Hundreds of troops have been deployed to quell deadly riots and clashes between Hindus and Muslims, sparked by the killing of three villagers who had objected when a young woman was being harassed in northern India. Police said 19 people were killed, including an Indian broadcast journalist, a police photographer and several people who succumbed to injuries received yesterday when the two groups set upon each other with guns and knives in Kawal village, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The violence quickly spread to neighboring villages in Muzaffarnagar district last night.
The clashes broke out yesterday after thousands of Hindu farmers held a meeting in Kawal to demand justice in the August 27 killing of three men who had spoken out when a woman was being verbally harassed. A state politician says some at the meeting gave provocative speeches calling for Muslims to be killed. The farmers were attacked as they were returning home after the meeting, says a police official. "The attack seemed well planned," he says. "Some were armed with rifles and sharp-edged weapons." A leader from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party said tensions had been simmering since the killing of the three men. "Had the killers been arrested," he says, "the situation might not have gone out of hand."