Army vehicles patrol on a deserted road during a curfew in Muzaffarnagar yesterday.
LUCKNOW: The army was called in, an unusual measure, as 10 more people were killed yesterday on the second day of rioting in Muzaffarnagar, taking the toll to 21. At one place, miscreants fired upon army men who retaliated.
The Uttar Pradesh government worked overtime to douse the communal flare-up. With clashes continuing in the countryside, officials fear the situation would take time to be brought under control and the toll could climb further.
Eight companies of army that were requisitioned by the state government to assist the civil administration staged a flag march in the violence-hit areas. At one place, miscreants fired upon the forces from roof tops. The army also retaliated by firing.
On the Uttar Pradesh government’s call for help, army troops were yesterday moved in to Meerut and Shamli as a precautionary measure.
The state government has sought 28 more companies of para-military forces while the central government had already dispatched 22 companies on Saturday.
Minister of State for Home Affairs R P N Singh said in New Delhi: “The union home ministry is in constant touch with the UP government and every assistance would be given to it to bring back communal harmony.”
State home secretary Kamal Saxena said extra para-military forces and police reinforcements have been sent to the troubled areas and added that the security forces had been give the go-ahead to open fire if the situation warranted.
Saxena also informed that intensive patrolling was being done in strife-torn areas like Kalapar, Sisauli, Shahpur, Fugna and Bhaurakala of Muzaffarnagar.
Additional DGP (law and order) Arun Kumar said efforts were on to contain the spread of violence. Curfew clamped in Civil Lines, Kotwali and Nai Mandi areas continued yesterday and was unlikely to be eased today.
The administration has, meanwhile, announced closure of all schools and educational institutions in the district for the next three days. A total of 52 persons have been arrested since Saturday night for inciting mobs and indulging in violence. Cases are also being filed against local political leaders, a district official said.
Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav yesterday called an emergency meeting of officials and senior party leaders and expressed his displeasure at the rioting and the the administration’s failure in anticipating the communal tension brewing in the area.
The violence erupted on Saturday following a meeting attended by Jats in Muzaffarnagar district, 140km northeast of New Delhi. Police said 10 people died, including a journalist and photographer, and about 35 were injured.
A curfew was imposed in three districts, “I would appeal to all the people there to maintain peace and do not trust or listen to any rumours,” Akhilesh Yadav, Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister, told reporters.
The Jats are demanding the rescinding of charges against members of their community in connection with a communal clash last month in which three people were killed. Arun Kumar, a senior police official, said tensions were fuelled by an online video purporting to show the killing of two Muslim youths last month.
Director General of Police Devraj Nagar is monitoring the situation from Lucknow, and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is learnt to have given a dressing down to senior officials.
“When tension was simmering for the last 10 days, the chief minister is angry as to why the violence, despite anticipation, was not contained in time,” a close aide of Akhilesh Yadav said.
With the monsoon session of the state assembly just a week away, Akhilesh Yadav is keen to end the hostilities at the earliest, the aide said.
Opposition parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), criticised the government, saying it has failed in maintaining communal harmony, peace, law and order in the state.
RLD state president Munna Singh Chauhan said the government has forfeited the right to continue in office. BJP state spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak said that the fact that the army had to be called in to contain violence in Muzaffarnagar has proved beyond doubt the “failure of the Samajwadi Party government in the state”.
State Congress president Nirmal Khatri condoled the loss of life and said the government had failed to protect the interests and safety of the people in the state.
Akhilesh Yadav, meanwhile, said police have been pressed into service, and urged people not to be swayed by rumours. “I urge people of the state to maintain peace, communal harmony and warn mischief makers,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting in the state capital.