Civil society activists have condemned a recent report published by the National Human Rights Commission into allegations of persecution of Hindu families in Kairana in Uttar Pradesh as being “prejudiced and communally charged”, and demanded that the premiere human rights body withdraw the report.

On September 21, the National Human Rights Commission had published a report enquiring into allegations made by Bharatiya Janta Party member of parliament Hukum Singh in June that 346 Hindu families had been persecuted and driven out of the Muslim-majority town in the previous two years.

The allegations were reported as false by the district and state administration who stated that a door-to-door survey showed that majority of the 346 people named by Hukum Singh had migrated for economic and other reasons. Newspaper dailies including The Indian Express, The Hindu, Hindustan Times had also reported the claims of communal persecution to be false.

While the BJP MP had later withdrawn his claim and said the migration of the families – his list contained several who had died and even those who had migrated from the town five to 20 years back – was “not communal” but because of poor law and order, the NHRC in its report referred to the presence of Muzaffarnagar riot victims in the town as having led to “further deterioration of law and order.”

The civil society activists tore into the commission's report for “blaming desperate riot victims for criminality without citing any credible and independent evidence” at a time when Uttar Pradesh is due to have assembly elections soon.

Lack of facts as basis

The activists include Harsh Mander of Aman Biradari; Akram Chaudhury and Afkar India who work in Shamli; Madhavi Kuckreja and Mamta Verma of Sadbhavana Trust, Lucknow and Farah Naqvi, an activist in Delhi. They were accompanied by riot-affected families from Muzaffarnagar who also addressed the media on September 29.

In particular, they pointed to two statements made in the report. At one place, as point 12, the NHRC report said the following:

“At least 24 witnesses stated that the youths of the specific majority community (Muslims) in Kairana town pass lewd/taunting remarks against the females of the specific minority community in Kairana town. Due to this, females of the specific minority community (Hindus) in Kairana town avoid going outside frequently. However, they could not gather courage to report the matter to the police for the legal action.

As point 18, the report stated:

“In 2013, the post-rehabilitation scenario resulting in resettlement of about 25/30 thousand members of Muslims Community in Kairana Town from district Muzaffarnagar, UP, the demography of Kairana town has changed in favour of the Muslim Community becoming the more dominating and majority community. Most of the witnesses examined and victims feel that the rehabilitation in 2013 has permanently changed the social situation in Kairana town and has led to further deterioration of law and order situation.”

The activists pointed out that the report had failed to cite actual crime records on the claim of sexual harassment. By failing to place the evidence on record in the form of data on criminal cases, the report was akin to stereotyping and rumour-mongering and spreading false notions of “Hindu community honour” being under threat, which has been used as the pretext for numerous previous incidents of communal violence,” the activists noted.

“The NHRC report is short on logic and facts," said Zafar Iqbal, a coordinator with Aman Biradari, an NGO working to promote communal harmony and peace in riot-affected areas. "It does not mention the crime records reference number for cases of these alleged sexual harassment. It also falsely notes the number of families affected by Muzaffarnagar riots who have settled in Kairana since 2013 as 10 times higher than the actual number.”

Iqbal cited a recent survey, “Living Apart: Communal Violence and Forced Displacement in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli”, published by the Center for Equity Studies, a sister organisation of Aman Biradari, that had found an estimated 50,000 people affected by the riots had scattered in Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, and other districts immediately after the riots. Over 30,000 had not been able to return home till now. “Of these, the survey had found 270 families – approximately 2000 people – had settled in Kairana Town,” said Iqbal. “If NHRC can counter these facts on the number of families, we will withdraw our statement.”

National Human Rights Commission spokesperson Jaimini Kumar Srivastava declined to comment on the claims. “Whatever the Commission had to state is already on the website,” he said.