Four people are dead and 250 were injured in widespread violence over the demolition of an illegal madrasa and an adjoining mosque in Uttarakhand’s Haldwani. The incident, which unfolded on Thursday, has left the city under curfew, with shoot-at-sight orders issued against rioters and internet services completely shut down. Schools are also shut in light of the violence.
The confrontation reached a boiling point when a team of government officials, accompanied by a significant police presence, attempted to raze the structures following a court order. The authorities had deemed the madrasa and mosque illegal, leading to their demolition. However, this move was met with fierce resistance from a mob in the Vanbhulpura area of Haldwani.
The clash resulted in over 50 policemen being injured, with several administration officials, municipal workers, and journalists also caught in the crossfire. The mob, described as “unruly elements”, pelted 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, further deteriorating the law and order situation.
The demolitions carried out with a heavy police and Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) presence, aimed to clear government land allegedly encroached upon by the madrasa and mosque. Senior Superintendent of Police Prahlad Meena said the demolitions complied with a court order.
As the bulldozer razed the structures, enraged residents, including women, took to the streets in protest. Breaking barricades and engaging in heated confrontations with the police, the situation escalated rapidly. Mobs then hurled stones at law enforcement, municipal workers, and journalists, resulting in injuries and damage to property. The mob also targeted more than 20 motorcycles and set ablaze a PAC-2 bus.
Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, responding to the incident, stated that the team had been dispatched 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, leading to the current situation. Additional police and central forces are being deployed to restore order, and the Chief Minister 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 the imposition of 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, resulting in the closure of all shops and schools in the affected areas. The situation remains tense, with the Chief Minister urging officials to deal sternly with “anarchic elements.” The injured are undergoing treatment at Soban Singh Jeena Hospital, with most 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.