|Security personnel march through a village in Muzaffarnagar on Sunday
Lucknow/New Delhi, Sept. 8: The toll in the clashes at Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh has risen to 26 with 15 persons being killed today, amid allegations that fake video footage is being circulated to foment trouble.
The army has been called in to contain the clashes — the worst during the Akhilesh Yadav government’s 18 months in power. The army has contained the violence in the town but information bottlenecks in six remote villages are posing a problem.
“The incidents are taking place in numerous small settlements. The attackers are hiding in the sugarcane fields. They attack the security forces and they again go into hiding,” said an official.
Besides 800 soldiers, 10,000 Provincial Armed Constabulary personnel, 1,300 CRPF jawans and 1,200 Rapid Action Force personnel have been deployed, officials said.
The security forces’ task has been made more difficult by the circulation of rumours. One group is holding a series of meetings, which are also keeping the mood inflammable, sources said.
A fake Internet video, purportedly showing two persons being killed, fuelled the tension yesterday. The authorities had the video blocked but CDs of it soon began floating around.
The state government said the footage did not feature anything that happened in the country. Appealing to people not to pay heed to rumours, inspector-general (crime) Ashish Gupta said: “A video is also being circulated through Facebook and other networking sites to create tension. I want to tell you that the said video is probably over two years old and is of some other country.”
Muzaffarnagar has been on edge since August 27 when a girl was allegedly teased and tempers flared up, triggering a series of clashes that spun out of control yesterday. A meeting demanding the release of those arrested for the earlier clashes became a staging post for attacks after some of those heading to the venue were assaulted on the way.
The belt is under the political control of civil aviation minister Ajit Singh, whose party RLD has blamed the ruling Samajwadi Party as well as the BJP for stoking the embers ahead of the general election next year.
Ajit has called for President’s rule in the state.
His son and MP Jayant Chaudhary said: “For the past eight days, my father and I have been fielding calls from people there. It’s no good for the state government to now say the BJP has instigated the trouble. Strict and neutral action is the need of the hour and there should be no finger-pointing at any community.”