Shamli (UP): Rahul Gandhi came face to face with the bitter reality of the deep chasm between communities after the communal riots in the sugar belt of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli as he made an unannounced visit to the relief camps
and villages in the twin districts on Sunday.

While the intent to stay together is there, the mistrust among communities runs high noting which Gandhi talked about the need for “mediation”. He also stressed on the urgency to improve the “very bad conditions” in the camps.

Gandhi made a fervent appeal to the riot victims to return home cautioning them that communal forces want to keep them separate but, scores of Muslim victims in camps at Malakpur, Bharnau, Barnali and Madarsa Dabhedi Khurd said a resounding “no” fearing violence back home.

At Malakpur camp, where Gandhi’s cavalcade reached criss-crossing the village road via Bapouli, Sanouli Khurd and Kairana via the dilapidated Kairana bypass road in an apparent bid to keep the visit secret, the camp dwellers complained that 23 children have died here due to cold in absence of warm clothes.

Complaints were similar at most of camps located on both sides of the village road dotted with sugarcane farms.

“We will not go back. They are powerful,” a youth said bitterly at Khurgan prompting Gandhi to ask “How many dabang (muslcemen) are there?”

Mufti Aslam at Malakpur was, however, agitated that the state administration wanted a pledge from the camp-dwellers that they would not go back to their villages if they have received a compensation of Rs five lakh earmarked for the rehabilitation of the displaced.

As Gandhi repeatedly asked him what should be done so that the victims could return to their homes, he insisted that it is not possible unless those who carried out the riots and “are still moving scot free” are put behind bars.

At Baranali a woman screamed, “I have lost my son and they have also burnt my house. What will I do by going there?”

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