UP violence: Women’s predicament amidst uncertainty of life in the relief camps, and the remote possibility of returning to their home

womenBy Counterview Desk

A just-released report, “30 days and counting…” on the aftermath of violence in August-end Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts, Uttar Pradesh”, prepared by the  Joint Citizens’ Initiative (JCI), comprising women’s rights activists, health and medical professionals, and lawyers, and submitted to the Government of Uttar Pradesh and the Government of India has expressed serious concern that at a time when the nation is “outraged about the security of women across the country, Uttar Pradesh is failing to provide even a minimal sense of security to women in the relief camps”.

Based on visit of relief camps at Bassikalan Madrasa, Kamalpur, Tavli Madrasa, Shahpur Madrasa,  Jogi Khera, Shahpur Madrasa at Haji Ala Sahab’s residence, Husainpur and Loi ( all in Muzaffarnagar district), and Kandla Eidgah in Kandla village (Shamli district), the JCI team also visited Phugana, Lisarh and Kutba-Kutbi villages in the two districts to make a spot inquiry on the extreme sense of insecurity.The report comments, “The uncertainty of life in the relief camp, and the remote possibility of returning to their villages, has pushed women to get their daughters married. Security of young girls is an enormous weight on the minds of parents; they are being seen as a liability. In many cases, the marriages are clearly seeking to shift the burden of responsibility from the parents to the husbands, because the girls who are being married are simply moving from their ‘natal’ relief camp to another camp where their husbands are located.”

While in the immediate aftermath of violence, women in camps who spoke openly of the general pattern of violence fell silent on the issue of sexual violence, now things seem to be changing, the report suggests, “Today, despite the high premium on notions of ‘family and women’s honour’ and the consequent enforced silences around sexual assault, women in the camps are not only speaking, they are actively seeking justice. Five FIRs on sexual assault have been filed. Many more women in the camps spoke to this team about sexual violence of varying degrees and said they wanted to file FIRs”.

During its visit, the JCI team documented and examined a range of health problems, including including diarrhoea, amoebiasis, cold and cough, viral fever, conjunctivitis, scabies, dermatitis, infected small wounds and ear infections. “Many children were observed with scabies and dermatitis and there was a possibility of spreading the infection to others in such crowded camps (among children); headache, body ache, anaemia, backache, chronic bronchitis, constipation, dermatitis, conjunctivitis, loss of appetite, gastritis, amoebic dysentery, acidity and stomatitis, (suspected) tuberculosis”.

“Most pregnant women were already anaemic and underweight and the situations in the camps would only aggravate their health status / conditions. Similarly, with mothers who had delivered in the camps more attention needed to be paid in terms of food intake to meet their nutritional needs, along with iron and calcium supplements”, the report says.

It regrets, “No auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM), no gynaecologist nor any woman doctor from the government facility had visited and examined them. Antenatal and postnatal care was completely absent in the camps. Women were suffering from various problems like leucorrhoea, micturition, fever and urinary tract infection (UTI) and anaemia. No separate space for women who recently delivered was available in the camp and they were living in tents, without any assistance from any skilled birth attendants or an ANM. No post natal care (PNC) related services were provided to them.”

It adds, “The newborn babies were mostly of low birth weight. No immunization services were provided to the new born and infants in the camps. And no provisions were made for supplementary feeding of infants.” The team observed among children that many were suffering from common cold (coryza), fever, dermatitis, conjunctivitis, ear infections and respiratory infections, diarrhoea and skin diseases. The team could observe anaemia and chronic malnutrition symptoms in few children. There were many cases of skin infections like rashes, warts, abscess, scabies observed.

Apart from “serious injuries, wounds”, which the women suffered during the violence, the team observed mental health issues including depression, anxiety, fear, post trauma stress disorder (PTSD) among adults. The report states, “Assessment of PTSD and provision of counseling, crucial in a post-riot situation, remained neglected. In general, stress and trauma manifested in both physical and psychological symptoms. People expressed helplessness, fear, insecurity, anxiety, agitation, fatigue, lethargy and depression.”

Referring to “government negligence in terms of health services and health care delivery system was apparent in almost all the camps visited”, the report says, “Medical facilities in term of human resources, drugs and expertise were inadequate, ad hoc and with poor standards; local primary health centres (PHCs) and community health centres (CHCs) were not proactively involved. Neither doctors nor ANM/ lady health supervisors, dressers or staff nurses from the primary health centre (PHC)/ community health centre (CHC) were available to address / treat health problems in the camps.”

As for basic medicines, it says, “Analgesics i.e. paracetamol, diclofenac sodium, antibiotics like co-trimoxazole, and anti-allergic like cetrizine were available but not sufficiently. Parenteral drugs like IV antibiotics, IM antibiotics, saline, dextrose and IV anesthetic drugs were completely absent at almost all places. These are necessary in the context where many severely injured patients are residing in the camps. There was no apparent coordination among the local health authorities and the few health personnel working in the camps.”

