Centre had warned U.P. of violence, says Shinde

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on Monday, expressing his concern about the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar district that has already taken 31 lives and asking him about the steps the State government was taking to restore peace and order.

While the Centre cannot intervene in a State directly, reports of growing tension between Jats and Muslims in western U.P., ever since the August 27 episode, saw Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, government sources said, telling U.P.’s Chief Secretary and DGP last week to ensure things did not get out of hand.

The Union Home Ministry, too, Congress spokesperson Bhaktacharan Das said on Monday, issued an advisory to the U.P. government on September 6.

Indeed, on Monday, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said the riots in Muzaffarnagar took place even though the Central government had warned the State government that intelligence reports were suggesting the possibility of violence in the wake of growing tension.

Despite these warnings, the ‘mahapanchayat’ that led to the spike in violence — and an exodus of frightened villagers — on September 7 was “inexplicably allowed” despite the fact that Section 144 was in force, government sources said. Now, the Cabinet Secretary is holding a review meeting every evening and, Mr. Das said, the Home Ministry issued two advisories to the State on Monday.

When the Prime Minister spoke to Mr. Yadav, he promised all assistance to restore peace, even as he condemned the violence and expressed grief and shock over the loss of innocent lives, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Congress circumspect

But even as the Centre closely monitored the situation in curfew-bound Muzaffarnagar, with reports coming in of tension spreading to the neighbouring districts of Shamli, Meerut and Saharanpur, the Congress was circumspect. Unlike Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, who said on Monday that the Samajwadi Party government should be dismissed for its failure to prevent the Muzaffarnagar riots, especially as there have been over a 100 communal incidents since the SP came to power, the Congress made it clear that it was not making any such demand.

“This is not the time for President’s Rule,” Mr. Das said.

And while Ms. Mayawati directly accused the SP and the Bharatiya Janata Party of conspiring to vitiate the atmosphere in the State so that they could benefit from it in next year’s general election, the Congress spokesperson was oblique in his condemnation. “It is clear that there are political reasons behind the violence,” Mr. Das said. “There is need to act strongly and swiftly. Since elections are near, political vested groups are at work.” He also pointed out that law and order had steadily worsened since Akhilesh Yadav’s government took over in March 2012.

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