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Akhilesh Yadav offers justice, faces anger: ‘Where was the government then?’

Author: Apurva, Dipankar Ghose
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: September 16, 2013
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/akhilesh-yadav-heckled-during-his-visit-to-riotshit-muzaffarnagar/1169503/

Wherever Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav went, anger followed. A week after communal violence tore through Muzaffarnagar district, killing at least 39 and leaving thousands homeless, Akhilesh Sunday toured few of the affected villages — mostly aboard a helicopter and with heavy police escort. He promised government jobs and swift justice to the victims but got a tepid response from locals.

His first stop was Kawaal village, some 15 km from the city, where a triple murder involving two Jats, Gaurav and Sachin, and a Muslim, Shahnawaz, ostensibly heightened tensions between the two communities. Akhilesh first visited Shahnawaz's father Salim and then the families of Gaurav and Sachin in the neighbouring Malikpura village.

As he left Kawaal, villagers waved black flags and chanted slogans against the government for failing to control the situation. They also alleged that the chief minister met local politicians and people from outside instead of listening to grievances of villagers of the region.

After visiting Kandhla town, which now houses close to 16,000 refugees, Akhilesh stopped at Bassikalan, where close to 5,000 have taken refuge in a madrasa. "The deaths have caused much grief to us all. I have heard stories from villagers today of unmentionable horrors, of lives lost, of families torn apart and of livelihood lost. I am here to promise you today that those guilty will be found and brought to justice," the chief minister said.

At both camps, refugees who lost family members swamped Yadav and his entourage before they could even take the stage. Breaking through the police cordon, Naaseeb Khan, from Kutba village, shouted, "I have lost my house, my animals and I cannot find my family. Where was the government then?" Similar scenes were witnessed across most villages the chief minister visited.

In response to the public anger at the refugee camps, Akhilesh said, "Please make a list of all those you have lost, and the damages you have suffered. Submit this list to the government and we will take care of them all."

Exhorting Muzaffarnagar to go back to its peaceful ways, he said, "Whether the violence could or could not be stopped is not the issue. It should have been stopped. The important thing now is to rebuild trust. We must live together as we once did. The government is with you and we must all work together to restore faith in each other."

Akhilesh also visited the family of television journalist, Rajesh Verma, who was killed in the clashes.

Later in the evening, Akhilesh announced a government job for one dependent of each riot victim.
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