NEW DELHI - India stepped up security Thursday after a fresh outbreak of violence killed four Muslims in the same region hit by deadly communal clashes last month, a police officer said.
The villagers were killed overnight close to Muzaffarnagar, 105 kilometres northeast of capital New Delhi, where mobs last month burnt houses during Muslim-Hindu riots that left 50 people dead and forced hundreds to flee.
The Uttar Pradesh state government deployed around 500 paramilitary troops to Muzaffarnagar early Thursday as a precaution, while eight people were arrested in the overnight violence, the officer said. “Last night, four people died in nearby villages, including a woman. They were separate incidents,” the senior district police official told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
“It seems like it is more of a domestic dispute. We are probing the matter.” It is unclear whether the latest violence is liked to communal tensions in and around Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh state, which has a history of religious and caste-based clashes.
According to police, the first incident involved clashes between two groups of people from neighbouring villages over a land dispute, while a woman was killed by a different group of villagers in a separate incident. Muzaffarnagar district remains tense, with many who fled last month’s violence still living in camps. Those clashes erupted when Hindus allegedly killed a Muslim man supposedly for sexually harassing a woman, triggering a deadly retaliation that quickly spiralled into three days of riots.
The violence triggered speculation that parties were seeking to polarise the politically pivotal state along religious lines ahead of general elections due next year.
Uttar Pradesh, with its population of 200 million, witnessed riots in 1992 following the razing of a mosque by a Hindu mob. More than 2,000 people - mostly Muslims - were killed after the 16th-century structure in Ayodhya was demolished.