Muzaffarnagar violence: India politicians face arrest over riots

Image source, AP
Image caption,
The riots in Muzaffarnagar have been described as the worst in India in a decade

An Indian court has ordered the arrest of 16 politicians and community leaders for inciting deadly religious violence in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

The politicians - from India's ruling Congress party, the main opposition BJP and other regional parties - are among 69 people wanted over the riots.

Nearly 50 people died in the Hindu-Muslim clashes which erupted on 7 September in the town of Muzaffarnagar.

The riots have been described as the worst in India in a decade.

Thousands of people fled their homes in the violence which was sparked by the killing of three men who had objected to the harassment of a young woman.

The wanted politicians, some of whom are members of the state assembly, and community leaders are accused of instigating violence through "inflammatory speeches" during the riots, police say.

"The court in Muzaffarnagar today ordered their arrest after we registered cases against 69 people who include leaders from some political parties," AFP news agency quoted state police spokesman Manoj Jha as saying.

At least two of the accused politicians appeared on Indian television channels on Wednesday and denied the charges against them.

Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, last saw Hindu-Muslim riots in 1992 after the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya by hardline Hindus.

Correspondents say some political parties have accused each other of trying to polarise the communities along religious lines ahead of next year's general elections.

On Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited some of the victims who have sought shelter in makeshift camps and promised that those behind the riots would be punished.