Akhilesh’s village sees carnival as Muzaffarnagar faces ‘cold’ deaths
At least 34 children have died so far in the relief camps of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts of Uttar Pradesh where thousands of victims of the September communal violence are still braving bitter cold, hoping to get back to their lives.
But their plight has not stopped state chief minister Akhilesh Yadav from hosting a 14-day carnival in his native village, Saifai, in Etawah district, that began on 26 December. (Uttar Pradesh government report contradicts Mulayam on Muzaffarnagar)
The young chief minister defends the event, calling it a decade-old Samajwadi Party tradition.
‘I know you have not come here to cover the festival, but instead you have come here to show in one window that people are suffering in the camps and on the other, you will show the festivities,’ Akhilesh Yadav told reporters.
More than two months after the riots, his father and party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is yet to visit Muzaffarnagar. But he flew in to Saifai to enjoy an evening with a leading performer known for his comedy shows on TV. The state government claims it has spent nearly Rs. 95 crore to help riot victims rebuild their lives. Though it is not clear how much money has been spent in organising the Saifai event, with Bollywood and TV stars flown in, there was little doubt that it came with a heavy price tag.
While the people in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli camps are denied proper medical care, over 40 doctors and paramedics and ambulances are available round the clock at the carnival.
To keep its netas, cops and the audience warm, gas heaters have been provided at the massive two-acre arena where dancers, called culture troop, swing to popular numbers from Bollywood films.
‘This is fine, but at the same time you can’t ignore the conditions in the camps,’ a man at the Saifai event said.
The Supreme Court recently hauled the Uttar Pradesh government for the death of children in the relief camps, as was evident in the state’s top bureaucrat’s comment earlier this week. The state leadership too, perhaps, remains in the same denial.