With five more deaths being reported on Monday,the third day of the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and the surrounding areas,the toll rose to 31 while at least another 50 are reported to be injured.
While police said violence had shifted away from villages that were affected over the last 48 hours,senior officials said mobs were targeting those trying to flee their villages.
Curfew remained in force in the violence-hit areas and the Army staged flag marches for the second consecutive day even as scared residents continued to abandon villages.
Police sources said mobs had ambushed villagers attempting to flee the violence-torn areas on Monday. Shariq,35,was among those killed. He was found by the road near Sanota village with severe injuries on his throat and stomach. He was rushed to hospital where he was declared dead, said a police officer.
Yamin Ali,33,and his neighbour Mohammed Irfan,40,said they were fleeing from Sisoli village to Dharmpuri when they were attacked. We had decided to leave Sisoli on motorcycles,through the fields… we thought we could avoid the mobs if we stayed away from the roads. But after dropping off our wives and children (in Dharmpuri),we were returning to pick up more relatives,when a gang of four ambushed us, said Ali.
They were hiding in the fields and we did not see them. They pulled Irfan off his motorcycle and assaulted him. I rushed back to Dharmpuri and informed the police personnel there, said Ali.
Police sources said Irfan suffered wounds on his head and back and was in a critical condition at the Civil Hospital in Muzaffarnagar.
The situation is better than yesterday after a sustained campaign by security forces. Curfew is still in effect and we have cancelled 1,744 arms licences in the region, said IG (Law and Order) R K Vishwakarma. He also admitted that there was distress among residents of several villages after two days of violence.
Even as security forces continued to grapple with the law and order situation,Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait and Samajwadi Partys district president Pramod Tyagi announced that they had jointly called for peace in the region.
Earlier,police registered FIRs against Tikait,BJP MLAs Hukum Singh,Suresh Rana,Bhartendu and Sangeet Som,and former Congress MP Harendra Malik for violating prohibitory orders. The district authorities also stopped Union Minister Ajit Singh and BJP MPs including Ravi Shankar Prasad from visiting the troubled district.
Meanwhile,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav today and expressed his grief and shock over the loss of innocent lives. He assured all assistance from the central government. The union home ministry has sought regular updates from the state government on the situation.
Addressing a function in Lucknow,Akhilesh said,There are some forces and political parties which do not want Uttar Pradesh to progress on the path of development. They indulge in wrong sort of politics,they are spoiling the atmosphere of the state,they are just looking for chances.
He said action has been taken against some officials. The Saharanpur DIG and SSPs of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts are among those who have been shunted out.
An 11-member peace committee has been set up to defuse the situation.
I appeal to all villages in the region to remain calm and not react violently. I have spoken to Mulayam Singh Yadav who has assured me that justice will be done, said Tikait.
Violence increased because of rumours spread by those out to cause communal disharmony. I appeal to everybody to take responsibility for their own villages and not trust strangers from outside, he said.
Violence erupted in the region on Saturday between Jats and Muslims after three deaths on August 27 in Kawaal village. Police said a Muslim was killed in Kawaal village after a petty dispute and his alleged assailants,both Jats,were beaten to death. Tension increased after Jats in the region called a mahapanchayat to discuss the issue on Saturday.