NEW DELHI: At least 21 people have been killed and many more injured in communal violence in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh since Saturday. Ten fatalities were reported on Sunday when Muslim and Hindu communities clashed in the town of Muzaffarnagar.
The Uttar Pradesh authorities have issued ‘shoot-atsight’ orders in a desperate attempt to restore peace in the volatile town, where thousands of police and anti-riot personnel have been deployed.
Media reports cited Muzaffarnagar administration officials as saying that 21 people have been killed in the clashes since Saturday. However locals claimed the death toll was much higher, especially in the rural areas of the town.
Tensions gripped Muzaffarnagar – where both Hindu and Muslim families wield considerable wealth and influence – after some men from one community were accused of eve-teasing a woman belonging to the other community. Three youths were subsequently killed over the incident on August 27, triggering clashes between the Hindu and Muslim communities.
The latest round of violence began after some right-wing politicians delivered inflammatory speeches at a ‘panchayat’ on Saturday. At least 11 people, including a television reporter and cameraman, were killed in the subsequent clashes.
Worried that intercepting either parties would exacerbate the situation, the local police chose not to intervene. However, this only emboldened the rioters, as the violence threatened to spill over to the adjoining areas.
Talking to The Express Tribune, official sources in Delhi said the Centre has directed the state administration to take all necessary steps to ensure the communal tension does not spread to other areas of the state.
“If necessary, the state administration has been asked to take steps like preventive arrests to ensure trouble-making elements are unable to disturb peace,” an official said. Authorities, meanwhile, are trying to identify the individuals who had incited people to violence at the panchayat, he added.
According to The Hindu, earlier in the day, eight Indian army formations staged a flag march in volatile areas of the district to prevent the further flaring up of violence.
Condemning the violence in Muzaffarnagar, Muslim clerics cautioned the people against ‘political conspiracies’ aimed at creating divisions along religious lines and appealed for peace and harmony in the state.
“The Muzaffarnagar violence in condemnable… For the past few days, there have been attempts to create tension in western UP… The violence there is the result of a political game, which should be exposed,” said All India Muslim Personal Law Board member Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahli.
All India Shia Personal Board spokesman Maulana Yasoob Abbas too alleged that some ‘forces’ were trying divide religious groups for political gains.
Source: The Express Tribune