The Prime Minister, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her deputy Rahul Gandhi today visited Muzaffarnagar, the western Uttar Pradesh district where nearly 50 people were killed in severe communal riots last week.
Their visit to refugee camps for displaced Muslims in Basikala and Tavli villages drew high emotion. Women wept and recounted the horror they experienced. A villager named Jameel broke down as he told the PM that he saw his wife and child being murdered. (Read
It also drew criticism, not just from political rivals but also some victims, who alleged it was political tokenism. (See pics
"When VIPs visit, they arrive surrounded by security. Why didn't the police arrive to help us when we needed it?" a man named Shahzad asked the leaders in Tawli.
The Congress leaders' itinerary in a deeply polarised region was questioned too. They made only a quick, unscheduled stop at two Jat settlements on their way to a helipad.
A group of Jats stopped the PM and reportedly said, "Please ensure fairness in investigations. Don't be like Akhilesh." Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his Samajwadi Party government have been accused by the BJP of being partisan.
Today it slammed the PM's visit as "secular tourism."
Mr Yadav's senior minister Azam Khan said sarcastically, "PM Manmohan Singh has gone to Muzaffarnagar... it is good... elections are near and he should do this." The SP and the Congress, allies at the Centre, vie for the 18 per cent Muslim vote in Uttar Pradesh.
Even Mayawati, another ally, said the Congress visit was "only political drama."
Meanwhile, in a growing humanitarian crisis, 40,000 people crowd refugee camps, too afraid to return home.
The violence began after two Jat boys and a Muslim were killed in Kawal over the alleged harassment of a Hindu girl. On September 7, a massive gathering of Hindu farmers on September 7 was allowed despite tension in the area; on the way home, farmers were attacked with swords and knives; retaliatory killings followed for 48 hours.