A tense Muzaffarnagar was largely calm Wednesday even as the death toll in one of the worst communal outbreaks in Uttar Pradesh officially stood at 37. Officials speaking on the condition of anonymity, however, told IANS that 48 people have been killed.
They said two bodies were found from a farm in Kiran village in neighbouring Baghpat, where a few policemen were injured Wednesday when a mob pelted them with stones, officials said. The situation was soon brought under control, and 25 people were booked for the violence.
The government had earlier put the death toll at 38 but clarified later that a man found dead had no links to the communal violence which engulfed Muzaffarnagar district from Saturday to Monday.
Tens of thousands of men and women poured on to the streets for panic buying of essential commodities when authorities relaxed curfew Wednesday noon for four hours. When the four hours got over, the otherwise bustling Muzaffarnagar again became a ghost town, taken over by soldiers and other security forces.
On Tuesday, the curfew was lifted for 90 minutes. All educational institutions remain shut. According to official statistics, 93 people were injured in the riots, of which nine remain in hospital. Three of them are in critical condition.
The Uttar Pradesh government Wednesday announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs.1 million to the next of kin of each of the dead. Those seriously injured would be given Rs.50,000 each. Eight columns of the army marched through the streets of the city of four million to give a sense of security to its shell-shocked residents.
An additional 29 companies of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and paramilitary forces have also been deployed in the city. Inspector General of Police Ashish Gupta said over 2,000 arms licences had been cancelled in the region where many people, including in the rural areas, possess weapons for more reasons than one.
The Uttar Pradesh government, facing flak that it did not act promptly to curb the violence, again appealed to people not to pay heed to rumours. An official spokesman said a one-man judicial commission of Justice Vishnu Sahay will be based in Muzaffarnagar, 130 km west of New Delhi, and submit its report in two months. The commission was appointed Tuesday to study the reasons behind the riots.
Home Secretary Kamal Saxena also urged people not to be carried away by video clips on mobile phones and social networking sites. He said the National Security Act had been slapped on seven people and further legal action against them was being taken.
In a related development, a public interest litigation was filed in the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court seeking a probe by the CBI into the 35-odd communal clashes Uttar Pradesh has seen since Akhilesh Yadav became the chief minister in March 2012. In Agra, the ruling Samajwadi Party's national executive admitted that the violence had dented its image.
Party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav, however, endorsed party chief Mulayam Singh's view that the Muzaffaranagar violence was a caste and not a communal riot.
In Lucknow, central Minister of State for HRD Jatin Prasad demanded the resignation of Akhilesh Yadav. Accusing the state government of "total failure", the minister said he wondered how a government which prevented the "84 kosi yatra" of the Hindu groups in Ayodhya failed to prevent the Muzaffarnagar riots.
In New Delhi, the Supreme Court said it will Thursday hear a plea seeking a CBI probe into the Muzaffarnagar violence. The nine petitioners have sought an investigation into the "whole incident of mass genocide" and "proper and adequate rehabilitation" for an estimated 20,000 victims.