Open Letter to UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav
Chief Minister Shri Akhilesh Yadav,
5, Kalidas Marg,
January 1, 2014
Subject: UP State Government’s handling of sectarian violence and humanitarian crisis in Muzaffarnagar
Dear Shri Akhilesh Yadav,
I am writing to you on behalf of the Indian American Muslim Council, an organization of non-resident Indians that is dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos.
The planned sectarian violence in Muzaffarnagar and surrounding areas has resulted in one of the worst cases of oppression of minorities since the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 and the mass killing and displacement of Muslims in Assam in 2012. The way an entire community in Western UP has been traumatized, through killings, sexual violence and intimidation, while most perpetrators still roam free, is a shocking example of the barbarity that hate ideologies can unleash. Unfortunately, it also reflects on your administration’s lack of commitment to upholding the rule of law and to safeguarding the life and property of every citizen.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that your administration acknowledges sectarian violence only in those villages that were worst hit, treating refugees from other villages as less than genuine victims, or worse, as opportunists. Party supremo and your father, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s statement that the inhabitants of refugee camps are agents of the BJP and Congress is reflective of the moral bankruptcy that has taken hold of the Samajwadi Party. It is inconceivable why thousands of people would leave their homes and ancestral lands and put up with the dismal living conditions of the refugee camps if they were able to live comfortably in their homes without any fear or affront to their dignity and way of life.
The Supreme Court itself has taken cognizance of the deaths of some children due to severe cold in the refugee camps. Unfortunately this heart-rending reality has not moved your administration to improve living conditions. On the contrary the refugees have been forcibly evicted in order to close down the camps and create an illusion of return to normalcy.
Media reports indicate your administration is having hundreds of refugee families sign an affidavit that would make them eligible for a compensation of Rs. 5 lakhs, in lieu of an undertaking that they would forfeit their right to return to their villages and homes. This is deeply problematic on several counts:
- Refugees are currently unable or unwilling to return to their villages, due to the trauma inflicted on them and the tactics of intimidation that the perpetrators of the violence are engaging in. Turning this fear into an excuse for having refugees forfeit their right to return amounts to endorsing and institutionalizing the ethnic cleansing of Muslims from Muzaffarnagar and surrounding areas.
- As Supreme Court Advocate Naushad Ahmad Khan has pointed out, the basis of this affidavit is illegal and unconstitutional. It is the state’s responsibility to rehabilitate victims and provide compensation for loss of life and destruction of property. Such compensation cannot be made conditional upon the victims giving up their right to return and resettle in their ancestral homes.
- While the state government has been at pains to point out that the victims will continue to remain owners of their properties, such ownership is virtually meaningless in the face of their inability to return. Such a constraint also reduces the value of their homes and properties, as many distress sales have shown
- The affidavit absolves the government of the responsibility to create conditions that would facilitate the return of the refugees to their villages. Since the banishment of the victims was one of the goals of the perpetrators of violence, the state’s action amounts to endorsing their plan and giving it a legal seal of approval.
- The affidavit requires the approval of the village pradhans, who are in many cases, themselves accused of inciting and abetting the violence.
In order to bring your administration in line with accepted norms of civilized governance, we demand that you take the following steps immediately:
- Cancel the scheme of requiring victims to forfeit the right to return in lieu of compensation.
- Accelerate the prosecution of individuals named in FIRs regardless of their status and ethnicity; Facilitate the filing of new FIRs by victims who have been unable to do so out of fear of reprisal.
- Provide special care and compensation to victims of sexual violence, and arrest the perpetrators named by them immediately.
- Conduct a survey of damaged houses and property and provide proportional compensation to the victims, without requiring them to forfeit their right to return
- In cases where the victims are so traumatized that return is impossible, resettle the victims by establishing new villages on state land, instead of putting the onus on victims to find their own way.
- Take up the reconstruction and repair of places of worship that were damaged during the violence on an urgent basis.
- Halt the forced eviction of victims from refugee camps, and improve living conditions in the camps by providing sufficient food, medical and sanitation facilities.
- Initiate efforts to normalize relations between the Jat and Muslim communities so that the refugees can return home. However, such normalization should not be predicated on withdrawal of cases against the perpetrators of mass violence.
Your administration’s acts of omission and commission have exacerbated the suffering of the victims. In dealing with the violence and in the rehabilitation of victims, your administration has shown a level of insensitivity that is shockingly close to that of the perpetrators of the violence. Rest assured that we are questioning the Muslim functionaries in UP whose silence in the community’s hour of need has not gone unnoticed.
By taking the steps outlined above, you can bring a semblance of order to the chaos and tragedy currently unfolding in Western UP. It is only through such prompt action that you can provide proof of the existence of a state government in UP, and enable the world to see the difference between democracy and mob rule.
Ahsan Khan (President, IAMC).
Indian American Muslim Council
phone/fax: (800) 839-7270
address: 6321 W Dempster St. Suite 295, Morton Grove, IL 60053