At least 15 more people were killed on the second day of the continuing violence in Muzaffarnagar,which saw direct confrontation between security forces and rioters,taking the toll to 26 with several more injured. In what officials described as guerrilla warfare,the hostility spread to villages that surround Muzaffarnagar.
Violence spread to neighbouring villages on Sunday,that made controlling law and order a little more difficult. While Muzaffarnagar city remained peaceful,clashes were reported in at least eight villages on the outskirts, said District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma. He added that the police had arrested 50 people so far,and this number would increase in the next few days.
IG (Law and Order) R K Vishwakarma confirmed that 26 people had been killed in the last 48 hours of clashes between Muslims,Jats and security forces.
On Sunday,the violence began at around 10 am,with reports of arson and rioting in the twin villages of Kutba and Kutbi,about 30 km from Muzaffarnagar. A masjid,several houses and at least four people were killed in clashes that lasted three hours. The situation was brought under control only after Army personnel were deployed to aid existing security forces.
An unknown number of people entered the villages armed with guns,knives and petrol bombs at around 10 am. Before security forces arrived,four people were killed and a masjid and at least six houses were torched, said a senior police officer. He added that rioters even fired at the Army personnel.
Violence was also reported in Bhavdi,Lakh,Hassanpur and Lisad villages. The assailants used a crude form of guerrilla tactics and obviously knew the area well. In Bhavdi,where I was posted,they would fire from among the sugarcane fields where they were near invisible. Some would even dart out and throw petrol bombs into houses and at security personnel, said a police officer.
An Army spokesperson said Army officers held a meeting with senior officials of the state police and the district administration and immediately deployed 10 columns in sensitive areas. The Army personnel conducted a mounted flag march in the morning.
Another request for Army assistance in Shamli was received from the district magistrate in the early hours of Sunday and accordingly one Army column was moved from Meerut to Shamli. Requisition for Army assistance in Meerut was also received today afternoon and one more column is being located in Meerut. The 10 Army columns continue to be located in the sensitive areas till reports last came in, said a communication from the Army.
Besides,two companies of paramilitary forces,including the CRPF,SSB,Rapid Action Force,ITBP and PAC have also been deployed.
Police sources posted in violence-hit villages said security forces had shoot-at-sight orders but not a single rioter was reported as injured on Sunday. Senior officials from Lucknow and the region will meet on Sunday night to discuss strategies to deal with such tactics, said a senior official.
According to the police,the rioters primarily comprised Jats who had escaped into the sugarcane fields on Saturday night. They had fled and stayed the night in the fields. On Sunday afternoon,they returned to their villages to carry out attacks. We believe most suspects were known to their victims, said a senior officer.
In Lucknow,STF IG Ashish Gupta said eight of the 11 deaths that occurred on Saturday were reported from rural areas,and the security personnel are making efforts to evacuate families of two communities from the villages where they are in a minority.
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. Officials have warned that those who attended the mahapanchayat will also be arrested.
With ENS inputs from Lucknow