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A year after communal clashes shattered peace in Muzaffarnagar, the troubled western Uttar Pradesh district is on the boil again as the death anniversary of two cousins and another person approaches.
The cousins were lynched by a mob in Kawal village on August 28 when they were allegedly trying to escape after killing a man who had harassed their sister. The cousins and the suspected harasser were from different communities.
The clansmen of the cousins have declared they want to conduct a ‘homage programme’ at their hamlet in Malikpura in Kawal. The minority community, meanwhile, intends to carry out a concrete construction the same day at the grave of the person killed by the cousins.
The killing of three persons last year had led to a series of panchayats and rallies in the district, barely 125 km northeast of Delhi.
Clashes erupted on September 7 when people returning from a panchayat of Nangla Mandaud village were ambushed and attacked at different locations.
The riots claimed the lives of 61 persons and rendered more than 50,000 homeless. The displaced were moved to several relief camps.
A year on, tension is brewing as members of the minority community have objected to movement for the ‘homage programme’ through Kawal and advised officials to provide them an alternate route to Malikpura.
“They are demanding it to avoid possible clash between the two communities during heavy movement of visitors,” said septuagenarian Gulam Mohammad Jaula who was a trusted colleague of Bharatiya Kisan Union chief Mahendra Singh Tikait for more than 30 years.
Both had actively participated in several movements to strengthen Hindu–Muslim unity.
Jaula described the proposed ‘homage programme’ as an attempt by a few persons to draw political mileage. He said officials should not permit any such any public programme. “It should be a family programme and only relatives should be allowed to participate in it,” he added.
Alok Sharma, inspector general of police (Meerut zone), claimed the situation was peaceful in the district. He accused the media of raking up the issue.
“We should work together to keep the confidence and trust of both communities intact for each other instead of flaring up a non-existent issue.”
Unconfirmed sources in Malikpura told HT that SDM Baburam and CO Mukesh Mishra has contacted the family members of deceased cousins and asked them to provide a list of their friends and relatives who would attend the ‘homage programme’ so that the administration could keep a record of the attendees.
Officials, however, are keeping a close watch on the district.
Western UP has been witnessing intermittent communal flare-ups for more than a year now; the Muzaffarnagar riots were the worst.