At least 28 people have been killed and scores more injured in communal fighting between Hindus and Muslims in rural Uttar Pradesh, northern India.
Clashes broke out in the village of Kawal after a fortnight of simmering tension which had followed the killing of three men, two Hindus and a Muslim, in a brawl over alleged harassment of a local woman.
Thousands of Hindu farmers had gathered in the village, following a highly charged meeting with community leaders.
The speeches at the meeting became increasingly provocative, and the mood inreasingly inflamed, said the state's minority affairs minister, Mohammad Azam Khan.
Hindu farmers were attacked with guns and knives as they left the meeting, senior police official Arun Kumar said.
"The attack seemed well-planned," Kumar said. "Some were armed with rifles and sharp-edged weapons."
Indian television station NDTV said at least 28 people had been killed in two days of violence in Muzaffarnagar district, 105km northeast of New Delhi.
An Indian TV journalist and a police photographer were among the dead. Dozens of children were also injured.
The violence spread to neighbouring villages, with armed gangs of militant Hindu "Jats" storming a mosque and a Muslim village and prompting the deployment of around 800 troops to the area.
At least 30 people were arrested. Soldiers carried out house-to-house searches for weapons.
"The army is here now. The situation is under control," Kumar said.
He said that tensions were fuelled by an online video that showed the killing of two Muslim youths.
Hundreds of Muslims have fled their homes in fear of reprisals, seeking refuge at police stations or with relatives.
The violence ignited fears of a rise in sectarian communal tension in the run-up to next year's parliamentary election, when the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Partyhopes to regain power after 10 years of Congress party rule.
One BJP leader, Vijay Bahadur Pathak, blamed police for failing to act earlier. "Had the killers been arrested, the situation might not have gone out of hand," he said.
Muzaffarnagar and its surrounding area have now been placed under curfew, and a state of high alert declared across the province.
Uttar Pradesh is India's most populous state, with a population of 200 million. The state witnessed some of India's worst communal clashes in 1992, after a Hindu mob razed the 16th-century Babri mosque in Ayodhya.
More than 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.
The government has warned that India is seeing a rise in communal violence, with 451 incidents reported so far in 2013 compared to 410 in the whole of 2012.