(Soldiers stand guard on a deserted street during a curfew in Muzaffarnagar, 127 km (80 miles) northeast of New Delhi, in the state of Uttar Pradesh September 9, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer)

India’s political parties blamed each other for religious riots that killed at least 31 people and forced hundreds to flee from their homes on the weekend, in a sign of rising tension between Hindus and Muslims ahead of a general election due by May.

Police evacuated both Hindus and Muslim villagers on Monday in the district of Muzaffarnagar, 127 km (80 miles) northeast of New Delhi in the state of Uttar Pradesh and at the epicenter 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 on Sunday. The state’s top security official R.M. 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.