Curfew was on Tuesday relaxed for over two hours in three areas of trouble-hit Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh even as the death toll in the clashes in the district and adjoining towns climbed to 40.
With no reports of any fresh violence, curfew was eased for two-and-a-half hours from 3.30 pm in Kotwali, Civil Lines and Nai Nandi areas, district magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma said. The district administration had clamped curfew on Saturday following incidents of communal violence.
"The death toll in Muzaffarnagar has risen to 34," ADG (Law and Order) Arun Kumar said, adding one person died in Sekeda.
Home Secretary Kamal Saxena said while two deaths have been reported from Meerut, one each has been reported from Hapur, Baghpat, Saharanpur and Shamli.
81 people have been injured in these districts and 366 people have been arrested, he said while claiming that the situation was "under control".
Officials said curfew could be further relaxed to four hours tomorrow.
Sending out a stern warning, U P Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said, "The state government would deal strictly with all those who have tried to create communal chasm and harm the atmosphere of Muzaffarnagar and Uttar Pradesh." "It would be our efforts that communal amity is strengthened and the areas where situation has been brought under control no new incidents are allowed to take place", he told reporters after a state cabinet meeting here which took stock of the recent developments.
"We have got information that many people have left there homes and villages and collected elsewhere and they have to return...it would be my appeal that brotherhood should remain intact", he said.
In Agra, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav defended the state government. "The government did everything to control the violence. It was stopped in two days. The security forces dealt with the problem very effectively," he told reporters.
"Whatever happened is the result of caste conflict," he said.
Curfew remained in force in other areas. Army patrolled the troubled areas in Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and Meerut, Saxena said.
Prohibitory orders are being enforced strictly and a close watch is being maintained on mischievous elements, he said.
Security has been stepped up in sensitive Bareilly district following communal violence in western districts of Uttar Pradesh.
"Though there is complete calm in the district but apprehending that anti-social elements may try to vitiate the atmosphere, prohibitory orders have been issued and leave of all the policemen cancelled as a precautionary measure", district magistrate Abhishek Prakash said.
Five truck load of essential requirements were distributed in releif shelters in Jola, Manwala, Shikarpur, Bhudana and Basi Kala, District magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma said.
In Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today announced Rs 2 lakh each to the next of kin of those killed in Muzaffarnagar violence and Rs 50,000 each to those seriously injured.
Singh had on Monday spoken to the chief minister and assured him of all help from the Centre to deal with the situation.
Stepping up pressure, Congress leader from UP and Union minister Jitin Prasada said Akhilesh Yadav should step down as chief minister.
Congress general secretary Madhusudan Mistry said, "The chief minister or minister who cannot protect the people do not have the right to remain in office."
FIRs have been registered against BJP legislative party leader Hukum Singh, MLAs Suresh Rana, Bhartendu, Sangeet Som and former Congress MP Harendra Malik among others for violating prohibitory orders.
A one-member judicial commission headed by retired Justice Vishnu Sahai has been constituted by the state government to probe into the Muzaffarnagar violence and asked to submit its report in two months.
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.
The state government has also shunted out Saharanpur DIG, SSP Muzaffarnagar and SP Shamli. Violence-hit Muzaffarnagar lies in Saharanpur range.