Uttar Pradesh was on Monday struggling to contain communal violence as the death toll in Muzaffarnagar and other areas rose to 31, with authorities arresting 200 rioters and stopping Union Minister Ajit Singh and BJP MPs including Ravi Shankar Prasad from visiting the troubled district.
"The death toll in the violence in Muzaffarnagar and other areas has climbed to 31," Principal Secretary Home R M Srivastava told PTI in Lucknow even as curfew remained in force in riot-hit areas and army staged flag march for the second consecutive day.
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.
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.
Union Home Ministry asked Uttar Pradesh 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.
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.
RLD chief Ajit Singh, Prasad and two BJP MPs were detained by the police in Ghaziabad after they attempted to enter UP to visit the violence-hit district.
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 for violating prohibitory orders.
Under fire over the violence, UP government transferred top police officials, including Saharanpur DIG, SSP Muzaffarnagar and SP Shamli. Violence-hit Muzaffarnagar lies in Saharanpur range.
"We are also cancelling arms licenses in Phugana, Shahpur, Dhaurakalan as they were misused during the violence," ADG, Law and Order, Arun Kumar told reporters in Muzaffarnagar.
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.
Muzaffarnagar District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma said one person was stabbed to death in Meerapur town of Muzaffarnagar district today.
"One person was stabbed to death and one other injured when some miscreants attacked them," Sharma said, adding that at least six people have been taken into police custody for interrogation in this connection.
One person was also killed in Saharanpur, officials said.
Secretary Home, Kamal Saxena said that 45 injured persons are undergoing treatment in various hospitals in Muzaffarnagar.
Army staged flag march in Shahpur, Khautauli, Purkazi, Maripur, and Shamli areas, officials said.
Union Minister of State for Home RPN Singh said 5,000 paramilitary force personnel have already been sent to violence-hit areas of Uttar Pradesh, in addition to Army personnel.
"If necessary, we are ready to provide more forces," he said in Delhi.
The National Human Rights Commission said it will look into cases of communal riots in Muzaffarnagar once the situation returns to normal.
NHRC Chairperson K G Balakrishnan said the Commission would take cognisance of alleged rights violation, if any, reported from the affected areas.
Attacking the UP government, Ajit Singh said, "There was an incident in Shamli prior to this incident. Had the administration taken appropriate steps at that time and made the people feel that justice would prevail, then this situation would not have happened."
Later, the Civil Aviation Minister and his son Jayant Choudhary, an MP from Mathura, decided to return to Delhi.
The BJP alleged that the UP administration under the Samajwadi Party government has acted in a discriminatory manner.
Prasad, who was also detained at UP Gate by the police at around 1.50 PM, said he along with Lok Sabha MPs Rajendra Agarwal (Meerut) and Rama Shankar (Agra) were going with the objective to create "sadbhavna" (harmony), besides meeting the injured.
"Yet we are prevented from going....The larger issue is what is happening. It is not the first incident of communal violence, it is 70th or 80th communal violence in last one year.
"Because that administration under the Samajwadi government is repeatedly been forced to given an impression that it can act in a discriminatory (manner). The administration exists for the interest of only one community," Prasad said, adding, "If proper, strong action had been taken at the appropriate time, this would not have ended like this" in Muzaffarnagar.
Asked about allegations that BJP politicians could have been involved in the violence, Prasad said, "To conceal their (UP administration's) failure, they are raking up this abili.
When two young men were killed, there were 12 persons named in the FIR. Why no one was arrested in time? I am sorry, I don't wish to worsen the atmosphere.... I say if anyone is involved action should be taken."
The BJP leaders were taken to Vasundra Guest House.
The Left too accused the UP government of laxity.
"The large-scale riot was sparked off by a small incident which occurred nearly ten days earlier but the laxity of the administration has allowed the communal elements to exploit the situation," the CPI(M) Politburo said in a statement.
However, the Chief Minister alleged that violence in Muzzafarnagar and other areas was a political conspiracy and an attempt to defame and destablise his government.
"Some political parties are trying to vitiate the atmosphere and inflame communal passion. They are trying to find ways to attack the government, they have done this earlier also. Small incidents are being blown out by such people to discredit the Samajwadi Party government.
"We will take strict action against those trying to stir up communal trouble. The violence is a political conspiracy to defame and destablise my government, which is doing good job for poor, youths and all sections of the society", Yadav told reporters in Lucknow.
SP spokesman and Cabinet minister Rajendra Chowdhury rejected the demand for imposition of President's Rule by BJP, Congress and BSP as "unjustified".
"We stopped 84 kosi yatra and thwarted attempt to communalise atmosphere of the state...In Muzaffarnagar incident also, action will be taken against those who had taken law into their hands," Chowdhury said after SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav held a meeting with the Chief Minister and senior officers to take stock of the situation.
Yadav sought to know from the officers why the situation could not be controlled yet and the measures taken for maintaining law and order in Muzaffarnagar.
Tension has been running high since three persons were killed in Kawal village on August 27 over an eveteasing incident.
At least 11 persons, including a TV channel journalist and a photographer, were killed on Saturday in violence that started during a meeting in Naglabadhod in defiance of prohibitory orders to demand withdrawal of cases registered in connection with August 27 violence in Kawal. Since then it has spread to other areas.