Locals rush to markets; prohibitory orders continue in rural areas
A 150-minute relaxation on the fourth day of curfew infused new life into this riot-hit city late Tuesday afternoon, with hundreds of people thronging grocery shops and hurriedly set-up vegetable markets to stock up essentials, and vehicles lining up at petrol pumps.
However, prohibitory orders remained in place in rural areas which witnessed the worst-ever communal clashes in the recent past.
Having been holed up in their homes since the September 7 riots, the restless city residents immediately grabbed the opportunity to have a fresh breath of air, after the security personnel, through the public address systems, announced that curfew would be relaxed from 3.30 to 6 p.m. “Since no incidents of violence have been reported in the city, we have decided to relax curfew for some time. We will review the situation and, accordingly, the duration may be increased on Wednesday,” said District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma.
Curfew was imposed on the three city police station jurisdictions of Kotwali, Civil Lines and Mandi, whereas prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code were clamped in the rural areas after communal violence had erupted in different parts of the district on September 7. While curfew was lifted in the city zone, Army and paramilitary columns carried out area domination exercises in the far-flung rural areas to ensure peace. Life seemed to be limping back to normal in villages as well, with the locals staying away from the arterial roads patrolled by the security personnel.
No new case of riot casualty or injury was reported in the Muzaffarnagar city hospital on Tuesday. Nearly 45 casualties had been reported from different parts of western Uttar Pradesh so far.
“While 27 bodies had been brought to the hospital from Muzaffarnagar and adjoining Shamli district since September 7, we received 68 injured — 59 men, five women and four children. Among the victims, aged between 18 months and 80 years, are also those referred to from other places,” said a doctor. A team of 25 doctors and 12 nursing staff has been working round the clock.
Preliminary government statistics have suggested almost an equal number of casualties on both sides. “Those killed in the clashes had been brought from Kotwali, Meerapur, Shahpur, Hapur, Kakrauli, Titawai, Kadhla, Fugana, Bhora Kala, Babri and Mansoorpur. A large number of injury cases were reported from Kotwali, Shahpur and Fugana,” said an official. The doctors earlier found firearms in the possession of three riot victims, who were subsequently detained by the police.
Hospital sources said that after the government announced a hefty compensation to the next of kin of those killed, increasing cases of deaths of elderly people were being reported. “This needs to be investigated,” said one of them.
Pointing out that notice for revocation of firearm licences had been issued to 1,570 people, the official said the process of seizure would soon be initiated. Security personnel also seized firearms during door-to-door searches.
While the State administration claimed to have acted in time, villagers alleged that no effective measures were taken to quell the communal tension which triggered a spate of violence across the region following the death of three youths over an alleged case of eve-teasing at Kawal on August 27. “Similar incidents were earlier reported in Shamli but the police did not take any action. This created an apprehension among us that the administration was taking sides. However, the situation has now improved,” said a villager of Kutba, where some persons were murdered a couple of days ago.