Muzaffarnagar toll 30; UP orders judicial probe, shifts officials

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav ordered transfer of top officials and setting up of a judicial commission to probe the violence even as he called the incident a planned conspiracy to malign his government. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up Akhilesh Yadav to offer help while opposition parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) demanded president's rule in the country's most populous state of 210 million people.

The ruling Samajwadi Party chief Mualayam Singh Yadav continued discussions with party leaders and spoke to many religious leaders and asked them to appeal for calm. With violence refusing to abate in rural areas of the town, with a significant Muslim population, authorities gave shoot-at-sight orders against rioters in Muzaffarnagar district, known for its sugar mills amidst sprawling sugarcane fields. It is located barely 120 km from the national capital.

Officials said 27 bodies were recovered from various places in Muzaffarnagar and three bodies discovered from neighbouring Baghpat, Saharanpur and Shamli. The state government transferred top officials including the deputy inspector general of police (Saharanpur range), the divisional commissioner of Meerut and district police chiefs of Shamli and Muzaffarnagar.

Retired Allahabad High Court judge Vishnu Sahay was named to probe the violence, an official said. The one-member judicial commission has been asked to submit its report to the state government within two months. Home Secretary Kamal Saxena told reporters that the commission would probe all events between Aug 27 and Sep 9 and would investigate the reasons behind the communal flare up and identify people behind the violence. 

The commission is also expected to suggest ways to prevent a repeat of such incidents. So far 90 people have been arrested for their involvement in the violence and FIRs have been registered against 1,000 unknown people. Police also moved to cancel arms license of 1,744 people in the three police stations where curfew has been clamped. 

The district police also booked four BJP legislators - Hukum Singh, Bhartendu, Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana and former Congress MP Harendra Malik. A ban was imposed on political leaders from entering Muzaffarnagar and BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad and Civil Aviation Minister and RLD chief Ajit Singh and his son and Mathura MP Jayant Chaudhary stopped at Ghaziabad as they were on their way to the town.

Sectarian violence started when some people pelted stones at a bus carrying people to a "mahapanchayat" where elders of two religious groups were meeting to sort out the simmering tension between Jats, a farming community, and Muslims ever since three youth were killed Aug 27 over a case of stalking, allegedly of a Jat Hindu girl by a Muslim youth.

The spiralling violence prompted Manmohan Singh Monday to speak to the 40-year-old first-time UP chief minister and assure him all help, officials in the chief minister's office told IANS. Saxena said the state had asked for 50 companies of paramilitary forces and so far had got 28. More are on the way, an official said.  As opposition parties demanded Akhilesh quit or president's rule be imposed in the state, he alleged that there was a political conspiracy to defame his government.

"Political parties have joined hands to defame my government as they have run out of tricks owing to our development agenda," he said on the sidelines of an event here. Minority Affairs Minister Azam Khan said a very "vicious face of politics was at play in UP" as he appealed for calm and peace. Mayawati demanded imposition of President's rule in the state over the bloodletting and criticised the regime for "failing to control communal flare-ups and (deteriorating) law and order".

Congress, so long silent on the violence, Monday said time had come for Akhilesh Yadav to own up responsibility and to step down for failing to anticipate and contain violence in the western Uttar Pradesh town.  The state government has also sent detailed reports on the violence to the state governor BL Joshi and the ministry of home affairs.

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