MUZAFFARNAGAR, India — Security forces have been ordered to shoot rioters on sight, as sectarian violence spread in northern India on Monday despite an army-enforced curfew imposed after deadly weekend clashes between Hindus and Muslims.
Gunfire and street battles that erupted Saturday in villages around Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh state have killed at least 31 people and left many more wounded or missing, police said. Both sides have blamed the other for starting the violence.
Police had arrested 200 people by Monday evening. Soldiers deployed to the region have been given orders to shoot rioters on sight, state government official Kamal Saxena said.
Still, the violence spread to the neighboring districts of Shamli and Meerut. A state of alert has been declared for Uttar Pradesh, the scene of some of India’s worst communal violence when a Hindu mob razed a 16th-century mosque in Ayodhya in 1992.
Hundreds of people tried to flee areas where their community represents a minority. One family trying to leave Kuttba village Sunday was beaten with metal rods and wooden sticks when caught between fighting factions.
The violence began Saturday night after Hindu farmers called for justice in the Aug. 27 killing of three young men from Kawal village. Officials said some farmers delivered hate-filled speeches against Muslims.
Clashes with Muslims broke out after the meeting, senior police officer Arun Kumar said.