A television reporter was among six people killed on Saturday in clashes across Muzaffarnagar in western Uttar Pradesh. Tension in the region has been high ever since Jats and Muslims clashed last month in Kawaal village,some 30 km from the district headquarters,leaving three dead.
The UP home department announced that the Army had been deployed in all riot-hit areas. Earlier,indefinite curfew had been clamped by district authorities.
Senior police officers including Inspector Generals from Meerut and Saharanpur rushed to the area. Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Arun Kumar said five companies of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and Rapid Action Force (RAF) were deployed to deal with the situation.
Senior police officers said Rajesh Verma (42),who worked as a stringer for TV news channel IBN 7,was killed in Muzaffarnagars Abupura area around 4 pm.
The city has been tense since morning after Jat leaders announced a mahapanchayat to discuss the Kawaal incident. While thousands of Jats gathered near Sakheda village,Muslims came out on the streets in Muzaffarnagar to protest, one of the officers said.
According to police,Verma was attempting to shoot footage of the unrest in Abupura area when he was shot in the chest. It is still unclear who fired at Verma. Investigations are on and we will bring those responsible to book, the officer said.
Police said that another victim,Insar Vakeel (37),was picked up from near Shahpura village and brought to the mahapanchayat as a prize catch.
Some miscreants attacked a family near Shahpura and abducted Vakeel. They wanted to take him to the mahapanchayat. But just a few hundred metres away from the Jat gathering near the Sakheda police station,he managed to escape. He was chased and beaten to death by a mob, a senior officer said.
The Sakheda police station is not far from the venue of the mahapanchayat. Vakeels body was found 50 metres from the police station.
For now,we do not have suspects. His body was found in the field with a head wound, an officer said. Incidentally,a police checkpost nearby was uprooted just before Vakeel was chased into a field and killed.
The violence in Muzaffarnagar is steeped in a clash between two communities in Kawaal village on August 27 and a fake video that went viral after it was uploaded on the internet. The video only heightened sentiments.
It began with a petty quarrel on August 27 between Gaurav,a Jat,and Shahnawaz,a Muslim.The quarrel deepened and Gaurav called a cousin,Sachin,for help. According to the FIR,the duo attacked Shahnawaz with knives and killed him. But then members of the other community caught Gaurav and Sachin and lynched them, a police officer said.
According to the police,FIRs were registered,arrests were made and the situation had calmed down. But a video was uploaded on the internet on August 30.
The video shows a group of men lynching two boys. It went viral,particularly among the Jats. But we found out that the video was made at least two years ago and had been shot in either Pakistan or Afghanistan, the officer said.
He said the police managed to block the video,but by then several people had downloaded the clip on their mobile phones.
We have not been able to track the person who uploaded the video,but we confirmed its authenticity and had it blocked. Similar rumour-mongering on Saturday only increased tensions, an officer said.
There were sporadic incidents over the last week of assault,petty theft and harassing girls of the others community. Though peace meetings were arranged,certain community leaders made inflammatory speeches that heightened sentiments across the region, a district administration official said.
On Saturday,police and the district administration asserted that text messages were sent sent to both communities about incidents that had never taken place.
We received calls from several people asking about certain stone-pelting incidents and killings that never occurred. It seems people were being egged on, an officer said.
Earlier this week,Ehsan,a resident of Kalander Shah,was killed in Shamli after he picked up a fight with Nandu,a Valmiki who had allegedly parked his garbage cart outside Ehsans house.
They had an argument over the garbage cart which led to a scuffle. A few hours later,Vamikis stoned a Muslims car. Matters flared up and Ehsan was shot dead. At least three houses were torched, the officer said. He added that communal tension in Shamli had increased after the Kawaal incident.
DGP Deo Raj Nagar said the government had formed a Special Task Force to investigate the Kawaal incident. Some elements are trying to create communal tension in the region. The STF will help normalise the situation. No one will be allowed to breach peace in the area, he said.