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Muzaffarnagar toll mounts to 21

Devesh Pandey
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FIR against BJP MLA for inflammatory video

Tense policemen on motorcycles lead a convoy of armed security personnel through the deserted streets of Muzaffarnagar on Sunday.— Photo: Sandeep Saxena
Tense policemen on motorcycles lead a convoy of armed security personnel through the deserted streets of Muzaffarnagar on Sunday.— Photo: Sandeep Saxena

Fresh violence erupted in far-flung rural pockets of Muzaffarnagar district on Sunday, taking the death toll in the communal clashes which began on September 7 to nearly two dozen. As Army columns fanned out, the State administration issued shoot-at-sight orders in a desperate attempt to tamp down tensions running high on both sides following a “mahapanchayat” organised by the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) on Saturday.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, police officers said the situation deteriorated on Saturday after politicians made inflammatory speeches at the khap mahapanchayat, which was purportedly attended by some BJP leaders, including Hukum Singh, Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana, BKU leaders Naresh Tikait and Rakesh Tikait and Congress leader Harendra Malik. The police plan to book the political leaders who instigated Hindus to resort to violence on the pretext of settling scores with Muslims. “We are also probing the role of certain BJP leaders. We are in the process of gathering evidence, on the basis of which legal action will be initiated,” said a police officer.

An FIR has already been registered against Mr. Som, BJP MLA from Sardhana in Meerut, for his alleged role in sharing an inflammatory video clip of two young men being mercilessly beaten by a mob. Mr. Som has denied the charge. The clip, which the police say was taken from a video shot in Pakistan some time ago, was being passed off by those circulating the video in the Muzaffarnagar area as actual footage of an August 27 incident in which two Hindu boys were killed in nearby Kawal village, allegedly by a mob comprising relatives of a Muslim boy who had earlier been killed allegedly by the duo.

Briefing the media, Muzaffarnagar District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma confirmed 21 deaths in the clashes so far. However, locals claimed that many more had been killed in the rural areas. Illegal firearms, iron rods, swords, knives, sticks, bricks and stones were used during the violence. “We have arrested 52 people and seized weapons. Efforts are on to identify the others involved,” said Mr. Sharma.

Earlier on Sunday, eight Army formations conducted a flag march in the communally sensitive zones of the district, which, according to the locals, has been witnessing the worst ever communal violence in the past two decades. Police operations have also resulted in the preventive detention of a large number of suspected troublemakers and rumour-mongers.

The authorities say rumours have played a central role in fomenting tension, with the doctored video clip, which has since been blocked by the police, being circulated by email and CD and inflammatory text messages also being sent.

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