Saturday, June 14, 2008

Finally, compensation to Bhagalpur riot victims after 20 years

This is one of the decisions of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government that is surely going to strike a chord with a large section of populace especially the Muslims.

It has taken nearly two decades but it's definitely a step in the right direction, a move that will help hundreds of households that had lost their family members.

The riots had occurred in 1989 and the lawlessness in Bhagalpur had continued for months. The figure of deaths was estimated as high as 4,000. After the Jabalpur riots of 1961 , the Ahmedabad riot of 1969 and Moradabad riot , it was the biggest carnage in Independent India along with the Neilly massacre of Assam.

It was a different era in eighties, much before the advent of electronic media and it had taken months for the outside world to get to know the extent of death and destruction in Bhagalpur riots where bodies were dug out from fields much later.

Though the decade had witnessed major riots in Northern Indian cities including Meerut, Firozabad, Moradabad and Hashimpura-Maliana killings, the magnitude of riots in Bhagalpur had eclipsed all previous killings.

The passions had been building up for quite sometime after later Rajiv Gandhi's former aide Arun Nehru ensured the opening of locks at Ayodhya. The aim was to appease the 'Hindu voter' who was apparently upset due to the Congress' stand on Shahbano issue.

Before Bhagalpur, Bihar didn't have a history of rioting on such large scale. The rural area of Bhagalpur district was also affected. At Longain alone the figure of Muslims who were killed was 15oo. The rioters had butchered the innocents, buried the bodies and planted vegetables over them to conceal the deaths.

After sanctioning compensation for victims of Gujarat pogrom, the decision of UPA government to earmark Rs 3o crore for the Bhagalpur riot victims has come as a piece of rare good news. Hundreds of women were widowed in the riot and for them and their families lost their every bit.

The ex-gratia of Rs 3.5 lakh will help has come too late, but at least, it will help them in improving their lives.
At least, Nitish Kumar has the civility to accept that the financial package was necessary. He did make a pitch for riot victims and had also appointed commission to probe the riots after coming to power.

This is in sharp contrast to the BJP that had put up a shameless stance after the UPA government had announced the package for the victims of Gujarat riots. One hopes that there would never be communal riots of such magnitude in future in India.