Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s statement on Muzaffarnagar riot victims has created a controversy once again. While exhorting the victims to return to their homes, he said those who engineered communal riots “don’t want you to return to your villages”. Earlier in October, Rahul had claimed that Pakistan’s ISI was trying to recruit disgruntled riot-affected youngsters to carry out its nefarious designs. He had said intelligence inputs revealed that some ISI agents were in touch with riot victims.
Meanwhile, protestors believed to be belonging to the Muslim community showed Rahul black flags while he was returning to Muzaffarnagar after visiting a relief camp at Shamil. Congress was quick to allege that the ruling Samajwadi Party in UP had stage-managed the protests.
His latest statement during his closely guarded visit to relief camps for those affected by the recent communal riots has angered the Muslim community leaders, who see him as someone far from reality. “Nobody wants to stay in this chilling cold in relief camps. We are not here out for any benefit or affection. Several children have died here. Instead of creating an atmosphere for our return, Rahul has put salt on our wounds,” says Maulana Mufti Zulikar Ali, head of imams’ organisation in Uttar Pradesh.
Gandhi also held interactions with riot victims at nearby Khurgan camp where Congress has put up stalls for medical assistance and treatment. “Those who engineer communal riots want that you should not go back. This benefits them. They want to keep you away from your villages. I know it is difficult and there is also fear there but we have to think beyond. This will not be good in the long run,” he told the riot-affected people. “The message goes out that you will not go back to your villages. Those fanning communal riots want precisely this to happen,” the Congress vice-president said. The victims told him unless those guilty of orchestrating riots are not punished and an atmosphere of security is not created, it is difficult for them to return.
At present, more than 25,000 people are staying in various relief camps in Muzaffarnagar district.
Gohar Siddiqui, spokesperson of Jamait-e-ulema- Hind, described Rahul’s remarks as childish.
“Making such remarks second time in a row shows his attitude and understanding,” he told dna on phone from Muzaffarnagar.
“Earlier, he mentioned ISI’s hand in Muzaffarnagar riot and now he is asking the riot victims to return to their houses. I have to say that Rahul Gandhi makes statements without realising its implications. Such a senior leader should not make statement before ascertaining facts,” Siddiqui said.
“People living in these make-shift camps had lost their family members, and their houses were burnt. And all these was perpetrated on them by their neighbours. Unless, all those responsible for the massacre are punished, they will never feel safe to go back to their villages,” he added.
Siddiqui also said that though the district administration has registered more than 500 FIRs, many accused are still roaming free. Muzammeel, a social activist, said that now the district administration is also asking people staying in relief camps to return to their villages.
Communal riots tore through the western Uttar Pradesh town of Muzaffarnagar in September this year, leaving nearly 60 people dead and close to 40,000 homeless.
Out in the cold
25,000 The number of people living in relief camps in Muzaffarnagar
60 The number of people killed in the riots
40,000 The number of people rendered homeless
500 The number of FIRs registered after the riots