“We, as a society, have failed Muzaffarnagar victims”

Interview: Maulana Mahmood Madani, general secretary, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind

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Aasha Khosa | April 11, 2016


#Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind   #Ground Report   #Muzaffarnagar Riots Victims   #Muzaffarnagar Riots   #Muzaffarnagar   #Maulana Mahmood Madani  

Why has nobody been punished for the Muzaffarnagar riots so far?

The most apparent reason for the accused walking free after all the witnesses turned hostile in four of the cases so far is the weak prosecution. The officer appointed by the UP government to press cases against the accused, who had been identified by the survivors, was negligent in discharging his responsibilities. We, however, realised it only at the fag-end of the trial. At that time, we protested and even managed to get him [Sajad Rana] transferred. The government [of UP] has since appointed a new prosecutor to handle the rest of the Muzaffarnagar riot cases.

Why didn’t your organisation monitor the trial?

Yes, you are right about our poor handling of the riot aftermath. Since historically, we, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, have assigned ourselves a particular political role – of strengthening nationalistic forces in India – we were reluctant to jump into monitoring the progress of the legal cases. Frankly, so far in Muzaffarnagar we had only played the role of an NGO after the riots. The Jamiat and its affiliates were involved in distributing relief and helping victims rebuild their lives. At political level, though, we have organised rallies in Meerut and other places [in western UP] to raise awareness about the dangers of divisive forces. 

How do you compare the Muzaffarnagar riots with those of Gujarat 2002?

In hindsight, I have realised that NGOs had played a major role in securing justice for the victims of Gujarat riots. However, in Muzaffarnagar, after playing a major role in arranging and disbursing relief for the displaced people and victims, they went missing from the scene. While there was a sustained campaign by the media and activists in Gujarat, nobody seemed to care for the people of Muzaffarnagar.

What are you planning next?

We are consulting legal luminaries and social activists from all over India on the outcome of the first four trials of the riots. Honestly, we, at the Jamiat, have neither enough human resources to track the cases nor the legal expertise. We however understand that the option of moving the National Human Rights Commission to seek retrial in the four cases is available to us. After all, NHRC had played a key role in the reopening of some Gujarat riot cases.

Unlike Gujarat, why did the NHRC not take a suo moto cognisance of the circumstances in which the witnesses were supposed to depose in the Muzaffarnagar riot cases?

At present the environment in the country is such that all the institutions including the judiciary, NHRC, media and TV channels are under tremendous pressure. They are unable to play the same proactive role that the NHRC had played in undoing the miscarriage of justice in Gujarat.

Why did the Muslim leadership not play a proactive role after the Muzaffarnagar riots?

Honestly, we at the Jamiat are also to be blamed for this. We could not foresee that witnesses who continued to live without security would turn hostile in the court of law. Threats and insecurity can make witnesses cold to pursuing justice. In Gujarat, activists like Teesta Setalvad had protected witnesses physically so that they could speak the truth and bring the criminals to justice. Teesta invited so much trouble for her brave act. We, as a society, have failed the Muzaffarnagar victims in getting justice. I am not the one to absolve myself from this responsibility. It’s our failure and let’s admit it. We should have taken care and protected witnesses, and prevented them from turning hostile. 

UP is getting ready for next year’s elections. How do you see the situation from the perspective of the minorities?

I am afraid that with elections in mind, politicians in the state will try to play foul and divide the society. We have to raise awareness about their ways and also the partisan ways of the state; they say one thing and do just the opposite. But the reality is that one has to fight for justice; nobody will offer it to you.

Some leaders like Sanjeev Balyan, a riot accused who is a minister in the central government, have already started making provocative speeches in western UP. How would you counter such people?

Balyan is one person who does not care for his country. He wants to divide India on caste and religious basis. I refuse to speak about such a person.

Has the rehabilitation of all riot-affected families been completed?

No, the government has paid compensation to the families which were directly affected by the riots in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli. However, during the riots fear had spread all around and many Muslims had to flee from their homes to safe locations in neighbouring districts. At present, 100 such families are living in camps at Jhinjhana. As per the government norms, they do not qualify for aid and relief. We are looking after their needs.
 

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