Haldwani Violence: Schools are also shut in light of the violence.
Two people died and 250 were injured in widespread violence over the demolition of an illegal madrasa and an adjoining mosque in Uttarakhand's Haldwani on Thursday. The city has been placed under curfew, with shoot-at-sight orders issued against rioters and internet services completely shut down.
The confrontation reached a boiling point when a team of government officials, accompanied by policemen, attempted to raze the structures following a court order. The madrasa and mosque had been declared illegal by the administration, leading to their demolition. However, this move was met with fierce resistance from residents in the Vanbhulpura area of Haldwani.
Earlier it was reported that four people had died in the clashes but the district magistrate later revised the death count to two.
The clash led to injuries to over 50 policemen, with several administration officials, municipal workers, and journalists also caught in the crossfire. The large group, described as "unruly elements," threw stones at the officials, prompting the police to retaliate with tear gas. The violence escalated as vehicles outside the police station were set on fire.
The demolitions carried out with heavy police and Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) presence, aimed to clear government land allegedly encroached upon by the madrasa and the mosque. The demolitions complied with a court order, said senior Superintendent of Police Prahlad Meena.
As the bulldozer razed the structures, enraged residents, including women, took to the streets in protest. As they broke barricades and clashed with the police, the situation escalated rapidly. Mobs then hurled stones at cops, municipal workers, and journalists, resulting in injuries and damage to property. More than 20 motorcycles and a security bus were set ablaze.
"Police did not provoke anyone. Despite that, they were attacked, a police station was vandalised and the rioters tried to burn police personnel inside the station," said Nainital District Magistrate Vandana Singh.
Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said a team had been dispatched to the area to carry out the demolition after a court order. The Chief Minister stressed that "anti-social elements" in the area had clashed with the police. Additional police and central forces are being deployed to restore order. Mr Dhami has appealed to the public to maintain peace.
Municipal Commissioner Pankaj Upadhyay claimed that the madrasa and namaz site were illegal, highlighting that the Haldwani civic body had previously seized three acres of nearby land and sealed the structures. The Chief Minister, in a meeting with senior officials, discussed prohibitory orders and the necessity for a shoot-at-sight policy against rioters to control the escalating unrest.
As a precautionary measure, a curfew has been imposed across Haldwani; shops and schools have been closed in the affected areas. The situation remains tense, with the Chief Minister urging officials to deal sternly with "anarchic elements." The injured are being treated in hospital, with many suffering head and face injuries.
The Uttarakhand High Court had a hearing on Thursday on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking to halt the demolition. The court, however, did not grant relief, and the demolition continued. The matter is scheduled for further hearing on February 14.