Riot guilty will be punished, says Mulayam

Agra, Sep 12 (IANS) Those found guilty of the riots in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh will be "firmly dealt with", Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav said Thursday.

The statement came even as party colleagues for the first time voiced anger vis-a-vis senior leader Mohammed Azam Khan for skipping the national executive meet here, with one saying he could go if he wanted.

Mualayam Singh appeared uncomfortable and slightly teased off answering questions from journalists on the Muzaffarnagar violence which has left 38 people dead over three days since the weekend.

But he promised that justice would be done.

"In Gujarat justice was not done," he said, referring to the communal violence of 2002. "The guilty (in Muzaffarnagar) will be firmly dealt with in an exemplary manner to deter troublemakers and others."

He said the Uttar Pradesh government would ensure that all victims of the violence would be duly compensated.

Mulayam Singh tried hard to play down the absence of Azam Khan from the two-day Agra meet of the Samajwadi Party.

"Azam Khan can never be angry with us. We are trying to ensure there is no controversy. Possibly he may have had some pressing work," he said.

With Azam Khan expressing displeasure over the state government's failure to control the riots, party leaders had Wednesday said he was unwell and that is why he was absent from Agra.

Unlike Mulayam Singh, others in the party were less diplomatic on the issue.

Earlier, Samajwadi Party's national secretary Ram Gopal Yadav declared that no one was indispensable in the party. "He can leave," he added.

Another leader, Naresh Agarwal, accused Azam Khan of indiscipline and said he "should pay the price for it".

The press conference was held amid confusion and uncertainty. The leaders tried to avoid uncomfortable questions.

It was only after a lot of pressure and persuasion from the media that Mulayam Singh agreed to answer some questions.

He assured party candidates that there would be no more changes in the list of candidates announced for the next Lok Sabha election.

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