|India pours troops into volatile state battling communal carnage
Thousands of troops have been dispatched to restore peace in India's northern Uttar Pradesh state where 28 people were killed in weekend Hindu-Muslim communal clashes. (Pictured, Gulista, a 24-year-old woman with her 8-month-old son Ayan in a district hospital in Muzaffarnagar.
Authorities declared a high-security alert following the violence in which mobs burned houses and a mosque in the state. Villagers crowded police stations seeking safety in the worst-hit Muzaffarnagar district, 105 kilometers northeast of capital New Delhi, television footage showed. In Muzaffarnagar where 38 percent of the population is Muslim and the remainder mainly Hindu, AFP reports.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the violence and promised “all required assistance'' to the state government.
Police said the death toll has risen to 28 and 90 have been arrested.
Police said the situation was tense but largely under control in the area from which families streamed late Sunday, abandoning their homes and carrying children in their arms, according to local media.
Junior Home Minister R.P.N. Singh said 5,000 extra paramilitary personnel were being rushed to violence-hit areas of the state, India's most populous with 200 million people.
“We don't feel safe in this village, where we form less than 10 percent of the population,'' Mohammed Haneef, a Muslim resident from Kharad village, 45 km from Muzaffarnagar, told The Indian Express daily.
A journalist for the local IBN7 television network and a police photographer were among those killed in the violence, the most serious in recent years.
Politically pivotal Uttar Pradesh witnessed deadly riots in 1992 following the destruction of a mosque by a Hindu mob. More than 2,000 people – mostly Muslims -- were killed after the 16th-century mosque in Ayodhya was demolished in some of India's worst communal clashes.
The latest violence has triggered speculation that political parties are seeking to polarize the state along religious lines ahead of general elections due next year.
The state's secular ruling Samajwadi Party has accused the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party of fuelling tensions with inflammatory speeches.