The fragile peace in Muzaffarnagar was shattered Wednesday evening as communal clashes between two groups left three people dead, police said.
The clashes occurred in the Bhaurankalan police station area, when people from two communities fought a pitched battle in which three youngsters were shot dead.
The youngsters belonged to the Hussainpur Kalan village, an officer said.
The three victims, identified as Afroz, 20, Meherban, 21, and Ajmal, 22, were beaten to death while another was injured in clashes between members of two communities in Muhammadpurraisingh village, District Magistrate Kaushal Raj said.
As the news broke out, district officials went into a tizzy and rushed to the crime scene. The police forcibly and sent the bodies for post-mortem examination.
Confirming that, prima-facie, the clashes appeared "communal in nature," Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Mukul Goel said that the situation was "tense but under control".
Police reinforcements have been rushed to the area and the police in the region has been put on high alert.
Officials said that the three deceased belonged to the minority community.
District officials also added that a retired soldier, Rajendra Singh, had told the police that he was working in his field when a group of youth attacked him. He raised an alarm, he said, and villagers rushed to his rescue.
The attackers later opened fire. In the gunbattle that ensued, the three youngsters were killed, the official said, adding that Rajendra Singh's claims were being verified.
The retired soldier is a resident of Mohammadpur Raisingh village.
Police has so far detained two people, identified as Arvind and Sharnu, of Rajendra Singh's family.
Communal riots in Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring areas of Shamli and Meerut had killed 63 people between Sep 6 and 10. More than 43,000 people were rendered homeless and many of them have refused to go back home, citing the possibility of revenge attacks.
The state government, two days ago, released Rs.90 crore for the 1,800 families, mostly Muslim, which had refused to go back to their homes.
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