Muzaffarnagar riots: Internally displaced victims ‘exploited’ by realtors

New Delhi: Carrying emotional scars of the riots three years ago, hundreds of internal refugees in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts are battling “poor health and sanitation” conditions and “unscrupulous” real estate developers, who are preying on their misfortune, an NGO claimed on Tuesday.

The city-based NGO has come with a report describing the conditions in the resettlement colonies three years after the communal violence in western Uttar Pradesh that claimed over 60 lives and displaced 40,000 people.

Titled ‘Living Apart: Communal Violence and Forced Displacement in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli’, it claims there are “65 refugee colonies, 28 in Muzaffarnagar and 37 in Shamli, housing 29,328 residents”.

“Mostly self-settled, these colonies are very poorly provisioned without even elementary public services, and the internally-displaced persons lack basic entitlements, like drinking water and sanitation,” says Harsh Mander of Aman Biradari.

At a press conference, Mander and one of the co-authors Akram Akhtar Chaudhary, released the report of their survey conducted by Aman Biradari and Afkar India.

The report, in English and Hindi, would be officially released tomorrow in Lucknow and in Delhi on September 8, to mark the third anniversary of the Muzaffarnagar riots which started on September 7, 2013.

“We wanted to understand the situation after the riots. So, we went there and saw the living conditions, and it was hellish. The survey was conducted in the last six months and we found that the government hasn’t done anything substantial to alleviate their suffering,” he alleged.

Chaudhary, describing the situation in the refugee colonies, said, “people are dying of malaria and snake-bites.”

“In 2015-16 malaria has claimed lives of six children. Two children have died of snake bites. And, sanitation condition is appalling, while for accessing drinking water people are struggling,” he claimed.

“Meanwhile, seizing the opportunity to make windfall profits, local big farmers and real estate developers sold plots in hastily laid out colonies in Muslim majority villages, at exorbitant rates to displaced persons.

“And, now many people, who have give money to developers, have been cheated by them,” he alleged. Mander says, the confidence of survivors to return to homes was “further shaken” because of the “very low numbers” of arrests and convictions of the men accused of murder, rape, arson and looting.