Thursday, December 26, 2013

UP government admits children’s deaths

File photo of a child being buried at a relief camp in Muzaffarnagar (Pic: Indian Express)
NEW DELHI (AA) - After weeks of denial, Uttar Pradesh (UP) state government, has for the first time acknowledged that at least 34 children below the age of 12 died in relief camps set up in aftermath of Muzaffarnagar communal riots between Hindus and Muslims which started on September 7 killing more than 50 people, majority of them Muslims.   
A high-level fact-finding committee appointed by state government confirmed the independent media reports that 34 children have succumbed to death in the aftermath of communal clashes.
The committee said that over 4,700 riot-affected people continue to live in relief camps contradicting chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav’s reported statement that there were no riot victims in the relief camps. 
Mulayam Singh Yadav, chief of regional Samajwadi Party which rules UP, made a controversial statement earlier this week that there is no riot victims in relief camps, only conspirators and political activists planted by the Congress and BJP.
Yadav’s comments were slammed as “insensitive” by rights activists and Muslim leaders at a time when several independent media reports confirmed the child-deaths with the onset of an extreme winter in ill-equipped relief camps. The media reports highlighted state negligence, poor facilities, like abject living conditions of the relief camps with only plastic sheets serving as roofs. 
Announcing the findings of the committee, AK Gupta, UP Principal Secretary, Home, said, “There are only displaced people in the camps”.
However, according to the committee, only 10-12 children died in relief camps of which four were due to pneumonia. The rest died at government or private hospitals where their parents took them. The deaths occurred between September 7 and December 20.
The committee ruled out “medical negligence” and said no one died of severe cold or any epidemic in the camps.
The committee recommended that state government should improve the facilities in relief camps.
Three months after the communal riots, thousands of riot victims continue to live in makeshift relief camps refusing to return to their homes as they fear fresh leash of violence upon return.
Rahul Gandhi, Congress vice-President and Gandhi family scion, visited the relief camps on Tuesday December 24 saying the living conditions in the camps are “terrible”.
“The conditions in the camps are terrible, children are dying. There is no animosity with the Samajwadi Party government, but Akhilesh Yadav should do more,” Gandhi had said.
The young Gandhi urged the riot victims and displaced people to return home saying “those engineering communal riots” want them to remain at the camps as “such a situation benefits them”. 
The high-level fact-finding committee also said that people have to be convinced to return home to their villages and assured that their needs of safety and security will be taken care of.
In a spate of violence that broke out on September 7, at least 50 people were killed in Muzaffarnagar and neighboring towns and villages after a Muslim man was killed by the brother and cousin of a Hindu girl after allegedly harassing her. The two killers -- from the Hindu Jat community -- were reportedly lynched by the family of the slain Muslim and others in the locality.

Anadolu Agency, December 26, 2013

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