Muzaffarnagar: Riot Survivors Lose Hope Of Fair Trial As Cases Against Politicians Proposed To Be Withdrawn
SAURABH SHARMA, KAMAL BHARGAVA
Muzaffarnagar: “When all else is lost, the future still remains.” This saying could have been a source of relief to the victims of 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. However, survivors were in for a shock when the Uttar Pradesh government made a move to withdraw 131 cases pertaining to the deadly communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts which claimed at least 60 lives and displaced over 40,000 people.
In March 2018, Yogi Adityanath-led government announced that it had decided to withdraw criminal cases against politicians — including BJP leaders like Uttar Pradesh minister Suresh Rana, former Union minister Sanjiv Baliyan, MP Bhartendu Singh, MLA Umesh Malik, and firebrand Hindu leader Sadhvi Prachi.
Out of the 131 cases slated for withdrawal by the incumbent government, 24 cases involved charges of murder and attempt to murder. A total of 503 cases had been lodged against 1,455 persons at police stations in the two districts by the-then SP government, PTI reported.
“Government’s decision to withdraw cases is wrong. The last ray of hope is also finished now. We have seen four years of SP government and one year of BJP government. Both the governments are least bothered about the survivors,” said Munni, a riot victim.
No hope of a fair trial
The political leaders have been accused and booked for hate speeches and violating the prohibitory orders.
After the clashes, 17 FIRs were lodged against different leaders, including one for the Mahapanchayat — which was organised by the Bharatiya Kisan Union leaders. The-then Chief Judicial Magistrate also issued non-bailable warrants against 16 politicians, including BJP leaders.
On 20 August 2013, BSP MP Kadir Rana was also booked for his alleged hate speech in Khalapar area of Muzaffarnagar. Rana, who was absconding initially, surrendered on 17 December 2013 and was sent to judicial custody. BJP MLA Sangeet Som was also arrested for delivering provocative speeches and allegedly uploading a fake video that showed a purportedly Muslim mob killing a Hindu youth. While Sadhvi Pragya was booked under for giving a slip to police and visiting riot-affected areas despite prohibitory orders, several BJP leaders including Sanjiv Baliyan, Sangeet Som and Umesh Malik were booked under various charges relating to inciting and attempting to incite hatred among communities.
Survivors of the riots are disgruntled with the government because of the move. “I cannot say anything about the party leaders but I do not see any hope of a fair trial. I don’t think justice will be delivered,” said Shahnaz, a mother of two who resides in the survivor camp and is waiting for her compensation. She says she will move to a safer place along with her husband, a daily wager, once they receive compensation. “I cannot understand the motive behind withdrawing the cases against political leaders but one thing is for sure, people will not get justice. BJP wants to save their skin, especially of their leaders who are the main culprits,” says Aslam, another survivor, who runs a small ration shop in the survivors camp and has received the compensation. He does not want to go anywhere else to live. He has five members in his family.
‘Panel reviewing applications for withdrawal’
The district authorities too have reportedly shown some dissent against the withdrawal move with many even asking not to withdraw cases against politicians named in the 2013 riots. Sources said the local administration has already intimated the same to the UP government after scrutinizing the status of these cases.
The procedure will involve the government asking the district chief, SSP or SP if the cases can be withdrawn in public interest followed by a scrutiny done by the appointed panel of lawyers who will review the applications. The selected applications will be sent to the law department which will approach the court for withdrawing the cases.
A senior lawyer who is dealing with these cases told 101Reporters that senior BJP leaders have issued strict orders that only ‘politically motivated’ cases would be considered for withdrawing.
“Only 200 out of the 4,000 withdrawal applications received by the state government were assigned to us. Our bosses made it very clear that applications made by criminals or by people accused of heinous crimes under serious sections should not be considered for the withdrawal. So far, we have not sent any letter for withdrawing to the law department. The lawyers and the government are minutely reviewing each and every application,” the lawyer revealed on the condition of anonymity. “Ever since the media reported on this issue, there has been an increase in the number of applications. I have personally rejected numerous applications which were for serious offences,” he told 101Reporters.
The government has been severely criticised for the alleged obstruction of justice. Government agencies have consistently emphasized that only cases lodged due to political vendetta will be withdrawn.
During the last Vidhan Sabha session, Yogi Adityanath’s government represented that 20,000 politically motivated cases will be withdrawn. In fact, a bill in this regard was tabled in the winter session of the UP Assembly.
“What else can one expect from the governments? The SP and BSP regimes have not even given us the compensation yet. Our life is not settled and is, in fact, getting worse day by day,” said Shaukeen, another survivor of the riots living in shelter camp. “Though I am not aware of which leaders were involved in fomenting trouble, I do understand that all is fair in politics. It would not be a surprise if cases are withdrawn.”
UP law minister Brajesh Pathak avoided repeated attempts to get him to comment on the development.
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