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Over 26 dead as communal fire ravages Uttar Pradesh


Army was deployed around midnight on Saturday. Curfew has been clamped in Muzaffarnagar and National Highway 58, also called Dehradun-Delhi highway, connecting Uttarakhand with other parts of the country, has been closed to traffic.

The Centre has sought a report from the UP government on violence in Muzaffarnagar and directed it to take strong action to curb riots. The state government has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 15 lakh for the kin of the slain TV journalist and Rs 10 lakh to the family of others who were killed in clashes between members of two communities in Muzaffarnagar.

Civil aviation minister Ajit Singh and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati have demanded immediate dismissal of Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party government. Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh has appealed for peace and maintaining calm. Ajit Singh, who represents neighbouring Baghpat parliamentary seat, has appealed to the people to maintain calm and not to get instigated by the rumours that are being spread by nefarious elements and continue the age-old tradition of living in peace and harmony.

What is worrying the administration is that the clashes were spreading to neighbouring districts like Meerut, from where one death has already been reported in an incident of firing between two communities. ‘With a large number of people missing the numbers are likely to go up,’ said official sources. Shoot at sight order has been issued for the persons involved in violence. Curfew in Civil Lines, Kotwali and Nai Mandi police areas is continuing in Muzaffarnagar and security has been intensified across the district with the deployment of 40 companies of PAF, ITBP, BSF and PAC.
Over 50 persons have been injured in the incidents of firing, stabbing and arson reported across a few villages, following a Mahapanchayat (public meeting) held by the local Jat community in Naglababad village of Muzaffarnagar district on Saturday. The Mahapanchayat demanded withdrawal of cases against members of their community, who had been booked over communal clashes, which started over a trivial matter, in the neighbouring Kawal village on 27 August, which had left three people dead.

The violence flared up 10 days later after a doctored video clipping, showing two youths being killed, went viral on Saturday. By the time police intervened it had been downloaded into several mobile phones sending across a wave of communal rage. 

Questions are being asked on how the police failed to control the situation when just two days earlier, DG police of the state, Devraj Nagar, had visited the district to take stock of the situation. Despite that, why no precautionary measures were taken to prevent any untoward incident is a questions which the police and the civil administration are finding difficult to answer. 
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