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'Blanket of Hope' initiative for Muzaffarnagar riot victims
Thursday December 12, 2013 10:58 PM, Shehzad Poonawalla

MuzaffarnagrThe situation in the relief camps set up for the victims of the Muzaffarnagar riots is fantastic... "Rocking" if you go by the official version by the UP government... Dirty, overflowing toilets, open kitchens amidst piles of filth shared with stray dogs & cattle, poor lighting, clumsy tents made out of tarpaulin sheets, little or no health facilities at camps - these camps spell "Hell Yeah" with a capital H and a capital Y.

With the onset of winter, it is now being reported that dozens of children across various camps are succumbing to the cold. Nonsense...The cold only aggravates the death count but these deaths are primarily due to various diseases "these people" contract given their lack of cleanliness and their low immunity... Hundreds of them using one dirty, Indian style toilet which has no running water, then without washing their hands they eat food (cooked under open skies with flies and dogs and strange reptiles crawling around their utensils). What do you expect?

The UP district administration claims "All is Well" - a claim that you can see and hear resonating at different camps, given their par-excellent conditions. I mean it's so good that even Non Muslims are now asking their homes to be burnt, family members to be sliced, diced & raped and lives to be that they can shift to these comfortable 3 star camps! Won't it give the entire debate on secularism versus communalism a nice twist?

Najma, one of nine siblings, packed in a small tent that frankly fails to provide even the lamest shred of psychological comfort from the cold, informs us how she lost her little sister to the cold. But the jury is still out on whether its the bitterness of the cold that claims casualty after casualty or just the bitterness of OUR apathy! Something to ponder about under warm quilts and well heated, concrete housing? Naah... When you have one death, it's a scandal.. When you have dozens of them, you have a statistic. They're now the problem of some post dated inquiry report.

Then there is a story of a little kid whose fingers were burnt and untreated for over a month. Well that's what you get for lighting a candle inside a cramped tent. These victims, I tell you.. Why do they want lighting and heat? If they "needed" it, wouldn't the UP government provide lights, blankets and the entire laundry list of "luxury goods" including basic health care, relief and Justice these people keep demanding?

The UP government for its part is shutting down camps and encouraging the victims to go back to their villages. They clearly don't like statistics, do they? "That's the most important thing. They must go back" informs a semi-intelligent ( i'm being generous here) looking health department official. Doesn't matter then, that these victims look nay stare back at him in absolute bewilderment , that asks of him with wide eyes "Huzoor go back to what? Old friends who turned on us and burnt our homes and stole our stuff and now threaten us? To neighbours who turned into rapists? Go back to what SARKAR?"

Anyway, those people in UP's killing fields have given up. The falling mercury hardly bothers them now that they are immune to our free-falling humanity. The political class will go for a photo-up or two. The intellectual class will discuss drawing room scenarios. Editors will scoff at the state of affairs. Then we will all just forget about it and get on with our lives.

Feeling offended? I'm glad you are. You stopped feeling guilt or compassion so how about some offence for a change.

But if you can still feel a little sense of responsibility towards a fellow citizen or two! Here's a simple solution- One blanket of hope is all it will take to keep the bitter cold of apathy away. This winter spread the Warmth, donate a Blanket of Hope.

Contact for further detail and contribution:
Shehzad Poonawalla

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