Muzaffarnagar riots: some villages emptied, others are refugee camps

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Shops set on fire in Phugana, Muzaffarnagar

Loi village, Muzaffarnagar:  A haze of smoke and flames above the village of Phugana today signals a distress call that went ignored.

Early on Sunday morning, communal violence snaked through the conglomerate of narrow, dusty streets. In this village, a two-hour drive from Muzaffarnagar, 20,000 Hindu Jat families lived alongside 2,000 Muslims.

What happened next is clear from the empty Muslim quarter today. Homes are empty, shops destroyed. A ration shop was still on fire this afternoon. (Read: 10 latest developments)

The Jats of the village explain the chain of events that ignited this weekend's violence in which 30 people have died in and around Muzaffarnagar. Last month, a girl was being harassed by a Muslim boy in the village of Kawal, just 10 km from Muzaffarnagar. Two Jat boys allegedly killed him. Then they were lynched by a mob.    

The news spread quickly to villages like Phugana and on Saturday, when politicians and others called a large rally in Kawal to demand justice for the Jats who had died, thousands of farmers responded. That evening, on their way home, they were attacked.  (Sequence of events)

In Phugana, the sarpanch claims that he urged villagers not to  retaliate. He says the attacks on Muslims were carried out by outsiders in the dead of the night.

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The Muslims from the village angrily deny this. So far the police has not arrested anyone from Phugana. That is why the village of Loi, a 10-minute drive away, has turned into a refugee camp of sorts.  

From villages like Phugana, where Muslims were the clear minority, hundreds of families are arriving, some on foot, others packed into trucks, hoping there will be some strength in their numbers.  But there is no sign of any official assistance.  Food, water, and clothes are being collected and offered by the residents of Loi to the incomers.

The attacks, they say, began early on Sunday morning by their Jat neighbours.  One man from Phugana says his brother was stabbed. Another woman told us that she was chased and beaten.  No one came to help, they said, until it was all over.



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