Thursday, July 28, 2016

Abandoned?: Displaced in Gujarat 2002 riots, 3,000 Muslim families face eviction from their former "protectors"

By Rajiv Shah
In an astounding revelation, 14 years after the horrendous communal flare-up in Gujarat, in which at least 1,000 people died and nearly one lakh got displaced, about 3,000 families still living in irregular rehabilitation colonies are facing hostility from several well-known Muslim NGOs which had initially helped them.
Even as naming these organizations, a policy paper, authored by two senior Ahmedabad-based activists, Johanna Lokhande and Hozefa Ujjaini, has alleged, “These organizations have turned their backs on the people refusing to entertain them.”
Calling it a new challenge, the paper, titled “Failing Act of Benevolence”, a copy of which Counterview, says, what is adding insult to injury all these colonies is, these NGOs helped these riot victims on to resettle on private land by providing them plots, they are not being allowed “ownership rights”, with threat of eviction if they raise their voice.
“In certain places, where committees were formed to overlook at the welfare of the colonies, these committees have turned hostile to the displaced people and have threatened the residents about losing their homes if they protested unnecessarily”, the paper underlines.
“Out of the 83 colonies in only in 17 the houses are in the name of the residents. Availing, passport, pan card and aadhaar card becomes difficult for these residents as they do not have any document that certifies them as residents of these areas”, the paper says.
Giving the example of the much-talked-about and much-documented Citizen Nagar in the Bombay Hotel area of Ahmedabad, situated right in the middle of a lethal poisonous landfill site, where the garbage of the entire city is deposited, the paper says, “The poor residents have nowhere to go, neither do they have the house in the colony in their name.”
“Lack of potable drinking water, poisonous gases being emitted constantly from the land field where the garbage is burnt, the local authorities seem to be oblivious to human existence in that area. Monsoons create havoc in that area and makes living condition inhuman”, it adds.
In yet another example, the paper says, “In Peepli village in Anand district a small colony of eight houses was built by a private donor who offered land to some of the displaced persons in his farm, where he allowed them to build houses and live.”
However, it adds, “After the demise of this donor his son refuses to allow those people to live in those houses so much so has cut the water supply these these houses live in dire condition now.
The organizations the paper names which allegedly have “turned their back” include some well-known all-India Islamic bodies, as also Muslim trusts operating from Hyderabad, Mumbai and Vadodara. Pointing out that these NGOs, along with a few builders, initially did “help rebuild the lives of all the displaced persons”, but are now “refusing to entertain them.”
The result, according to this paper, is that, some families from Citizen Nagar have gone “all the way to Kerela to find solution to their housing problems.” Worse, it says, “Incidents of moral policing, and sectarian divide conflicts internally within communities have become rampant in these areas”.
Calling it a “forced ghettoization” which “excludes” sections of the community in distress from the mainstream, the paper says, some families who have come together to form Visthapit Ladat Samit to put up their case, have approached the Gujarat government.
Supported by Ahmedabad-based NGO Janvikas, they approached the Gujarat chief minister and the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) seeking intervention.
Regretting that the chief minister “transferred” their plea to the revenue department, and the revenue department dismissed the application, the paper says, the SHRC has gone “a step further”. Citing Section 36(2) of the law which formed the SHRC, it dismissed the plea saying that the matter is more than one year old hence “no action” could be deemed in the matter.

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