Gandhi's closely guarded visit to relief camps of Muzaffarnagar riot victims began early morning from Muslim-dominated Malakpur in UP's Shamli district where he held interactions with  community members.

"Those who engineer communal riots want that you should not go back. This benefits them. They want to keep you away from your villages. I know it is difficult and there is also fear there but we have to think beyond. This will not be good in the long run.”

"The message goes out that you will not go back to your villages. Those fanning communal riots precisely want this to happen," he told the riot victims.

However, there were clear voices from the riot victims that they do not want to go back to their homes as they fear they would be attacked again.

Gandhi also held interactions with riot victims at nearby Khurgan camp where Congress has put up medical camps.

The Congress vice-president is scheduled to visit more than half a dozen camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts.

One of the victims at the camp said this is the first time that a senior leader has visited them.

Talking to Gandhi, they said that unless the key conspirators behind the riots are sent back, they would not have the courage to go back to their homes.

The death of children in relief camps due to cold wave has triggered a controversy in the state. AICC General Secretary Madhusudan Mistry, who is accompanying Gandhi, alleged the state government has not bothered to provide even basic amenities like adequate foodgrain and drinking water in the camps.

The issue of children dying in Muzaffarnagar camps was raked up in Parliament last week.

The Supreme Court had on December 12 taken "serious" note of deaths of over 40 children in relief camps for riot-affected people in Muzaffarnagar and directed the Uttar Pradesh government to immediately take remedial measures to meet the threat of winter.

Following the court order, the Uttar Pradesh Government had set up a high-level committee to look into the issue.

An estimated 4,000 people are still living in the five relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli. Over 60 people were killed in the Muzaffarnagar riots that broke out in August.



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