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Rebuilding Lives a Struggle: Three years on, Muzaffarnagar Riots victims await justice

The affected families got Rs 5 lakh each as compensation from the Uttar Pradesh government which they used to buy plots on the outskirts of Kandhla and built houses with the help of NGOs

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Source: wikipedia.org

KANDHLA(Uttar Pradesh), September 8, 2016: “I never saw such communal tension in my life,” Abdul Waheed, 65, recalls as his smile gives way to disarrayed wrinkles on his countenance.

Only moments earlier, Waheed — formerly of Hasanpur village in Shamli district — came across as a contented, cheerful, elderly man, cracking jokes with fellow villagers gathered around him.

But a question about what happened on the night of September 8, 2013, in his village unsettled him.

“We were holed up in Sanjeev’s compound. A frenzied mob waited outside to butcher us. They could have stormed in had Sanjeev not been an influential person,” Waheed recalled, seated on a cot outside his new house in a rehabilitation colony some four kilometres from their original village.

The Sanjeev Waheed was referring to is Sanjeev Singh, a Jat landlord who is now head of the panchayat under which Hasanpur falls. Waheed’s is one of the 100-odd families which escaped from their village during the Muzaffarnagar riots which claimed over 60 lives and left thousands homeless. Their escape was largely due to some of their Hindu neighbours who kept the mobs at bay.

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In Lisadh village, barely a kilometre away from Hasanpur, several Muslims were killed that night. The frightened Muslims fled to Jaula village and lived in a refugee camp for almost a year. Waheed shudders as he speaks.

A silence has descended on the small gathering that was minutes ago laughing and pulling each other’s legs. All of them stared at death only three years ago.

“A few in the village tried to foment trouble but some of the prominent villagers drove them away,” said Mehr Deen, a teacher, breaking the silence.

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The affected families got Rs 5 lakh each as compensation from the Uttar Pradesh government which they used to buy plots on the outskirts of Kandhla and built houses with the help of NGOs. The area has come to be known as Nai Basti.

“After the riots, people from our village met us and asked us to return. But we refused,” Deen said.

The first person to make the appeal was Sanjeev Singh, now the village head of Hasanpur and Lisadh.

“A few of us have been asking them to return. We want them back in their homes,” Sanjeev Singh told IANS over the telephone.

He recalled how he withstood pressure from his own community — he is a Jat — while protecting the Muslims. “A few were baying for their blood but I put my foot down and told the rioters that they will have to kill me as well. Then a few others (Hindus) supported me,” Sanjeev said.

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Chaudhary Narender Singh, an elderly Jat from Hasanpur, said he was happy for the Muslim families now that their lives are back on track. The Jats have even offered to repair the houses of the Muslims damaged during the riots. And a few Muslim families have returned.

Narender Singh had come to see Hanif Siddiqui and other villagers in their new settlement on his old Bajaj scooter.

“They have built pucca houses. I am happy for them though I would like them to return. But there is no point in asking them now,” Narender Singh said.

The new settlement is surrounded by Muslim-dominated villages. However, the affected Muslim families miss the traditional support system they once had in their original village.

There, the Muslims — petty traders or labourers — often borrowed money from well-off people on easy conditions. Now, the borrowing doesn’t come easy.

The local Muslims here usually keep a distance from the new settlers. “We don’t interact with the locals except for Zeeshan pradhan (headman),” said Shamshad, a labourer.

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There is also an undercurrent of resentment over the Rs 5 lakh compensation the settlers got from the government. “They would have returned, like a few others, but the money spoilt their brains,” a Jat villager of Hasanpur who did not wish to be named told IANS.

Muslims who have lived here traditionally were also critical of the newly-arrived Muslims for not offering regular prayers at mosques.

Amidst all the societal pulls and pressures, the affected Muslims are trying to build their lives anew. They await electricity and a two-kilometre pucca road till Kandhla town. (IANS)

  • Shaas

    “Affected Muslims are trying to build their lives anew”? Seldom I heard such a blatantly communal expression! It is a shame that you try to tell your readers that no Hindus were broken, killed, and harressed!

  • Arya Sharan

    Not only the Muslims but all those who were affected by the violence should be helped to rebuild and start things afresh.

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  • Shaas

    “Affected Muslims are trying to build their lives anew”? Seldom I heard such a blatantly communal expression! It is a shame that you try to tell your readers that no Hindus were broken, killed, and harressed!

  • Arya Sharan

    Not only the Muslims but all those who were affected by the violence should be helped to rebuild and start things afresh.

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Concentration Camps: Uyghurs Chafed Under Tough Chinese Controls During Ramadan

“Our concerns are significant when it comes to the ongoing repression in China,” said Randall Schriver, U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs.

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Police officers stand watch near a center believed to be used for 're-education' in Xinjiang's Korla city, Nov. 2, 2017. RFA

As Muslims worldwide began a month of abstaining from food or drink from dawn until sunset for Ramadan Monday, Uyghurs chafed under tough Chinese controls over observations of the annual Muslim holy month in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

Activists and U.S. politicians meanwhile called for greater world attention to and condemnation of China’s network of political “re-education camps” that have held up to 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas since April 2017.

