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High security for Muzaffarnagar commemoration

Heavy security deployed as villagers remember deadly violence that left 60 Indians dead and displaced more than 50,000.

Last updated: 29 Aug 2014 06:06
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India witnessed over 700 communal riots last year with Uttar Pradesh topping the list [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

India has deployed heavy security in the restive Muzaffarnagar district of northern Uttar Pradesh state where villagers are commemorating last year's deadly violence in which scores were killed and thousands displaced.

Villagers in Kawal on Thursday organised a commemoration ritual according to Hindu tradition to pay homage to two Hindu youths whose deaths helped trigger the violence.

On Wednesday, residents of Muzaffarnagar held a candle light demonstration calling for peace to mark the first anniversary of the violence.

Security was beefed up in the district where police officials were monitoring the area and a team of Rapid Action Force (a specialised wing of the paramilitary) was also in action, the Reuters news agency reported.

The clashes, which began on August 27, 2013, continued for weeks and left at least 60 people, mostly Muslims, dead with more than 50,000 forced to flee their homes.

Naresh Tikait, the chief of the Indian Farmers' Union, has accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of failing to address issues in Muzaffarnagar.

Tikait claimed that riots might happen again because of simmering discontent among victims from last year who had not been compensated.

"Ever since the BJP government has come to power, there is simmering unrest in various areas of the state," the Reuters news agency quoted Tikait as saying.

"No one listens to the plight of the people and because the people are suffering, riots might occur.

"We are not creating unrest. There are clashes because the affected people are suffering," he said.

Fear remains

The violence, which forced authorities to deploy the army and paramilitary forces, impose curfews and revoke gun licences in places where arms are plentiful, has ebbed, but many displaced Muslims refuse to return home, fearing more bloodshed.

They are selling their properties cheaply to Hindu neighbours, the Indian Express has reported.

The state government in Uttar Pradesh state, run by the Samajwadi Party which promotes itself as secular, has been criticised by right-wingers for "being soft" on Muslims and discriminating against Hindus.

Religion and caste violence play a central role in politics in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state.

Fanning communal tension often brings political gains to parties that claim to protect different religious and caste groups and analysts say this is what happened in Muzaffarnagar.

India witnessed over 700 communal riots, with Uttar Pradesh topping the list, last year.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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