Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday described the recent communal riots in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar as a “big tragedy” and promised “strictest punishment” to the perpetrators of the conflagration.
“I am here to share your pain,” a grim-faced Singh told people displaced by the violence, during his visit to a refugee camp in Bassi Kalan village, 30 km from here.
Singh, who reached Muzaffarnagar along with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, spent around half-an-hour in the camp in which members from the Muslim community have taken shelter.
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The Bharatiya Janata Party described the visit of Congress leaders to Muzaffarnagar district as nothing but "secular tourism on communal riots".
"The wounds of the people cannot be healed by doing this. It is completely secular tourism on communal riots and nothing else," BJP national vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told reporters here.
He said whatever the prime minister has said is of no use, as people want action and not words.
As many as 48 people were killed, over 100 injured and more than 43,000 rendered homeless in the communal clashes that singed the area since September 7. The army had to be called in to contain the situation.
Talking to reporters after listening to the views of the people living in the camp, Singh termed last week’s riots as a “major incident”.
Before heading for another camp in Tawli village, the Prime Minister said that the “perpetrators of the riots will be given strictest punishment”.
“Our priority and efforts would be to send the displaced people to their homes,” he said while assuring all help to the Uttar Pradesh government in restoring normalcy in the area.
VIDEO: PM, Sonia’s Muzaffarnagar visit not political, says Congress
The Prime Minister told reporters that he expected the security scenario to improve in the area so that the displaced people can return home as soon as possible.
While Manmohan Singh spoke to divisional commissioner Bhuvnesh Kumar and district magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma, Sonia Gandhi mingled with women and sought to know the sequence of events that led to the rioting.
Gandhi was seen talking to women, who expressed their concerns about the violence which has claimed over 40 lives. She consoled the women, who looked quite satisfied with the gesture shown by her.
Rahul Gandhi spoke to the youth and assured them the Congress and the union government was with them.
He also asked the union minister of state for home affairs RPN Singh to take petitions from the people and address them.
Minister of State for Home RPN Singh, who had earlier said the Centre is closely monitoring the situation in riot-hit Muzaffarnagar, is also accompanying the three leaders.
Later, the Prime Minister met family-members of journalist Rajesh Verma, who was killed during the in Muzaffarnagar riots, and assured ex-gratia of Rs. 10 lakh and educational aid for his children.
The Prime Minister had earlier talked to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and condemned the violence.
Expressing his grief and shock over the loss of innocent lives, Singh had assured Yadav that the Centre will extend all required assistance to the state government in tackling the situation.
VIDEO: PM, Sonia, Rahul Gandhi visit Muzaffarnagar riot victims
Akhilesh, who visited the violence affected areas on Sunday, assured people that strict action will be taken against those responsible for the disturbances.
Meanwhile, the situation in the affected areas of the state is limping back to normal. No incident of violence was reported Sunday when the day curfew was relaxed.
Scores of senior officials, including Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Arun Kumar and others, are constantly camping in trouble-hit Muzaffarnagar.
The Uttar Pradesh Government has constituted a one-member judicial commission to probe the Muzaffarnagar violence.
The commission, which would mainly look into administrative lapses, if any, in controlling the violence, would submit its report to the government within two months.