Meerut: Arrested BJP MLA Sangeet Som's wife and brother are among 3,600 people booked for clashes at a meeting called to protest against the MLA's arrest, in Meerut in western Uttar Pradesh on Sunday.
The clashes were a near repeat of events that had sparked communal riots in Muzaffarnagar just one hour away and had the administration battling for hours.
"It's a conspiracy against us," said Mulayam Singh Yadav, the chief of the state's ruling Samajwadi Party. "Those behind this will be punished."
24 people have been arrested till now. Sangeet Som's wife Priti and brother Sagar allegedly organised the gathering or panchayat at the Kheda village that turned unruly and started throwing stones at the police and damaging their vehicles. The police say Sagar Som was steering the crowds.
Sangeet Som was arrested under the stringent National Security Act last week for allegedly making hate speeches and sharing a fake online video that fed the simmering communal anger, though it was shot in Pakistan and had nothing to do with Muzaffarnagar.
The police used batons and tear gas and fired warning shots in the air to control the mob. An outdoor broadcast van of the NDTV crew was also damaged.
"The situation is under control, our paramilitary force is working on various areas," said Meerut District Magistrate Navdeep Rinwa today. "We thank god that it did not turn into an incident like Muzaffarnagar."
It was a similar gathering or mahapanchayat of farmers that had led to communal riots between Jats and Muslims in Muzaffarnagar earlier this month, killing almost 50 people and driving 45,000 from their villages.
"The BJP is trying to bring Muzaffarnagar to Meerut, they want to burn UP," said Congress leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi.
The Akhilesh Yadav government, which had been criticised for its failure to prevent the riots, arrested several people including three MLAs for inciting the violence with incendiary speeches and rumours.