India's political parties are blaming each other for religious riots that killed at least 28 people and forced hundreds to flee their homes this weekend.
Police evacuated Hindu and Muslim villagers on Monday in the district of Muzaffarnagar, 130km northeast of New Delhi in the state of Uttar Pradesh, at the centre of some of the worst communal violence in years.
The situation had calmed thanks to a big mobilisation of police and soldiers, officials said.
Hundreds of soldiers patrolled otherwise deserted streets in Muzaffarnagar on Monday.
Some locals, fearful after attackers beat children and burned property, hid in fields and police stations, or fled in ox carts and tractors on Sunday.
Kamal Saxena, an Uttar Pradesh security official, said 31 people were killed, with some fighting also breaking out in a neighbouring district.
State police registered cases against six local politicians for allegedly giving inflammatory speeches at a meeting on Saturday.
Several politicians, including a national cabinet minister and a senior opposition leader, tried to reach Muzaffarnagar on Monday but were detained by police who said their presence could stir up more violence.
"We are on a high alert and curfew will remain in parts of Muzaffarnagar city, while security forces are doing regular rounds in the affected villages," Arun Kumar, deputy police chief, said.
Sushil Kumar Shinde, India's home minister, accused Akhilesh Yadav, Uttar Pradesh chief minister, of failing to heed warnings before the weekend, and said the state government was not doing enough to stop such incidents.
Yadav, whose Samajwadi Party relies heavily on Muslim votes, blamed the troubles on the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is on a major drive to win more votes in the state that contributes most seats to parliament.
"A minor scuffle between two individuals has been blown into a riot simply because of being fuelled by BJP leaders ... who have nothing else to bank on at a time when general elections are not far away," Yadav said.
Some reports said the violence broke out when a mob attacked a vehicle after Saturday's meeting where the alleged inflammatory speeches had been made.
Three of the politicians were from the BJP and one from the Congress party, which heads the national coalition government.
Religion and caste violence plays a central role in politics in Uttar Pradesh, one of India's poorest states with a population larger than that of Russia. Fanning the tension often brings political gain to parties that claim to protect different religious and caste groups from one another.
Shinde, the home minister, said 451 cases of communal violence were registered in the first eight months of this year in India, up from 410 in the whole of 2012 and that tensions were expected to escalate in the build-up to 20014 general elections.
Violence between Muslims and Hindus has been a defining feature of Indian politics since the separation of Pakistan in 1947, when hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions displaced.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies