Lucknow, Sept 8: The Army staged a flag march in the riot-hit curfew bound areas of Muzaffarnagar, where the death toll has risen to 19. Eight columns of the Army were deployed at the request of the district authorities in the late hours of Saturday, following the communal riots which erupted in Muzaffarnagar and its adjoining rural areas, after those going to participate in the `Bahu Beti Samaan Bachaoi Mahapanchyat’ were attacked and fired upon. The panchayat was organized by the Jat community at Nagla Mandaur, 20 km from Muzaffarnagar city, where over 1.5 lakh people from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi participated. The situation in Muzaffarnagar worsened on Saturday following incidents of firing, stone pelting and violence in which IBN7 journalist Rajesh Verma and a part-time photographer of the state police, Israr, were killed.
In the last two decades, this is the first incident of a communal riot in Uttar Pradesh, when the civil administration has had to bring in the armed force to grab control over the law and order situation. The last time such an incident took place, where the army had to be called for, was in December 1992, where communal forces erupted after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.
The district magistrate said, “The death toll could further rise as several people were still missing”. “34 people were also injured in the clash and so far more than 40 people have been arrested”, he added.
The administration passed orders for an indefinite curfew was imposed in certain areas of Muzaffarnagar city – Nayi Mandi, City Kotwali and Civil Lines on Saturday. The orders continued today and no fresh incident of violence has been reported since last evening. 38 companies of Army, paramilitary and Rapid Action Force (RAF) were deployed in violence-hit western UP. The district administration in an unprecedented move stopped the distribution of the newspapers in Muzaffarnagar city. Defending the move, a district official said, “Newspaper distribution has been banned to prevent the spread of rumors in the city”.
The twin districts of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli have been witnessing sporadic violence for over a month. Shamli was carved out as a separate district by the Bahujan Samaj Party regime in October 2011. Earlier in June this year, a dalit woman was allegedly gang raped by youth members of the minority community. The local people protested against police inaction. Everything was under control until earlier this month, when people from both the communities came to blows after a sanitation worker was killed in communal clash, in Shamli.
The situation in Muzaffarnagar started deteriorating since 27 August, when two youths of the Jat community were beaten to death in Kawaal village, under Jaansath tehsil of Muzaffarnagar. One youth from the minority community was also killed in the clash. The clash occurred over the alleged incident of eve teasing. The Jat community, to protest the incident organized a `panchayat’ at Jaansath town on 31 August. The panchayat demanded action against the culprits responsible for the murder of the two Jat youths. The panchayat also demanded the removal of the Superintendent of Police of Shamli district for his allegedly partisan conduct. The Khap panchayat then announced to organize a `mahapanchayat’ on 7 September, at Nagla Mandaur, if their demands were not met. On 5 September, the BJP had also given a call for Muzaffarnagar bandh.
To prevent the `mahapanchyat’, the Muzaffarnagar district administration imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144, of the CrPC, in the entire district. Armed forces and the Rapid Action Force were deployed in Muzaffarnagar. Heavy deployment of PAC and RAF was made in Muzaffarnagar and the city remained tense but peaceful till Saturday. On Saturday, as soon as the attack on the participants of panchayat occurred at Basee village, the police and the para military forces were rushed to the village and Nagal Mandaur, the venue of the Mahapanchyat. The rioters in city of Muzaffarnagar had a field day for several hours.
Sudden eruption of violence created anarchy like situation in the city. The police had to beat a hasty retreat in many places as the well armed rioters outnumbered the police. The district administration immediately imposed curfew in the city.
Meanwhile Azam Khan, the urban development and minority affairs minister, who is also in charge of the district of Muzaffarnagar has held the district administration and the organizers and participants of the ‘mahapanchayat’ responsible for the communal riot in the city. He told the media, “The participants in the panchayat raised highly provocative slogans”.
“The district administration should have taken measures to prevent the people from Haryana and Delhi from reaching the venue of the Mahapanchayat. The district magistrate should not look at Lucknow always for instructions. He should have exercised his discretion and prevented the people from other states from reaching Muzaffarnagr’’, said Azam Khan. “India is a free country and there is no restriction on people from other states coming to UP. However, they should have behaved responsibly”.