Authorities in Xinjiang have typically forced restaurants to stay open and restricted access to mosques during Ramadan to discourage traditional observation of the holy month, and in recent years authorities’ have tried to ban fasting among Uyghurs, drawing widespread criticism from rights groups.

“The entire Muslim world has started fasting and praying. But unfortunately the Uyghur Muslims under China’s draconian rule can neither fast nor pray during this Ramadan,” said Ilshat Hassan, president of the Washington-based Uyghur American Association.

“It is not just Uyghurs’ Islamic faith that is under Chinese attack but also their very existence as a unique indigenous people,” he told RFA’s Uyghur Service.

“The international community needs to take action for China locking up millions of Uyghurs in concentration camps. And the Muslim world, especially OIC, should hold China accountable for its anti-Islamic policy and crimes against humanity,” added Hassan.

“While the Muslims around the world are enjoying their religious freedom and peacefully celebrating Ramadan, the Uyghur Muslims of East Turkestan have been denied by China their legitimate right to celebrate, pray and fast,” said Dolkun Isa, president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress.

“This is the third consecutive year that Uyghur people, who accepted Islam as a state religion more than a thousand year ago, have not been able to celebrate Ramadan because of Chinese government’s anti-Islamic and anti-Uyghur policies,” he said, and echoed Hassan’s calls for international pressure on China to ease its policies.

In response to reports on the fasting ban, the deputy chief of mission in the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, Zhao Lijian, tweeted that “Muslims are free to fast in Xinjiang.”

“Restrictions are with Communist Party members, who are atheists; government officials, who shall discharge their duties; students who are with compulsory education & hard learning tasks,” the diplomat wrote.

‘Concentration camps’ term angers China

Criticism of tightening controls on Ramadan activities came as China bristled at the use of the term “concentration camps” by a senior Pentagon official in a news conference on May 3 in Washington.

“Our concerns are significant when it comes to the ongoing repression in China,” said Randall Schriver, U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs.

“The Communist Party is using the security forces for mass imprisonment of Chinese Muslims in concentration camps,” said.

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Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, in a speech last week, indicated there is little acceptance in Washington for China’s explanation for the camps. RFA

Challenged by a reporter on the use of a word that calls to mind Nazi Germany’s mass internment of Jews in the 1930s, Schriver defended the term as “appropriate.”

“Given what we understand to be the magnitude of the detention, at least a million but likely closer to 3 million citizens out of a population of about 10 million, so a very significant portion of the population, what’s happening there, what the goals are of the Chinese government and their own public comments make that a very, I think, appropriate description,” he said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing in Beijing on Monday that Schriver’s comments were “totally inconsistent with the facts.”

“The Chinese side expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition,” he said. “We also once again urge the relevant parties in the U.S. to… stop interfering with China’s internal affairs through the Xinjiang issue.”

“At present, Xinjiang is politically stable, its economy is developing, and the society there is harmonious,” added Geng. “The people live and work in peace.”

Though Beijing initially denied the existence of re-education camps, China has tried to change the discussion, describing the facilities as “boarding schools” that provide vocational training for Uyghurs, discourage radicalization and help protect the country from terrorism.

China recently organized two visits to monitor re-education camps in the XUAR—one for a small group of foreign journalists, and another for diplomats from non-Western countries, including Russia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and Thailand—during which officials dismissed claims about mistreatment and poor conditions in the facilities as “slanderous lies.”

China has also fought to muffle criticism of its policies at international gathering, including a recent incident at the UN Human Rights Council, where Chinese diplomats tried to stop activist Hillel Neuer from raising the Xinjiang camps.

“When I spoke out @UN_HRC for 1 million Muslim Uighurs being detained by China, they freaked out and tried to stop me. They failed,” tweeted Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.

Reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media organizations has shown that those in the camps are detained against their will and subjected to political indoctrination, routinely face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities.

Adrian Zenz, a lecturer in social research methods at the Germany-based European School of Culture and Theology, earlier this month said that some 1.5 million people are or have been detained in the camps—equivalent to just under 1 in 6 members of the adult Muslim population of the XUAR—after initially putting the number at 1.1 million.

Michael Kozak, the head of the State Department’s human rights and democracy bureau, in an apparent reference to the policies of Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, said in March that people “haven’t seen things like this since the 1930s” and called the internment of more than a million Uyghurs “one of the most serious human rights violations in the world today.”

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing in Beijing on Monday that Schriver’s comments were “totally inconsistent with the facts.” VOA

In November 2018, Scott Busby, the deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. Department of State, said there are “at least 800,000 and possibly up to a couple of million” Uyghurs and others detained at re-education camps in the XUAR without charges, citing U.S. intelligence assessments.

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, in a speech last week, indicated there is little acceptance in Washington for China’s explanation for the camps.

Also Read: Sell Charcoal to Buy Food: North Korean Children on Street To Support Themselves

“China has concentrated over one million Uyghurs and other religious and ethnic minorities in what they call ‘vocational schools’ or ‘reeducation camps, but what we would recognize as prison camps,” said Rubio, co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“What Xi Jinping calls the ‘Chinese Dream,’ has for millions of people, become a brutal and unending nightmare,” he said, referring to China’s president and his signature slogan. (RFA)