A day after the murder of four persons in western Uttar Pradesh’s communally fragile Muzaffarnagar district, the police on Thursday arrested eight persons and registered cases against 15 others even as the state government struggled to prevent a fresh flare-up.
The Samajwadi Party government moved forces into Muzaffarnagar, around 125 km northeast of Delhi, to avert an August-September kind of communal bloodbath, in which 63 people were killed and nearly 50,000 rendered homeless.
Uttar Pradesh director general of police Devraj Nagar, who is camping at the troubled spot, admitted to security lapses.
“There were lapses on part of officials of my force,” Nagar said, while emphasising police officers had to act without political influence. “ We will initiate a probe against the police personnel deputed there to maintain peace.”
SP chief Mulayam SinghYadav said the violence was the handiwork of communal forces and the UP government, headed by his son and chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, would crush forces vitiating the atmosphere.
Communal tension has prevailed in western UP since August. In the run-up to the general elections due in 2014, communal unrest has also reared head in other parts on India’s most populous and politically crucial state, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats — the highest in the country.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh said the fresh violence would not have happened had the authorities taken “severe… just and fair action” action against those responsible for last month’s riots.
The Congress and the SP have accused the BJP of trying to communalise the state for electoral gains.
The trouble had started on Wednesday after armed villagers lynched three persons in a sugarcane field in Mohammadpur Raisingh village, leading to communal tension in the area.
The three were targeted for allegedly being part of a group of 10-12 men who had beaten up a farmer from the village earlier in the day.
However, the husband of the pradhan (chief) of neighbouring Hussainpur Kalan village, Shahnawaz, claimed that the three dead were his relatives and had gone to the field to collect fodder when residents of Mohammadpur Raisingh kidnapped and killed them.
In a second incident, unidentified assailants attacked a couple in Phugana area of the district. The woman died on the spot, but her husband managed to escape.
On Wednesday night, hundreds of people from Hussainpur Kalan and adjoining villages demonstrated outside the Budhana Kotwali (police station) and pressed for immediate arrest of the killers.
The police said the eight arrests were in connection with the killings of three persons from Hussainpur Kalan.
The police have also registered a case in connection with the murder of the woman, but are yet to make any arrests.
Communal clashes first erupted in Muzaffarnagar on August 27 after the killing of three youths at Kaval village. It flared up more seriously on September 7 after a clash between communities at a mahapanchayat (meeting of village councils) saw the violence spread to other districts.
According to state government data, 63 people were killed in the riots and 50,000 had to seek shelter in relief camps. Subsequently, FIRs were registered against legislators and leaders from parties like the BJP, BSP, Congress, RLD and SP, allegedly for inciting communal violence.
The state government has released Rs 90 crore for to rebuild the destroyed homes of nearly 1,800 displaced families, mostly Muslim. Most have refused to go back to their homes. (With inputs from agencies)