In the three weeks since the communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar,three of the biggest relief camps in Kandhla,Basikala and Malakpur have seen the birth of about 27 babies in all,and at least half that number are expected to be born in the next week or so.
Sehrana,19,is one of the many new mothers. She gave birth to her first child Friday night,on the same charpoy that she and her husband have been using. Her home is a tarpaulin sheet,her only privacy,in a huge field in Malakpur,where about 10,000 people from about 40 villages have congregated. There is no electricity,not even a light bulb or a torch.
Sehrana is too weak to bother about worries expressed by neighbours that her daughter looks weak,or doesnt cry enough. Routine immunisation or birth registration are the last things on her mind. What do I do with this? Wont my husband say she was the one who brought all this bad luck on us? In the hurry to run,I forgot I still had her…otherwise I may have tried to kill her myself, she cries.
Her husband,a daily wage labourer in Shamli,does not comfort her as he stands guard at the entrance of their tarpaulin shelter. He has asked the village pradhan to arrange for some milk for his wife. Last night,her stomach was aching since evening. If she had told me in time,I may have tried to take her to a hospital. But I was informed only after 9 pm,and all I could do was find a woman in the camp who agreed to help her. She wanted Rs 600,but when she heard Sehrana screaming,she helped her,although we didnt even have Rs 10 to give her, he says.
About seven-eight babies are reported to have been born at the camp,three within the first two days of the violence.
District authorities in Shamli and Muzaffarnagar,where these camps are housed,say there are no official records of the new births. The camp organisers are trying to draw up lists.
There should be some record of these babies… they are the aftermath of the riot… a sign that there is hope still, says Hajid Idris,an organiser of the Basikala camp,where about 2,000 people share space at the madrasa.
Although a government health camp has been set up,all five babies were born in a private clinic. We dont trust the government… they didnt bother about me when I was running for my life carrying this baby inside me… My husband carried me to the doctor at 3 am, says Parmeen,a resident of Kutba-Kutbi.
Three other babies have been born at the camp,and three more women are already in labour.
At the Idgah camp in Kandhla,home to about 2,500-3,000 people,organisers say 15 women have given birth so far. All the babies were born at the heath centre in Kandhla.
In a single room at the camp,two new mothers from two villages Shameena from Kuwana and Nafisa from Nala exchange notes on the violence as they nurse their newborns. If you have a baby,they give you a charpoy. Otherwise,you have to sleep on the floor, says Nafisa.
In the next room,there are three more women waiting for charpoys They are due to deliver their babies any time now.
Joula camp has seen 30 new births,of which three babies have died so far. Gulshana,who fled from Karoddha village in Shamli on September 8,lost the twins she was carrying. I reached the camp at 2 am. My labour pains started the next morning. I was taken to a nursing home at 5 am where my first baby was born. They said I needed a caesarean delivery for the second,and they could not perform it. I was taken to a second hospital,and then a third. None had facilities for a caesarean delivery. My second baby was finally born at 11 pm. Both my babies died, she says.
Abdul Jabbar,an organiser of the camp,says,There is almost one delivery every day. Thirty babies have been born since September 8,and we are trying to provide proper facilities to these women. But it is difficult as the government ambulance helpline is of no use.