Tension continued in Muzaffarnagar, the scene of communal violence for the last two days, while neighbouring Shamli and couple of other towns in Uttar Pradesh witnessed isolated incidents that claimed three lives raising the death toll to 31.
Curfew remained in force in Muzaffarnagar town and army staged flag marches for the second consecutive day following the communal flare-up into which the state government has ordered a judicial inquiry by a retired judge.
In an attempt to prevent any fresh flare-up, police prevented Union Minister Ajit Singh and BJP leaders including Ravi Shankar Prasad from going to Muzaffarnagar. Over 200 people were taken into custody.
Violence spread to neighbouring district of Shamli where a 40-year-old Imam of a mosque, Maulana Umar Din, was shot dead, Shamli District Magistrate P K Singh said.
"The death toll in the violence in Muzaffarnagar and other areas has climbed to 31," Principal Secretary Home R M Srivastava told PTI.
Muzaffarnagar District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma said one person was stabbed to death and another injured in Meerapur town of Muzaffarnagar district today. Six people have been taken into police custody for questioning, he said.
One person was also killed in Saharanpur, officials said, adding that a body was found in Titawi.
Army staged flag marches in Shahpur, Khautauli, Purkazi, Maripur, and Shamli areas, officials said.
Four MLAs arrested
According to UP police, the violence was triggered by a violent and gory video posted online as a part of a campaign to create communal strife.
Asking people not to pay heed to rumours, IG, Crime Ashish Gupta told reporters in Lucknow that some unscrupulous elements were using social networking sites and SMSes to spread rumours to create tension.
“A video is also being circulated through Facebook and other networking sites to create tension. I want to tell you that the said video is probably over two years old and is of some other country. I appeal to people that they should not pay heed to it,” Gupta told PTI.
A BJP MLA is said to have shared this 2010 video from Pakistan on his Facebook profile, asking people to "see what is going on in Muzaffarnagar”. Other groups moved in and the video is said to have been shared widely on Facebook.
An FIR has since been filed against the BJP MLA and other 229 unidentified persons, which included three other BJP MLAs, for sharing the video who have been booked under Sections 420 (forgery), 153-A (promoting enmity on religious grounds) and 120-B (conspiracy) of the IPC and Section 66 of the Information Technology Act at the Kotwali police station in Muzaffarnagar.
The video is then said to have been spread via CDs as well. Whether or not the video played any part in spreading the spiral of violence, this much is clear that some groups have tried to exploit and capitalise on what appears to have been a localised clash and at least spread misinformation on social networking sites.
In an overnight crackdown, over 200 people were arrested and 1000 persons booked, including BJP legislative party leader Hukum Singh, party MLAs Suresh Rana, Bhartendu, Sangeet Som and former Congress MP Harendra Malik.
BJP leader Ravi Shankar has also claimed that the 4 BJP MLAs are innocent.
Authorities cancelled 1,744 arms licenses in Bhorkala, Shahpur, Phugana and ome other areas of the district.
The state government shunted out Saharanpur DIG, SSP Muzaffarnagar and SP Shamli. Violence-hit Muzaffarnagar lies in Saharanpur range.
UP Governor BL Joshi has sent a report on the Muzaffarnagar violence to the Centre, which, sources said in Lucknow, has details regarding the administrative lapses as well as the situation prevailing there.
Concerned over the incidents, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and assured him of all help from the Centre to deal with the situation.
Judicial Commission to probe riots
Uttar Pradesh government today constituted a one-member judicial commission to probe Muzaffarnagar violence. "A one-member judicial inquiry commission of Justice Vishnu Sahai has been constituted by the government to probe the Muzaffarnagar violence starting from Kawal incident on August 27 till September 9," State Home Secretary Kamal Saxena said.
Akhilesh sees political conspiracy
Alleging that communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring areas was a political conspiracy, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said it was an attempt to defame and destabilise his government.
"The violence is a political conspiracy to defame and destabilise my government which is doing a good job for the poor, the youths and all sections of the society," he told reporters.
"Political parties are trying to find ways to attack the government and this they have done in the past also. Earlier, in Shamli they have tried to vitiate the atmosphere of the state but it was thwarted," Akhilesh said.
"Our priority at the moment is to maintain peace. Strict action will be taken against those found guilty," he said.
Asked about the Mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar after which the violence erupted, Akhilesh, donning a skull cap, said his government was mulling the option of putting a ban on such panchayats.
"This is not the right time to say anything about the Mahapanchayat. But, in future our government will put a ban on such panchayats which are against the law," he said.
Blame-game over violence
A blame game erupted with the opposition accusing the state government of failing to act in time to prevent the violence and the ruling Samajwadi Party hitting back, saying its rivals were trying to stir up communal trouble.
