Densely populated Muzaffarnagar, best known for being a major sugarcane and jaggery production centre, has virtually turned into a ghost city since the imposition of indefinite curfew on Saturday night in its Nai Mandi, Shahar Kotwali and Civil Lines police station areas.
All major markets — including Asia’s biggest jaggery ‘mandi’ in the Nai Mandi area, Bhagat Singh Road, Ansari Road, Meenakshi Chowk, Jhansi ki Rani and SD Markets, Arya Sharma Road and Shiv Chowk — wore a deserted look on Sunday due to a complete shutdown.
Fear-stricken residents in the city and its nearby 15 villages and townships such as Kutba Kutbi, Shahpur, Soram and Tawli kept indoors through the day, fearing another eruption of violence.
“If the authorities concerned do not bring the situation under control in a day or two and the curfew continues to be in force for a couple of more days, we’ll start facing an acute shortage of essential commodities such as milk, vegetables and other day-to-day items,” said social activist Veena Sharma (54) in Nai Mandi locality.
Many residents of Civil Lines and Nai Mandi areas blamed ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) leaders and the authorities concerned for their failure to check the communal rioting. They accused the district authorities of acting at the behest of local SP leaders in failing to arrest the men who had hacked two youths — identified as Sachin and Gaurav — to death for allegedly harassing a girl from the minority community at Kawal village in the district on August 27.
“Had they acted impartially and arrested those responsible for killing the two youths, the situation could have been nipped in the bud,” said a 54-year-old retired degree college principal in the city.
Most residents in Shiv Chowk and Chappar areas accused senior district officials of playing into the hands of local SP leaders and compromising the law-and-order situation. They criticized the law-enforcing authorities for imposing a censorship of sorts on the media by not allowing the distribution of Delhi-based, regional and local newspapers in Muzaffarnagar city and elsewhere in the district to prevent readers from getting news about the riots.
“This is highly undemocratic and illegal on the part of the government,” said local BJP leader Mohan Pahal. “In a healthy democracy like ours, nobody can stop newspapers from being circulated in the district,” he added. [TOI]