Haji Dilshad of Issapur Khurgan and his friends Tahir and Gulshad spend a lot of their time discussing “Indian secularism” now-a-days. Their philosophical bent of mind is a result of their recently-thwarted attempts to resettle Muslim families displaced by last September’s riots.
Tired of petitioning villages to take back their Muslims, Haji Dilshad decided last month that he would give up a part of his private land to build houses for the displaced. The plan was that the NGO he heads, Anjuman Ittihadul Muslimeen, would build homes on his land using charity funds. But—it could happen only in Uttar Pradesh—last week, as inauguration day dawned, the administration stopped them dead in their tracks. “We have been getting threats since our inaugural event on 2nd June,” says Tahir Hassan on the phone from Kairana. The threats, he says, are from civilian district officials who’ll put him in jail if construction starts.
Tahir says that initially the Anjuman did ask refugees to pay what they could for their new homes. But no one came forward with cash—everybody was broke. “Finally, we selected 300 destitute families from the nearby Malakpura camp. But the administration says we’re trying to ‘cheat’ these people,” says Hassan.
The Kairana administration says in a letter to the NGO that it is suspected of “trying to grab government land” under the guise of helping riot victims. “You haven’t disclosed what agreements you are signing with the displaced. This makes us suspicious of your real intention,” says the SDM of Kairana S.K. Mishra in a letter to Dilshad. The administration has imposed nine conditions for construction, starting with: “You will not lay the foundation to build a mosque, a madrasa or any other religious structure on the land.” “Most of the other conditions are fine, but how can we agree to not build a mosque or madrasa? We’re a Muslim body,” says Gulshad.
It’s an interesting turn of events in an area where the government didn’t resettle any of the 50,000 who fled their villages in the riots. It did provide compensation to around 1000 families, but when allegations of misappropriation arose, the state government, bizarrely, even asked for people to return the money. Ten thousand people are still in camps, but the state doesn’t acknowledge they exist.
The situation is so unreal the NGO heads have become a little philosophical. “Tell me can’t we help our brothers if the government doesn’t? Does secularism mean Muslims can’t help Muslims?” Indeed, the administration left post-riot relief and rehabilitation to the “community”. It now appears concerned, rather belatedly, about exclusively-Muslim rural enclaves coming up in the area. “It’s not that the state didn’t do anything for riot-affected Muslims. What it didn’t do is try to rebuild community ties; as a result the whole area is polarised,” says Ish Pal Singh, a professor based in Muzaffarnagar. He, too, acknowledges that Muslim bodies, like the Anjuman, solely undertook rehabilitation with charity proceeds.