Less than a month after a mahapanchayat led to riots that left more than 40 dead in Muzaffarnagar, another such gathering in Meerut on Sunday turned violent and threatened to break the fragile peace.
Called to protest the arrest of Sardhana legislator Sangeet Som in the riots case, the panchayat in Khera village ended in a pitched battle between villagers and security personnel. Twenty police and paramilitary personnel and one villager were injured.
The nearly 10,000 people from 24 villages - who had assembled there flouting the administration's ban - damaged at least 18 vehicles and opened fire at the police. The police resorted to lathicharge and then fired in the air. Later, 24 people were arrested.
Subsequently, mahapanchayats have been banned across western UP.
The crowd of over 10,000 people drifted into the village through sugarcane fields, bypassing the security cordon, an official said.
Som, a BJP leader, is accused of making hate speeches and uploading a fake video to incite violence in Muzaffarnagar.