A court in northern India has ordered the arrest of dozens of suspects, including politicians and community leaders, for inciting violence during recent Hindu-Muslim clashes that left 49 people dead, police say.

The state legislators, including those from the ruling Congress party and main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are among 69 people wanted by police over the riots in India's most populous state Uttar Pradesh.

"The court in Muzaffarnagar today ordered their arrest after we registered cases against 69 people who include leaders from some political parties," Manoj Jha, Uttar Pradesh police spokesman, told AFP news agency on Wednesday.

An opposition parliament member was among the politicians and community leaders wanted for questioning for allegedly making inflammatory speeches during the unrest, he said.

Jha did not say how many politicians and community leaders were being targeted, but the Press Trust of India news agency, quoting unnamed police officials, put the figure at 16.

Some have already been arrested and charged with inciting violence, according to local media.

Security forces deployed

The unrest, during which mobs burned houses and a mosque forcing hundreds of people to flee, erupted this month in Muzaffarnagar, 105km northeast of Delhi, before spreading to other villages.

Thousands of extra paramilitary personnel were sent to affected areas of the state, which has a history of religion and caste-based violence in its 200-million population.

Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, visited on Monday victims of the unrest, who have sought shelter in makeshift camps in Uttar Pradesh, and promised tough action for those responsible.

The clashes erupted on September 7 after thousands of Hindu farmers held a meeting to demand justice over the killing of three Hindu men who had protested when a woman was allegedly harassed.

The latest violence has prompted speculation that Indian political parties are seeking to polarise the pivotal state along religious lines in the run-up to general elections due next year.

Uttar Pradesh witnessed riots in 1992 following the razing of a mosque by a Hindu mob. More than 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed after the 16th-century structure in Ayodhya was demolished.

Source: AFP