PUCL July 2002
20 July 20/02
A tale of Maretha riot affected persons
Maretha, a village just 9 km from the Vadodara City, is one of the villages where the Riot Affected Persons (RAPs) have not been allowed to enter and resettle in their own homes.
In the first week of April, following an attack by militant mob, all the 82 Muslim families of Maretha were forced to flee to Vadodara City. Currently, some 35 of these families are living in the Charotar Rahat Camp in Yakutpura area of Vadodara City and the rest are living with their relatives in surrounding villages. All is waiting for an opportunity to return to their village Maretha.
Recently, the district collector and police commissioner had promised to help these RAPs to return to their homes in Maretha, but soon afterwards changed their position. The administration succumbed to the pressure from a few notorious communal elements of the locality, which have successfully blocked the rehabilitation of the RAPs.
The state administration has declared the situation as "normal". Yet these 82 families from Maretha, continue to languish in this camp, which has been "officially" closed since June 30!
Because of its "closed" status, the government relief and ration has been stopped. If only, the families in the Charotar camp could shut their pain of hunger, as easily as the government shut the ration! These families of Maretha are staring at the dual tragedy - hunger and inability to return to their homes. Today, they are completely dependent on community support that is fast proving to be inadequate.
Maretha was a relatively safe village for all its residents, Hindus and Muslims, for over a month since the tragedy in Godhra and the riots that followed. Indeed, some Muslim families who were displaced from Makerpura area of Vadodara City during the initial days of riots had taken shelter in Maretha. But this peace did not last long.In the first week of April all the 82 Muslim families and other displaced families who had taken shelter in Maretha were attacked and forced to leave the village by a militant mob. Their houses were looted and then set on fire destroyed. The standing crop in the farms destroyed or looted. Except for eight partially destroyed houses, all others were completely destroyed. In addition, about forty-five vehicles including motorbikes, auto-rickshaws and tempos were burned and destroyed.
After wandering through the countryside, these families finally took shelter at Charotar Rahhat Camp at Yakutpura, which was already teeming with over two thousand RAPs from different parts of Vadodara City and district.
Officially the Charotar
Rahhat Camp is closed from June 30, 2002 onwards. According to Camp Sanchalak
shri Najirbhai Gilatewala, the administration has stopped supplying ration
to the camp despite that they are providing shelter and food to thirty
five families who are still in the Camp. So far the camp organizers have
managed to secure supply of relief and ration from the community sources.
But these sources are now drying up as the resources of the Muslim community
have been stretched to limits during these four months havoc. And the
camp organizers are in dilemma. They must find a way to either resettle
these families in their village as early as possible, or the
At about 7 PM they
went to see Collector Vadodara. The collector told them that right at
that time the joint commissioner Shri Thakur is holding meeting with the
villagers and would resolve the issue of rehabilitation. Then the representative
told the collector that their all houses are completely destroyed and
demolished and there is no place to cover their head. They urged the
The rehabilitation issue of RAPs from Maretha is deadlocked. Officially the Charotar camp is closed and all have returned to the village. So there is no urgency on the part of administration to deal with these criminal elements firmly. On the other hand the camp organizers are finding it increasingly difficult to support the 82 families. The camp organizers have given a dead line of 21/07/02 to RAPs to find out alternative accommodation. It seems that tomorrow the RAPs would be on street.
Apart from stoppage of relief ration from the camp, the compensation awarded by the administration for houses damaged in Maretha village has been extremely meager. As per the rehabilitation policy, Rs 50,000/- is to be awarded to house owners whose property has been completely destroyed. While most of the Muslim houses in Maretha have been completely destroyed, the actual compensation paid to the owners is typically meager between Rs 1,000/- to Rs 4,000/-. Only three households have received up to Rs 25,000/- for the damage to property. Clearly, the procedure to assess the damage done to property has been quite arbitrary.
Although the riots
have subsided, for the victims of Maretha there is no end to their long
ordeal in sight. They cannot continue to stay in the camp, they are not
in a position to return to their village, they are not assured of their
safety, and the compensation package has offered so far has been very
inadequate to help them make a fresh start to their lives. As for the
administration, these helpless victims of Maretha no longer exist. If
only one could wipe away the