Two months after communal riots, peace still eludes Muzaffarnagar

Muzaffarnagar still on the edge
Muzaffarnagar/Lucknow, Nov 9: Two months after communal riots in Muzaffarnagar killed dozens and left thousands homeless, the farm-rich region in western Uttar Pradesh remains on the edge. A senior official frankly admitted that it will take a long time for the return of normalcy.

In the last one month alone, five incidents of violence have left five people dead. Local officials now worry that even petty crimes such as "eve teasing" and chain snatching are being given a communal colour.

A month back, a former soldier was found shot dead along with a friend in a village in Saharanpur, a district adjoining Muzaffarnagar. Villagers had alleged that the two were killed by Muslims.

A month of investigation into testimonies revealed that the killings were executed by the ex-soldier's son out of greed he wanted to grab the Rs.10 lakh awarded as compensation for riot victims.

Last week, a couple was waylaid while returning from a doctor's clinic in Muzaffarnagar. When she resisted, the woman was shot dead. It was billed a communal crime, and residents squatted on the road and disrupted traffic.

A minor girl in one of the relief camps was raped last week. Two sides fought a pitched battle in Shahpur village. A few youths later fired at a doctor's car while a youngster was murdered in Valli village.

Last month, five incidents of violence left five people dead

Additional Director General of Police Mukul Goel told IANS that many cases of communal incidents have been "found to be routine crimes".

While official vigil has been stepped up to ensure minimal crimes, officials rue that the religious divide in Muzaffarnagar city as well as the sprawling countryside now runs very deep.

While locals blame it on the long-standing antipathy between the Maliks (Jat sub-community) and Muslims, officials say the political leadership is responsible too.

A senior police official said that while most senior police officers in the region during the September riots were transferred or suspended, the IAS and PCS lobby escaped with no punishment.

Vijay Bahadur Pathak, spokesman of the Bharatiya Janata Party's state unit, says the Uttar Pradesh government's failure is more than that of the district administration in Muzaffarnagar, Meerut and Shamli.

"What do you expect from officials when they have to take every single, small step after diktat from Lucknow?" he asked.


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