Meerut Violence-Hit Families Forced to Live Under Open Sky
March 18, 2019
Ten days after the Meerut incident where houses of 250 Muslim families were burnt, the affected families have become "hostages" in their own city, as the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government has still not come forward to provide any relief to them. A local social activist told Newsclick that people were living under the open sky on the roadside, as no relief had yet been provided by the government or district administration.
On March 6, over 250 Muslim houses were burnt down in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, allegedly by a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), named Shahid Bharti, who was arrested and sent to the central jail on March 11. Bharti, who is a member of the BJP’s minority wing in Meerut, has reportedly admitted before the police during the investigation of his role in the incident. He has been accused of leading the mob against the slum dwellers. Four other accused have been booked under Sections 307, 436, 147, 148, 149, 426, 303, 504, 506 of the Indian Penal Code.
Many of the families whose slums were burnt have also blamed the police for the incident. According to reports, a brawl took place when officials of the Cantonment Board along with the local police had come to evict ‘encroachers’. When some locals intervened, the police reportedly beat them mercilessly and allegedly set their slums on fire. The police, however, claimed that it was the mob that went on a rampage after authorities tried to remove the encroachments.
Speaking with Newsclick, Mohd Shahnwaz, secretary of Mahigeer Aman Seva Samiti, said: "Why would the government give us compensation when they want us to leave immediately? People have been living in this area since 15 years. After the incident, we are bound to sleep under the open sky because we do not have enough money to buy tents. However, it is a matter of investigation that who burnt down the slums? Take note that police did play a role and everybody was watching.”
Haji Syeed, who is the helping the affected people, told Newsclick, "As of now local people are helping them but still people are living without shelter, adding that the damages are estimated at Rs 5-6 crore, including cash, jewellery and other household items.
He said instead of finding out the real culprits (he named a cantonment board official), the police had arrested nine people, including two women, who in fact had lost their houses. The police, however, claimed that the arrests had been made on the basis of footage but the reality is when the houses was burning, some of the arrested people were running around to save their lives.
Alleging discrimination against the Muslim victims, he said: “Had similar incident happened in another area, the victims usually get instant compensation. Here not a single government official has visited the victims.”
Vijay Gupta, sub Inspector of Sadar Bazar, Bhusa Mandi, however, denied the allegation that a cantonment board officer was involved in burning down the slums. "We have arrested four more people on the basis of photo and video footage. They themselves burnt their slums and are now saying that they are innocent." When asked why would anyone burn their own house, Gupta declined to comment, adding that he was busy in court.
First published in Newsclick.
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