The Uttar Pradesh government has issued orders to withdraw 22 more cases linked to the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, taking the total number to 70. Additional district magistrate Amit Kumar confirmed to The Hindu that he has received the orders. “Out of 90 cases in which report was sought, the government has decided to withdraw proceedings in 70 cases. These are cases related to arson and loot,” he said.District government counsel Dushyant Tyagi said he would move the application at relevant courts. “I can’t say much as the cases are still sub-judice. It is for the court to accept or reject the government’s position.” The riots which swept Muzaffarnagar in 2013 claimed at least 65 lives and thousands were displaced. Since 2017, Muzaffarnagar courts have delivered verdicts in 41 cases and have acquitted the accused in 40 cases where Muslims were attacked.Mr. Tyagi said the government was not keen to go on appeal in acquitted cases. The prime reason, he said, was witnesses in most cases turned hostile. Welcoming the move, senior BJP leader from Muzaffarnagar Sohanveer Singh said these were “fake cases” foisted by the then Samajwadi Party government. Describing the move as “unprecedented”, human rights activist Ovais Sultan Khan, who has been working with the victims since 2013, said it was the third attempt by the Yogi Adityanath government since last year to derail the criminal-judicial procedure in the case. “It is a way to tell the victims that the government of the day is not with them and that others should withdraw cases as well. Those who instigated or participated in the riots are sitting on positions of power,” he alleged. He refuted the administration’s claim that witnesses are being protected. “Many have wilted under social pressure and threats and the ones who have not are being killed like Ashbab.” added Mr. Khan. A milk vendor, Ashbab was a witness to the killing of his two brothers during the riots. He was gunned down at the busy Indra Murti stretch in Muzaffarnagar in March this year just days before a hearing of the case.