13 May, 2021

In Lieu of Courting Justice

How Muzaffarnagar is trying to heal the wounds of the 2013 riots and move on

Site of convergence
A socially diverse crowd at an eatery on the Shamli-Kairana highway
Photograph by Jitender Gupta
In Lieu of Courting Justice

There can be justice in letting go. It is apt, if ambitious, to remember this tenet of South Africa’s truth and reconciliation commission even as two groups try, in a small corner of India, to put their own differences aside. The scale of trauma doesn’t match, nor does the setting—in South Africa, the truth-­and-reconciliation exercise acc­om­panied the fall of the erstwhile apartheid regime—but there is a few commonalities: one, a society divided into a dominant group and those whom it dominates, allowing an almost neat classification as perpetrator and victim; two, a history of prejudice; and three, large-scale violence and consequent displacement of people. In 2013, 60 people, 40 of them Muslim, were killed and over 40,000 Muslims disp­laced in Muzaffarnagar and Sha­mli districts in western Uttar Pradesh. Now, there are attempts to promote conciliatory talks between Muslims and the dominant Jat community to bury the grief and rage, so people can live peacefully in the troubled region.

Untested so far, the idea of such...

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