BSP chief Mayawati and RLD leader Ajit Singh blamed Samajwadi Party(SP) and BJP for the violence in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas of UP saying the two were advancing their political interests by polarising voters. They demanded imposition of central rule.
"One can see the hands of BJP and SP behind this. Lok Sabha polls are near and both the parties want to give a communal colour to the polls...It is their political gameplan," Mayawati said in New Delhi.
Union Minister and RLD supremo Ajit Singh, who was detained in Ghaziabad while entering the riot-hit areas today, said BJP wants polarisation of votes, and "so does SP".
"Both think they will gain...Why did BJP send (Amit) Shah to UP - first to Ayodhya and then Mathura," questioned Singh whose party is a UPA ally.
Mayawati said both the parties are hand-in-glove to further their political interests ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
"They wanted to disturb the communal fabric of not only the state but the entire country under the garb of (VHP's) 84 kosi yatra. But people have seen through their political game-plan which stands exposed," the BSP supremo said.
Singh said since the Akhilesh government has little to show in terms of development during its rule, it is using the communal divide to get votes in the general elections.
"It is because Samajwadi Party fears the voters' ire against the government's non-performance that they have resorted to communalising the region," he said.
Both claimed that since the SP came to power in UP, the state has witnessed 100 cases of communal riots.
BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was also detained at Ghaziabad, said if proper, strong action had been taken at the appropriate time it would not have led to the current situation in Muzaffarnagar.
Impose president's rule in UP: BJP
In a statement, BJP President Rajnath Singh expressed deep sorrow and concern over the violence in Muzaffarnagar and appealed for calm.
"The communal atmosphere in Uttar Pradesh has been worsening under Samajwadi Party government. The law and order situation has gone from bad to worse. Dozens of communal riots have taken place in the last one and half years," Singh said.
He maintained if the Centre is aware of its constitutional responsibility, then it should dismiss the government and impose President's Rule.
"BJP will fully support in Parliament any such move of the government," Singh said.
He alleged "these riots not only put under suspicion the incompetence and lack of foresight of the government but also the intentions of the UP government in restoring communal atmosphere to normalcy".
RSS also condemned the riots and demanded the state government ensure the rule of law in UP.
"It appears that in Uttar Pradesh the communal forces are being given protection in the name of secularism and several riots have taken place due to this," RSS propaganda chief Manmohan Vaidya told reporters.
He said there appears to be a common thread in the recent riots and the government should in a "non-partisan, firm manner" enforce the rule of law in the state.
Akhilesh failed to act on Centre's warnings: Jaiswal
Union Coal Minister Shriprakash Jaiswal today accused the Akhilesh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh of failing to act on warnings by Centre about the designs to instigate communal violence in the state.
"The Union Home Ministry has been alerting the state government for a long time that attempts can be made to disturb communal harmony in UP. It is unfortunate that the state government did not take serious steps, otherwise it (the riots in Muzaffarnagar) could have been averted," Jasiwal said here.
"Presently it is the duty of every responsible person to control the situation there at any cost. Therefore I would not like to extensively comment on it. But the serious law and order situation in UP is revealed by these incidents," he said.
Akhilesh didn't ignore any warnings: Shinde
Union Home Ministry asked the state government to send Muzaffarnagar situation report every 12 hours. It also asked the state government to deploy enough forces in rural areas in the district where violence is yet to be contained.
Seventeen FIRs have been lodged in connection with the incidents. One of the FIR is relating to the Mahapanchayat held in Sukheda village in which provocative speeches were allegedly made, leading to the violence.
On how Centre had alerted 11 states following intelligence inputs about possible communal incidents, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said. "I don't think he (Akhilesh Yadav) ignored these warnings," he said on being asked whether the chief minister was to blamed for the violence.
Comprehensive probe needed: Digvijay
Suspecting "some mischief" for political gains, Congress leader Digvijay Singh made a strong pitch for a comprehensive inquiry to find out why Uttar Pradesh was having communal violence so often for the past one year.
"A comprehensive inquiry is indeed needed to find out why UP is having riots so often in last 1 year. Maybe some mischief for political gains," he said on Twitter.
"SP government's track-record in this tenure is bad. Haven't been able to control communal forces in Uttar Pradesh, even BSP's was better," Singh had tweeted.
Vote bank politics, claims Beni Prasad Verma
Union minister Beni Prasad Verma accused Mulayam Singh Yadav of indulging in vote bank politics by "pitting Hindus and Muslims against each other".
"My old friend is not able to run the government in the state properly but is dreaming of making it big," Verma said.
"Mulayam is playing vote-bank politics by pitting Hindus and Muslims against each other," Verma said adding that the ruling party is looting the state exchequer and in the coming Lok Sabha polls its nominees would lose their deposits.