This Article is From Sep 08, 2013

Muzaffarnagar clashes: The violent countryside

A policeman walks through an empty street in Muzaffarnagar as curfew remained in force following violence

Muzaffarnagar: The army's show of strength through the deserted streets of Muzaffarnagar town has helped ensure a tense and uneasy calm.

But the violence in the villages nearby continued unchecked. There were 13 fresh deaths on Monday, all from rural pockets. Most of those killed were attacked either with knives or swords or blunt instruments. But police say a few also died because of gunfire.

As we drove out into the countryside, the cloak of security receded. We glimpsed a sole anti-riot vehicle making its way through the sugarcane fields.

In the village of Soron, in Shahpur, violence broke out on Wednesday morning. In the Jat quarter of the village, they claimed their Muslim neighbours provoked the violence. Some show us wounds, others bricks strewn about. One of them says his nephew, 21, was shot in the hip. 

But in the Muslim quarter, the same charges are reversed. They say it was the Jats who fired. One woman shows us what she claims was wounds from a country-made weapon. Another claims acid was thrown on his back.

The police were missing, and both sides claimed to feel insecure. The IG Law and Order, Uttar Pradesh, however, said that their deployment in the rural areas had improved.

Ask the people the reasons for the violence, and most are unclear. A Jat man says it was an altercation between two people on who would ride on top of a local bus.

But these appear to be just excuses, a match waiting to light up the tinderbox of a week of communal tension.

Only on this do both sides agree - that decades of peace now lie shattered.