The report stresses, “Many women we met have been separated from their husbands, children and other family members. They have often lost all means of communication with those lost, some of whom were not in the village at the time of violence. Many women did not have access to phones; in many cases they do not remember the contact numbers of their family members and other relatives; leaving them with no means to trace their whereabouts.”

Pointing towards how women live in daily terror that their missing family members have been killed and buried without trace, the report says, “There is no systematic action on this by the state administration. No attempt to reach out to women, who have been widowed, or otherwise left alone, with no social support. There has been no investigation, or circulation of lists of missing persons in each camp. Nor any effort to reunite families, if still alive.”

Referring to the damage to education because of the violence, the report says, n Jogikhera camp in Muzaffarnagar, the managing committee has arranged access to a room in a nearby village, so that families in the camp can help their children resume studies. “Since many camps are being run in residential madrasas, the academic calendar of the madrasas has gone haywire. For example, the Islamiya  madrasa at Bassikalan, which is now a relief camp, has not held regular classes since the violence began”, the report says.

The report says, “Many women in the camps are anxious about the loss of their children’s education, and destruction of young lives. Especially worried are those young people, boys and girls who have to take their board examinations at the end of this academic year. Many have sought help to recover their books and documents so that they can resume their studies. ”.

It particularly regrets, “As a result of the violence, more children are likely to shift from mainstream education to madrasa based education. Young girls shared their fears of their education being cut short forever; because for their families at the moment the priority is security of the girls and not their education.”

Regretting that state “is not running any relief camps visited by this team in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts”, the report states, in the existing camps, the women have hardly any say. They “play no part in decision making related to distribution of scarce resources – rations, blankets, medicines. In most camps, there are no separate enclosures or bathrooms for women. Women’s health issues are not a priority for the management committees.” As the administration of the camps was completely controlled by men, women were left with little choice but to turn to them, sometimes total strangers, for their most basic needs.”

The report says, “There is no clear information on compensation entitlements, for loss of many forms of bodily injury, loss of property or principles for assessment for such losses”, adding, “No officer of the state is helping women access any of these entitlements. In many cases, loss of documents and identity papers, as well as absence of bank accounts is an enormous hurdle. One woman whose husband has been killed could not cash her compensation cheque as she did not have any identity documents – her ration card was left behind in the house when they were attacked. In another case, the survivor did not have a bank account and no means to open an account.”

Asking the the Government of India to urgently promulgate the pending communal violence Bill, as for the UP government, it wants it to “ensure immediate safety of persons and property”, It says, “The state government must ensure that that all properties of affected persons whether movable or immovable are protected, in particular, against destruction, vandalism, appropriation, occupation, waste, damage, alienation, misuse, sale or transfer by any means.”

Especially referring to the provisions these relief camps, the report says, they must, at the minimum, provide internally displaced women and girls “due privacy” including toilet and bathing facilities. There must be not less than one toilet per 40 adults and that no dry latrines must be constructed for this purpose, 24 hour security at the relief camp; nutritious food, potable drinking water, and essential medical services including antenatal and postnatal care of expectant mothers, pediatric care and emergency and rehabilitative services for the injured and referral services wherever necessary.

Insisting that all possible steps should be taken to expedite the location and reunion of of the displaced families, particularly children and parents, the report says, “Restoration of all official documents of all such persons that include but are not limited to ration cards, property proofs, government cards and identities, school and college related documents, election cards at the earliest but in any case not later than three months must be the responsibility of the State Government.”

At the same time, the state government should “establish conditions and provide means to enable internally displaced persons to return to their place of ordinary residence or livelihood in safety and with dignity, protected against any threat, intimidation or attack to their life, liberty or property, It must be the duty of the State Government, to provide appropriate compensation to all affected persons, whether or not such person resides in a relief camp.”

There should be a simultaneous “assessment of compensation, in addition to ex-gratia compensation, not just for the bodily injury and loss of earnings of women, but also “moral injury”. it says, compensation should be made for the psychological injury caused to women; and cost of the actions by the authorities and police to take preventive and other actions. As for requirements for legal or expert assistance, medicine and medical services, and psychological and social services, it should be provided by the government.

Then, there should be “regular / daily visits to the camps by a team of sensitive health care providers with special emphasis on women and children.” These should include LHVs/ ANMs/ doctors/ nurses/ gynaecologists/ paediatrician/ counselors/pharmacists/ mental health professionals.

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One thought on “UP violence: Women’s predicament amidst uncertainty of life in the relief camps, and the remote possibility of returning to their home

  1. It is shameful to SP Govt. of Mulayam Singh. Muzaffar nagar never seen this type of violence in past from 1947 even before 1947. Gujarat riots of 2002 of Post Godhra was only 01.% than Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013.

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