13, Oct 2006
On August 29, 2006, social activists filed complaints before the National Commission for Minorities.They pointed out that more than 5,000 Muslim families in Gujarat are staying in makeshift colonies in four districts of Gujarat. In view of the tense situation in their original place of residence, these people are unable to return. In the absence of basic amenities like safe drinking water, drainage, health education, etc., the condition of those living in these colonies is pitiable. They therefore requested the NCM to make a first-hand assessment of the entire issue by visiting the camps, and to issue suitable directives to the government on the basis of their findings.
A team from NCM visited a large number of camps including those in the districts of Panchmahal, Dahod, Sabarkantha, and the city of Ahmedabad.
The findings of the NCM, found in this report, are a sign of the apathy and indifference of the state government towards its own people and its unwillingness to help these internally displaced persons return to their homes and livelihood. The main observations of the committee were:
There was overwhelming evidence that there continue to be large numbers of internally displaced Muslim families in Gujarat who are living in sub human conditions in colonies constructed entirely by NGOs.
They are not there by choice but because they are unable to return to their original place of habitation.
There has been no support from the state to compensate them for their loss of habitual place of residence and normal livelihood or provide basic services and livelihood options to allow them to live with dignity in their present location.
There has been no attempt to secure a safe environment or facilitate their return to their homes.
Local Muslim organisers who have tried to procure some rights and entitlements for these displaced survivors have found themselves the targets of threat and harassment by the local police.
Far from admitting that the inmates were, in fact, ‘internally displaced persons,’ the authorities argued that they have chosen to willingly remain in the camps even after some of their family members had returned to their original habitation where they continued to live and ply their trades in absolute security. The NCM team found such reasoning to be erroneous.
The persons staying in homes in these relief camps lived in abject poverty. With some exceptions, the houses contained little except for bedding and kitchen utensils. Further, the NCM found that many residents did not have ration cards.
The residents of these colonies fear returning to the places they had fled from partly because they have nothing left back home to return to, and partly because many of them were eyewitness to murders, arson and looting during the communal violence.
(Reference: “Need of the hour,” Communalism Combat, July 2007: Part II)