India, from its birth in 1947, as an independent nation has seen communal riots involving Hindu and Muslims. The riots that happened in the town of Muzaffarnagar, located in western state of Uttar Pradesh, killed 38 people. The tension originated in the village Kawal, when in the last week of August, two brothers belonging to the Hindu Jat community killed a Muslim boy who had been stalking and sexually teasing their sister who used to pass through a muslim village on her way to school. Within one hour after that, the two brothers of the Hindu Jat community were swiftly lynched to death in retaliation.
In order to stop Hindu-Muslim communal tension from esaclating, local government officials banned public gatherings of more than 4 people using a local provision of the law called Section 144. However that ban did not have any effect as just three days later, on a Friday, muslim politicians extinguished any chance of a return of the situation to normalcy. After the usual Friday muslim prayers, a meeting was called by muslim religious leaders and politicians in Muzaffarnagar, from where may influential politicians contest elections. A crowd of over 1500 people, most of them local Muslims, some from the center ruling Congress party and a local state Bahujan Samaj Party or BSP incited the crowd. Local officials didn’t intervene to have the meeting cancelled or prevent the gathering of such a large crowd. On being questioned as to why they didn’t prevent this crowd from gathering, local officials claimed they had been misled as to the true nature and purpose of the meeeting. These officials have since then arrested several political party leaders who misled them.
The ruling SP Party, which most local muslims support electorally, is now accused of inciting local muslims in order to get their votes in the coming Lok Sabha elections. The main opposition party to the central government, the BJP, is also accused of instigating violence this weekend at a subsequent gathering of thousands of Hindu farmers, to retaliate against the muslims, a fact that they completely deny. They in fact state that in this gathering, two leaders from the ruling Samajwadi Party were also present, but have not been charged or mentioned in official police cases. In this gathering of Hindu Jats, called a Jat mahapanchayat, BJP leaders from the area made incendiary speeches, charges that they have denied. After the rally was finished, the Hindu Jats on their way home, were attacked and killed by Machete toting muslims. In this carnage, 36 people have so far been declared dead.
The local media outlets have reported that bodies of victims killed near the Muzaffarnagar-Shamli and Muzaffarnagar-Meerut borders had also been sent to other districts for post-mortems. “There were some cases of bodies being found in fields surrounding villages, which have now been recovered. Some bodies were kept in the police stations for a day due to the constant violence outside,” said a senior official.
Even as sporadic incidents of violence were reported in the region, authorities relaxed curfew for two hours, from 3:30 pm- 5:30 pm, for the first time since Saturday. Residents of the busy industrial city came out in droves to stock up on essential supplies, particularly milk and cooking gas.
“Curfew was relaxed for two hours in three areas of the city Kotwali, Nai Mandi and Civil Lines. This was done to allow residents to purchase essential supplies. The Army, paramilitary forces and the police maintained strict vigil throughout this period,” said District Magistrate R K Sharma. However, curfew remained in force in Foghana and Shahpur limits, which have witnessed the most violence so far.
IGP (Law and Order) R K Vishwakarma said 137 people had been arrested for rioting since Saturday. “We will arrest more people in the days to come and we have also registered cases against certain politicians who made inflammatory speeches and violated prohibitory orders,” he said. Sharma said 244 preventive arrests have been made in Muzaffarnagar, 118 in Shamli, 206 in Saharanpur, 30 in Bulandshahr and 76 in Meerut.
Police sources said incidents of stone pelting and minor scuffles were reported in some villages including Shahpur and Makhyali. Javed, a resident of Makhyali said, “We heard gunshots at night and called the police immediately. They began patrolling the area after about 20 minutes. On Tuesday morning, some miscreants pelted stones and hurled abuses.” He added that the disturbances were quelled after the police and paramilitary forces arrived.
According to a Press Trust of India report, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today announced Rs 2 lakh each to the next of kin of those killed in the violence and Rs 50,000 each to those seriously injured.