The Akhilesh Yadav government, which is struggling to douse the communal fire burning in Uttar Pradesh, came under attack from an unexpected quarter on Tuesday.
Congress leader from the state and Union Minister Jitin Prasada said Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav should quit in the wake of communal violence in western Uttar Pradesh districts, where the death toll crossed 40 on Tuesday.
” If I were in Akhilesh Yadav’s place, I would have stepped down taking moral responsibility,” Prasada said on Tuesday. “Twenty- one years have passed since such kind of violence has erupted in the state. The army is on the streets. This was unheard of,” he added.
Asked if the Congress is being soft on the SP government, which is providing outside support to the UPA government at the Centre, he said: “There is no question of being soft on any government, especially when incidents like this happen where over 40 people have died and communal passions have flared up.” State Congress in- charge Madhusudan Mistry accused the Samajwadi Party government in the state of ” conspiring” with the BJP to incite the riots. In an indirect demand for Akhilesh’s resignation, Mistry said: ” The chief minister or minister who cannot protect the people does not have the right to remain on the post.”
“Muzaffarnagar kept burning and the SP government allowed it to simmer. The state government failed on its own. This is the politics of dead bodies and it is just a trailer. I condemn it forcefully,” Mistry added.
In Muzaffarnagar, the situation remained tense but under control on Tuesday. With no reports of fresh violence, curfew was eased for two hours from 3.30 pm in certain areas. Residents rushed to medical shops, petrol pumps, grocery shops and ATMs to collect supplies and cash for emergency purposes. “I came here to buy medicines for my daughter who is unwell. Such violence does not benefit any caste or community,” Rakesh Jain, a resident, said.
Army personnel carried out flag marches at the trouble spots in Muzaffarnagar. “The situation is tense but under control.
We appeal to the citizens not to pay any heed to rumours,” ADG ( law and order) Arun Kumar said.
Home Secretary Kamal Saxena said in Lucknow that 38 people have died in various districts of western Uttar Pradesh, with as many as 32 deaths being reported from Muzaffarnagar alone. News agency reports, however, suggested that the toll has crossed 40.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday announced Rs.2 lakh each for the next of kin of those killed and Rs.50,000 each for those seriously injured in the communal clashes continuing since August 27 in the district.
Recounting tales of horror
Sitting beside the hospital bed where her daughter- inlaw is recuperating, 70- yearold Sakuran still looks shaky.
She is among the few people who are lucky to be alive.
Recounting her brush with death, Sakuran said: “We were locked inside and our house was set afire. But before it could spread, some Army personnel reached the spot and saved our lives. We are grateful to them.”Another victim Anuresh Baliyan said: ” I was returning after buying vegetables when a mob attacked the tractor- trolley in which I was travelling along with 20 others. They attacked us with sharp- edged weapons and two persons died on the spot.” Baliyan is currently undergoing treatment in the district hospital in Muzaffarnagar.
Herunisa, who is also admitted in the hospital, is yet to recover from the shock.
Three members of her family, including her 15- year- old daughter, were killed by the rioting mob. “They attacked our house in the midnight and killed my mother- in- law, brother- in- law and my daughter,” a tearful Herunisa said. Her two other daughters, 10- year- old Azra and 5- year- old Aksa are also admitted in the hospital with serious injuries.
Over 50 people, including many women and children, are undergoing treatment in the district hospital.
The usually busy and bustling roads of Muzaffarnagar wore a deserted look on Tuesday. Only policemen and Army personnel can be seen patrolling the town. The most daring of residents only sometimes peek from the windows of their houses.