Shoot orders in UP town as riot spreads

Shoot orders in UP town as riot spreads

Toll mounts to 19 as situation tense in Muzaffarnagar

Shoot orders in UP town as riot spreads

Shoot-at-sight orders were issued in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district, 450 km from here, as the toll in the communal violence that led to tension in three other districts rose to 19.

Situation remained “very tense” as violence spread to rural areas in the riot-torn district despite the deployment of the Army and central paramilitary forces. At least eight people were killed in fresh violence at Kutwa-Kutwi on Sunday. Though official sources confirmed only 19 deaths, unconfirmed reports put the number at 23. As violence spread, hundreds of people were forced to flee their homes and take refuge in police stations.

Fifty people injured in the riots are being treated at different hospitals. The toll may go up as scores of people have been reported missing.

Officials said more than 52 people had been taken into custody in Muzaffarnagar since Saturday in connection with the communal clashes. The state government is contemplating invoking National Security Act on the rioters. District magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma said the violence had spread to rural areas.

Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Arun Kumar said eight columns of the Army and several companies of the paramilitary forces had already been deployed to quell the violence.

Reports of clashes between two communities continued to pour in from different parts of the district even as the Army and CRPF jawans staged a flag march to instill confidence among people, sources said.

There were incidents of firing at the Army jawans in some areas. Fake videos of violence and inflammatory SMSs were doing the rounds, officials said.

Eyewitness accounts said incidents of firing had taken place at Jansath, Bhopa, Meerapur and Ramraj in the neighbouring Meerut district. At least one death has been reported from Meerut where schools and colleges have been closed as a precautionary measure. Tension prevailed in the neighbouring Shamli and Saharanpur districts and an alert has been sounded throughout the state.

A journalist and a photographer were among the victims. The state government has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh each to the kin of the victims and Rs 15 lakh for the family of journalist Rajesh Verma.

Trouble started after a member of one community was beaten to death by a mob during a “mahapanchayat” organised to protest the killing of two youths in Kaval area on August 27. The duo had reportedly killed a youth of a the other community over an incident of eve teasing.

The Bhartiya Kisan Union had convened the mahapanchayat to register its protest against the killings.

While the opposition BSP and the BJP demanded removal of the government for its failure to check violence, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has promised a thorough probe into the clashes.