Compensation package brings fresh hope to Bhagalpur riot victims

June 12th, 2008 - 10:56 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Imran Khan
Patna, June 12 (IANS) It has been a wait for justice for nearly two decades for the victims of the 1989 Bhagalpur riots in Bihar. The compensation announced by the central government Thursday has brought hope to many of the victims struggling for survival. The central government sanctioned Rs.298 million for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of the communal riots that had erupted in Bhagalpur town.

The riots erupted after a Hindu religious procession was stoned, allegedly by Muslims. Over 1,000 people, a majority of them Muslims, were killed in the month-long riots in Bhagalpur city in October 1989.

“It was a delayed decision, but at last riot victims like me will get something. The compensation will help us,” said Mohd Nizammuddin, a riot victim who lives at Parbatia Chowk locality in Bhagalpur, about 200 km from here.

The families of the 844 people who were killed in the riots would receive Rs.350,000 each, an official spokesperson told reporters after a cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi Thursday.

The 22 people injured in the riots would be paid Rs.125,000 each, “which would be reduced by the amount already paid by the state government”, he said. This would entail an expenditure of Rs.3 million.

“We hope that the compensation will come to our pockets. It is our right, it should not be delayed any longer,” said Ashraf Ali, another riot victim who lives at Logai village. Five of his family members, including his wife and mother, were killed during the riots.

Another riot victim, Malika Begum, said the compensation was due for long. “It is a right decision taken by the government. Many of the riot victims struggling for survival and living in misery will get some support,” she said.

Qamru Nesa, a riot widow, said the compensation money would give a new lease of life to her and others. She said that her husband and mother-in-law were killed in the riot.

Muslim bodies also welcomed the compensation package. “We are happy that at last our demand of compensation of Rs.350,000 was sanctioned by the government,” said Abu Qaiser, leader of the Muslim United Front.

The state government led by Nitish Kumar had submitted a proposal last year to the central government for compensation on par with that given to victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

The government had earlier provided compensation of Rs.100,000 to over 600 of 853 people identified as riot victims. Official sources said that over 150 victims were not provided compensation due to lack of documents.

Till date, 325 accused were found guilty in the riots and sentenced by the courts. “About 125 accused were awarded life imprisonment till date,” Salahuddin Khan, a senior lawyer associated with the riot cases, said.

In 2006, Nitish Kumar instituted a fresh probe into the riots and constituted a commission of inquiry headed by Justice N.N. Singh, which recommended a relief package at par with the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Kumar also ordered a fresh probe into the 27 riots cases that were closed by police citing lack of evidence.

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