As the Congress and BJP continue to play their game of political football with the riot-hit people of Muzaffarnagar,the victims of the communal violence have begun to quietly rebuild their lives-on their own.
Ten kilometres away from the district headquarters town,in a place called Khampur,a cluster of brick buildings is coming up on land donated by local Muslims-the new home for families who fled from their villages as clashes broke out over a swathe of western UP early last month.
At least 130 men,all refugees who escaped with their families,have been toiling hard at the site every day since October 6. Once completed in a few months time,this settlement of 100 houses will be the first permanent colony of the victims and survivors of the riots in the district. Similar colonies are in the pipeline in Bassikalan,Kamkheda and Khedi Firozabad.
I fled from Badal village with my family on September 9 and lived in the Budhana refugee camp until early this month, Imamuddin Hassan (46),said. We were then offered a house,free of cost,in Khampur as long as we helped build it,and we readily agreed. I have nothing left in Badal,and I never want to go back.
The driving force behind the Khampur settlement is the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind,which is bearing the cost. Boards at the site announce the Jamiat Colony,Khampur. Nazar Mohammed,president of Jamiats Muzaffarnagar unit,said the organisation was forced to step in after the government failed to provide relief.
The government has refused to help for two months now and we could not wait any longer. We spread the word to all villages and Khampur led the way, Nazar Mohammed said.
We spent days trying to persuade families to return to their villages,but each and every victim refused. So we came up with this plan. They are too scared to return. In many cases their houses have been reduced to ashes, Nazar Mohammed said.
He said labour was not difficult to find. Most of the villagers who had had to flee were construction workers,carpenters,blacksmiths and electricians. In this colony they work together to build their homes. They are given food and clothing. Their families are presently in the refugee camps, Nazar Mohammed said.
The idea of the settlement took concrete shape after Saeed-ul-Zama,a zilla panchayat member from Khampur,donated his land for the victims.
I had some extra land in the village and decided to give it away for a permanent settlement. Soon,several other residents of the village came forward,and by the end,we had 17 bighas of land, Saeed-ul-Zama said. He said the size of the donations ranged from half a bigha to 2 bighas.
Nazar Mohammed explained that getting the plot had involved cooperation of many villagers. People in Khampur agreed to a fair exchange. They sold parts of their land and gave us the money,which we used to buy enough land for the colony. This colony can house 100 families. Within a few months we hope to be able to give all survivors a home, he said.
Among those who will live in Khampur are victims from Lisarh,Lakh,Bhavdi,Kutba and Kutbi the worst affected villages in the region. We begged the government for help whenever they visited us in the camps. We told them we had lost everything and were desperately needed help for a fresh start. When the government failed,all we had left was community support, said Imaduddin Hassan.