRs. “We have come back out of compulsion,not choice,” says his wife Imrana. According to administration,of the 27,000 people who had fled from Budhana and Sadar tehsil,about 15000 have returned.

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