Haldwani: On Thursday, 8th February 2024, the Municipal Corporation in Haldwani, a city in the state of Uttarakhand, demolished an illegal madrasa (a religious school) that was built on encroached land. A bulldozer was also used to raze a building that was used for offering Namaz (Muslim prayers).
The demolition triggered a violent protest by a section of the Muslim community, who attacked the police and corporation staff with stones, petrol bombs, and other weapons. They also surrounded and vandalized the Banbhulpura police station and set fire to several vehicles.
What is the current situation?
According to the agencies, the violence has claimed the lives of 6 people so far, including 4 civilians and 2 policemen. More than 300 policemen and corporation employees have been injured in the clashes. Some of them are in critical condition.
The district administration has imposed a curfew in the affected areas and issued orders to shoot the rioters at sight. The police are also using drones and CCTV footage to identify and trace the rioters. More than 50 suspects have been detained so far.
The police have registered three FIRs against 19 named accused and 5000 unknown people for rioting, arson, attempt to murder, and other charges. The accused will be booked under the Rasuka (Rajasthan Special Court for Certain Offences Against the State Act), which is a stringent law that allows for preventive detention of up to one year.
What are the authorities saying?
The Haldwani District Magistrate (DM), Vandana Singh, said that the attack on the demolition team was pre-planned and unprovoked. She said that the mob was not trying to save the structures, but was targeting the officials, the state government machinery, and the law and order.
She said that her first priority is to ensure the safety of the people of Haldwani City and deal strictly with the unruly elements. She said that around 15-20 people could be involved in allegedly instigating the mob.
The Uttarakhand Chief Minister (CM), Pushkar Singh Dhami, visited Haldwani on Friday, 9th February 2024 to take stock of the situation and met the victims in the hospital. He expressed his condolences to the families of the deceased and assured them of justice and compensation.
He also appealed to the people to maintain peace and harmony and not to fall prey to rumors and provocations. He said that he is constantly monitoring the situation and has instructed the officials to ensure peace law and order. He also asked the Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), Law and Order, A.P. Anshuman, to camp in the affected area and supervise the operations.