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Wednesday, 26 June, 2002, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
Gujarat camps 'forced to close'
Refugee camp at Shah Alam mosque in Ahmedabad
Many refugees in Gujarat have nowhere to go
Workers in makeshift camps sheltering victims of religious violence in Gujarat say that the government is forcing them to close.

There has been no official order to close the camps, set up after people fled their homes.


When the government cuts the ration quota, we have no option but to ask the people to leave the camps

Sharif Khan Pathan, camp organiser
But some organisers say that by reducing supplies of food and water to the camps, the government is leaving them with no choice but to ask people to leave.

The camps were set up to house the 150,000 Muslims who fled during the violence in the western Indian state of Gujarat which began in February.

Most refugees have now left the camps but several thousand remain.

The state authorities would like the camps to be fully disbanded before the monsoon.

Rations cut

In Shah Alam camp in Ahmedabad, organiser Sharif Khan Pathan told the BBC that "when the government cuts the ration quota, we have no option but to ask the people to leave the camps".

He added that the organisers had refused to accept a ration consignment for 3,000 people on Monday because there were, in fact, about 4,500 people in the camp.

Many poor families have been encouraged to leave the camps by the promise of free rations for the next six months.

Rioting in Ahmedabad
Property was destroyed during rioting
But relief workers point out that some people in the camps have nowhere to go.

Volunteer Mujeeb Khan asked "with no homes, no money for repairs and even ration supplies cut, where can these people go if the camps are closed down?"

Back to normal

The state government is eager to see the relief camps closed before the monsoon which would be likely to complicate hygiene problems in the overcrowded camps.

Moreover, the political leadership in the state feel that the closure of the relief camps would prove to the outside world that normality has returned to Gujarat, where sporadic incidents of violence have continued.

More than 900 people, mostly Muslims, died in retaliatory violence this year in Gujarat after a train carrying Hindu activists was set on fire in February, killing more than 60 people.

Human rights groups say that the death toll in the rioting could be as high as 2,000.

Gujarat conflict in-depth

Key vote

Tense state

Background

BBC WORLD SERVICE

TALKING POINT
See also:

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