Indian police arrest politicians over communal violence

Sept. 18, 2013 at 6:14 PM
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NEW DELHI, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Police in Uttar Pradesh were rounding up 16 people, including politicians, after an Indian court ordered their arrest for allegedly inciting deadly communal violence.

Nearly 50 people died in the fighting that flared between Muslims and Hindus in the town of Muzaffarnagar and in surrounding villages early this month.

As clashes intensified, about 5,000 army personnel moved in to quell the violence in the area 80 miles northeast of New Delhi.

Among the dead was a 40-year-old imam shot at his mosque and a television reporter caught up in the fighting -- the worst communal violence in 20 years.

During the riots, more than 200 people were arrested and 1,000 detained.

India's federal union government in New Delhi later called for an investigation into allegations of political involvement in fomenting the violence.

Problems rose when two brothers of a girl allegedly killed her suspected stalker Aug. 27.

In an apparent revenge attack, the girl's two brothers then were killed by assailants.

Uttar Pradesh politicians and local community leaders on both sides are suspected of giving public speeches to crowds that allegedly fueled tension and street fighting that broke out Sept. 7, the Hindustan Times reported.

Ten police teams were sent out Wednesday to make arrests immediately after the Muzaffarnagar chief judicial magistrate issued non-bailable warrants against 16 people, the newspaper said.

The suspects are wanted for violating prohibitory orders and provoking communal tension by inflammatory speeches during different public meetings in the district.

Senior Police Superintendent Proven Jamar said four politicians already had been arrested and more arrests are expected in the next two days.

Those being sought include politicians from the ruling Samarkand Party and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

Uttar Pradesh BJP leader Uma Bharti greeted the warrants and arrests with a warning of "more tension" if BJP politicians are detained, NDTV reported.

"Our [members of the state Legislature] won't oppose their arrest, but the government is responsible for what will follow," she said.

"I am warning them. If any MLAs are arrested, it means they [the Samarkand Party] want to restart the riots ... and this time, they want to target one particular community and one party."

The Deccan Chronicle reported Wednesday a military curfew had been lifted two days earlier.

But more than 10,000 people from 32 villages in Muzaffarnagar still were living in relief camps 12 days after the disturbances broke out.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited hospitalized victims Monday and promised to help the state government bring the area back to normal, the Chronicle said.

The official language of the city and district is Hindi, although the area is split nearly evenly between Hindus and Muslims.

The All India Council of Muslim Economic Upliftment, a non-governmental social service organization, estimates 49 percent of the 900,000 population are Hindus, followed by 47 percent Muslims.

Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, last saw Hindu-Muslim riots in 1992 after the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya by hard-line Hindus, the BBC reported.

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