Bhagalpur riot victim living without hope
Mohammad Arif has been unlucky twice over. A victim of the 1989 Bhagalpur riots, he lost his mental balance when he suffered a head injury. However, little did he realise that his struggle for survival had just begun.
Arif, 20, has been living with his family in Sahazangi locality on the outskirts of Bhagalpur in dire poverty. In a cruel twist of fate, his name did not figure in the list of those living below the poverty line (BPL) prepared by the state government; neither has he received any compensation for the trauma he underwent during the riots.
The compensation announced last month by the central government has brought hope to many of the victims struggling for survival but not to Arif. The central government sanctioned Rs 298 million for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims of the communal riots that had erupted in Bhagalpur district in October 1989.
The scars of the riots have still not healed as far as Arif is concerned. He has been chained for the last 18 years, as his family claims he sometimes turns violent. "He sometimes cries loudly for help and gets scared if any strangers come close.
"Memories of the riots are still fresh in his mind," says Arif's father Mohammad Salim, a small time trader.
Arif had witnessed the murder of 13 people and that, his mother says, still haunts him.
"He has become mentally unstable after that and our dream for our son has died," she said.
Arif, according to the official BPL list, did not deserve below poverty line status as he enjoyed the basic facilities, but a visit to his house shows proof of the opposite.
Bhagalpur district officials also cannot say who inspected Arif's house and certified that he did not qualify for BPL status.
Arif's father laments that he is the only working member of the family, and there is barely enough to make both ends meet.
"Where is the money for his treatment? We are living without hope and the government has done nothing to help," he said.
In addition to the relief provided by the state government, the central government had last month sanctioned around Rs.300 million for the Bhagalpur riot victims.
The state government had submitted a proposal last year to the central government for compensation on a par with that given to victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
The government had earlier provided compensation of Rs.100,000 each 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.