Muzaffarnagar riots: politicians addressed crowd armed with swords, guns

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Hukum Singh, BJP leader, delivers a speech at a farmers' mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar on September 7

Muzaffarnagar:  The eruption of deadly communal riots in Muzaffarnagar is attributed to a gathering of thousands of Hindu Jat farmers on September 7 on the outskirts of a village named Kawal, where days earlier, a Muslim boy had been killed by two Jat brothers, who were then lynched within an hour. (Read: Riots started with this teen's harassment, say some)

Local officials had banned public meetings after the murders. But politicians, determined to hone and exploit the tension between Hindus and Muslims, held meetings and delivered incendiary speeches.

New footage of the mahapanchayat on September 7, accessed by NDTV, shows four BJP  legislators at the enormous gathering, where many farmers brandished swords and guns. The four politicians have been accused by the police of stirring communal hatred; none have been arrested so far.

Seen delivering a speech is Hukum Singh, the BJP's Leader in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly. Watching him are partymen Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana. Hukum Singh tells the crowd that earlier atrocities by minorities were not investigated or punished by the administration.

Later, an aggressive Mr Singh told journalists, "There has been discrimination against Hindus for the last year and a half... No action is being taken on complaints... They are being troubled... girls are being harassed. The purpose of this panchayat is Hindu unity."

Since then Mr Singh has attempted to distance himself from the Saturday meeting. His comments to journalists, he said today, were merely a response to why the panchayat had been called. He also said that he had uttered "not a single word that was objectionable" in his speech.   

"I did not organise it. I was merely called there," the BJP man said, also reiterating that he left within 10 minutes as he was shocked the police had allowed people to bring weapons.

The footage shows the agitated crowd leaving the meeting shouting inflammatory slogans, wielding guns, cleavers and batons.

As they left the meeting, groups of farmers were attacked. In the next 48 hours, nearly 50 people were killed.

At other meetings, leaders from other parties stoked the tension.

After Friday prayers on August 30, local leaders from the Congress and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party or BSP delivered incendiary speeches, the police said, to an audience of about 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, in Muzaffarnagar. They have been named in a police case for instigating communal tension, but have not been arrested yet. (Read: Curfew lifted in Muzaffarnagar, night patrolling to continue)

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