UP's Rs.90 crore for 1,800 riot-hit Muslim families

Lucknow, Oct 28 (IANS) The Uttar Pradesh government has decided to dole out Rs.90 crore as a one-time financial aid to some 1,800 riot-hit Muslim families still in refugee camps so that they start life anew.

Amid claims of normalcy returning to the sugar belt of Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and Meerut, the Akhilesh Yadav government has finally admitted that these families have refused to go back to their original homes.

Fearing violence if they leave the camps set up by the administration, the families have refused to budge, forcing officials to seek urgent "remedies, guidance and a way out" from the chief minister's office.

After a series of deliberations, the government has decided to dole out Rs.90 crore so that the distraught families who lost everything in the violence settle in places of their choice and start life afresh.

The district administration has told the chief minister's office that several relief camps were set up post the September riots that left around 50 dead, many injured and some 43,000 homeless.

Although the three days of intense violence ended Sep 10, some 8,000 Muslims -- men, women and children -- are still in the camps.

The financial assistance, a government spokesman told IANS, would take the shape of Rs.5 lakh to each Muslim family.

"This amount will be given to all the Muslim families who were rendered homeless in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli, who despite every possible effort by the administration have not gone back to their homes," an official said.

The cheques would be given away to the victims soon and they would be expected to leave the relief camps and start life anew at a place of their choice.

The district administrations had identified six villages in Muzaffarnagar district and three in Shamli where most Muslim families left their homes where they had lived for generations.

Based on the reports from the district administration, the state government said those in the refugee camps can only be rehabilitated when they get financial assistance.

Of those uprooted from their homes, 300 families are from village Phugana, 205 from Kutba, 58 from Kutbi, 67 from Mohammadpur Rai Singh, 265 from Kakda and 40 from Mundhbhar in Muzaffarnagar district.

"The fear of the September riots runs deep in these families," said a Muslim leader from the region. "Despite assurances, they are very afraid of going back to their home."

While many Muslim leaders see the doles from the Akhilesh Yadav government as too little too late, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has lashed out at the financial package.

"Why is this dole only for Muslims? Were others not affected by the riots?" asked BJP state spokesman Manoj Mishra.

District officials admit the financial aid was community specific as all the inmates in the relief camps were Muslims. Hindu families which took shelter in camps have gone back to their homes.

A group of ministers formed by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav submitted a report to the party last week painting a grim picture of the ground situation.

"Things are yet to return to normalcy and more efforts are required at the government level to restore the confidence of the people affected by the violence," the report said.

The authorities set up 41 relief camps to accommodate the 43,000 people or so who fled their houses after the violence erupted in the countryside of parts of western Uttar Pradesh.

Fourteen camps function now -- with no clue when they will be wound up.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at mohit.d@ians.in)

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