On a damage control mission to Muzaffarnagar on Sunday, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was confronted with the after-effects of the communal riots when he was shown black flags at Kawal village, epicentre of the mayhem in the district and adjoining areas.

Anger was palpable as the villagers raised slogans against the Muzaffarnagar district administration and the government for allowing the situation to drift. They alleged that the Chief Minister did not meet the villagers.

The August 27 incident in the village, in which a Muslim boy, Shahnawaz and two Jat youths, Gaurav and Sachin were killed in two separate, albeit inter-related incidents, triggered the communal violence which claimed 48 lives and rendered about 40,000 people homeless. Mr. Yadav met the parents and family members of the three youths to offer solace. The Chief Minister said the elders of the village and other responsible persons should take the initiative to bridge the (communal) divide as the two communities had lived together for years.

Mr. Yadav later told reporters at the Muzaffarnagar police lines that when such an incident took place “it is but natural that questions would be posed to the government, and even to the Chief Minister.”

Kawal was Mr. Yadav’s first halt in his eight-hour visit. He later visited Shahpur, Malakpur, Mirpur, Kandhla Idgah and the Kotwali police station area of Muzaffarnagar. He then went to the slain journalist Rajesh Verma’s residence and offered condolences to the bereaved family. Mr. Yadav, who visited Muzaffarnagar eight days after violence erupted in the district on September 7, was hard-pressed to explain the delay.

Aiming to provide a healing touch to the victims, the Chief Minister announced that one member in each of the families of those killed would be given jobs. He said the houses damaged or burnt down would be repaired with the government bearing the entire cost. Economic assistance would be given to the victims under the Ram Manohar Lohia Rural Housing Scheme and other welfare measures.