Black flags and slogan shouting by angry villagers on Sunday greeted Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav during his visit to the district rocked by communal violence that claimed 47 lives and displaced over 40,000 people.
Facing flak from opposition parties and minority leaders over violence in Muzaffarnagar, Akhilesh first visited Kawal village where three persons were killed on August 27 over an eve-teasing incident, sparking off tension in the district.
Waving black flags, the villagers shouted slogans accusing the state government of not taking effective steps to stop the communal flare-up. The villagers also alleged that the Chief Minister did not receive a memorandum from them and only met "outsiders".
Akhilesh told reporters, "The incident is saddening...not only for those who lost their young sons but for us also. We have already appealed for peace to everyone and my government will take strict action to deal with those creating trouble.
We will take strict action and NSA will also be invoked against the guilty."
The chief minister, who later left for riot-hit Malikpura and Kandhla villages, accused opposition parties of vitiating the atmosphere.
"It is an unfortunate incident...some political parties are responsible for the flare-up. They spread canard...this is an act of treason. Due to politics, the situation got vitiated," he said.
"People used to attend marriage ceremonies at each other's place...A schism has been created between the communities.
Elderly persons in villages should take initiative to ensure brotherhood," he said.
He alleged that some people uploaded fake and inflammatory clippings on social media to stir up trouble.
Asked about recovery of AK-47 cartridges in Baghpat, he said it was a serious matter and administration need to remain more alert and initiate strict action against such persons.
"Government has constituted a judicial commission which will probe the developments since August 27 after which the real figure (toll) will come out...Stern action will be taken on the basis of the commission's report," the chief minister said.
While official estimates put the death toll at 47, including 38 in Muzaffarnagar, Akhilesh said 39 people had died and five other deaths were being ascertained whether they were linked to the communal incidents.
Refuting reports that that the state government was piling undue pressure on its officers, he said they were free to control the situation in the manner they deemed fit and there was no hesitation in deploying the Army.
"The officers were free to act....We even did not take a minute to deploy the Army there," he said.
About arrests of those including BJP legislators, who allegedly made inflammatory speeches, the chief minister said none will be spared.
"SP always tried to demolish communal forces and fought against them. I am in touch with local administration since the incident broke out and am doing everything to control the situation," he said.
About allegations of locals that he did not meet them, Akhilesh said he met family members of Shahnawaz, Gaurav and Sachin and also of slain scribe Rajesh Verma and assured them all help.
Asked whether "outsiders" came in the district to indulge in violence, he said the probe will bring out the facts.
The chief minister's visit came a day before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's scheduled tour of the district.