By Mumtaz Alam Falahi, TwoCircles.net,
Patna: While several thousand victims of the Bhagalpur riot, now living a miserable life, are awaiting proper compensation, the Nitish Kumar Government of Bihar is spending huge public money on the one-member Bhagalpur riot enquiry panel that he set up four and half years ago.
The Bhagalpur Communal Riot Judicial Enquiry Commission that Nitish formed on 26th February 2006 was given six-month time period for a report on the 1989-90 communal riot in the handloom town of Bihar. The Commission took one and half years for an Interim Report that it submitted on 28th August 2007. The final report is yet to come even three years have passed after the Interim Report. Meanwhile, the Commission has been consuming about Rs 3 lakh per month. In the first three and half years since formation, the state government has spent about Rs 1.5 crore on the panel. Will it turn out to be another Liberhan Commission?
Responding to an RTI petition filed by Delhi-based activist Afroz Alam Sahil, the Bihar Government in its letter dated 27th October 2009 says that Rs 1,44,83,000 has been spent on the salary and other perks of the staff of the Commission. But what is the condition of the riot victims? Have they got compensation from the state and central government properly?
The Interim Report recommended compensation to the Bhagalpur victims like the 1984 Sikh riot victims – Rs 3.5 lakh as ex-gratia from Centre and Rs 2500 monthly pension from State besides other facilities. “This interim report is submitted to the State Government, so that the Central Government may be moved for announcing/allowing similar package to the 1989-90 Bhagalpur Communal Riot. The remaining part of Inquiry Report would be submitted in due course,” the Commission wrote in the Interim Report.
Acting on the recommendation, the Central Government released Rs 29.89 crore in two installments for the Bhagalpur victims. “But the state government of Nitish Kumar sat on the amount for nine months. They woke up only when we disclosed in a press conference about the central fund to the state for the purpose,” said Abu Qaisar, president of United Muslim Front.
Now the district government is not distributing the amount among the victims properly, he adds. “The state government has also not acted fully on the Interim Report. The report asked the government to pay pension to 844 victims, but only 300 are being paid the monthly pension of Rs 2500. And for the last six-seven months that pension has also stopped,” he informed.
The first commission had identified 1981 victims but the new commission of the state government has included only 844 victims. “They have not counted the missing persons even though the law clearly says that missing persons of such situation will be considered dead after seven years,” he says. Moreover, no effort has been made to employ the family members of the riot victims as the Sikh Riot package says.
“For family members of killed persons in the riot, special employment drive should be taken up to employ them in Central/State govt services – this is part of the package of Sikh riot, but not implemented in Bhagalpur case,” Qaisar says.
Recently he has moved Patna High Court for fourth grade job to the family members of the victims, citing a February 2000 Bihar Home Secretary order.
Qaisar played active role in ensuring 1984-like compensation for the Bhagalpur victims. He sent his lawyer to argue the case before the Nitish Govt panel of enquiry – which the Commission admitted in the Interim Report as well. “Sri Waliur Rahman, learned advocate for Muslim United Front argued that the compensation paid to the victims were inadequate and they should be paid compensation at the same rate, which was paid to the victims of 1984 Riot by the Central Government,” says the report.