Police on Sunday evacuated both Hindus and Muslim villagers in the district of Muzaffarnagar, 80 miles northeast of New Delhi in the state of Uttar Pradesh and at the epicentre of some of the worst communal violence in years.
Others, fearful after attackers beat children and burned property, hid in fields and police stations, or fled in ox carts and tractors. The state's top security official, RM Srivastava, said 31 people were killed in the violence.
"We are on a high alert and curfew will remain in parts of Muzaffarnagar city, while security forces are doing regular rounds in the affected villages," said deputy police chief Arun Kumar.
Professor Sudha Pai, an expert on Uttar Pradesh politics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the Jat Hindu caste community in Muzaffarnagar that was involved in the weekend violence did not have a history of tension with Muslims.
Several politicians including a national cabinet minister and a senior opposition leader, tried to reach Muzaffarnagar yesterday but were detained by police who said their presence could stir up more violence.