Haldwani, Uttarakhand: Four individuals lost their lives, and over 250 sustained injuries during widespread violence that erupted in Haldwani on Thursday. The unrest stemmed from the demolition of an alleged illegal madrasa and adjoining mosque, following a court order.
Tensions flared when a team of government officials, backed by police personnel, arrived to execute the demolition. The structures, deemed illegal by authorities, were slated for removal to reclaim encroached government land. However, residents of the Vanbhulpura area fiercely resisted the move.
The confrontation quickly escalated, resulting in injuries to over 50 police officers and several administration personnel, municipal workers, and journalists. A large group, described as “unruly elements,” pelted stones at officials, prompting police to retaliate with tear gas. The situation further deteriorated as vehicles parked outside the police station were set on fire.
Authorities maintained the demolitions were conducted legally pursuant to a court order. Senior Superintendent of Police Prahlad Meena affirmed adherence to judicial directions. However, enraged residents, including women, took to the streets in protest, clashing with police and causing damage to property.
Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami condemned the violence, attributing it to “anti-social elements.” He confirmed dispatching a team to manage the situation and announced reinforcements with additional police and central forces. The Chief Minister urged peace and calm.
Municipal Commissioner Pankaj Upadhyay reiterated the illegality of the structures, citing prior attempts by the Haldwani civic body to seize the land and seal the buildings. Amidst escalating tensions, the Chief Minister, in consultation with senior officials, authorized prohibitive orders and, as a last resort, a “shoot-at-sight” policy against rioters.
As a precautionary measure, a curfew has been imposed across Haldwani, impacting businesses and educational institutions in the affected areas. The situation remains tense, with authorities emphasizing firm action against those deemed responsible for the unrest. Medical attention is being provided to the injured, many suffering head and facial injuries.
The Uttarakhand High Court, though considering a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the demolition, did not grant any immediate relief. The matter is scheduled for further hearing on February 14th.