Haldwani: 60 injured in fracas over 'illegal' madrasa, mosque demolition

The Uttarakhand city is in curfew, with shoot-on-sight orders against rioters

Madrasa and masjid demolition carried out under heavy police presence (representative image: IANS) per a court order, but protests led to escalating violence
Madrasa and masjid demolition carried out under heavy police presence (representative image: IANS) per a court order, but protests led to escalating violence


Curfew was imposed in Haldwani, Uttarakhand, on Thursday, 8 February, after locals set vehicles and a police station on fire and hurled stones, injuring more than 60 people, over the demolition of an "illegally built" madrasa and an adjoining mosque, officials said.

Most of the people hospitalised after the violence at Malik ka Bagicha in the city's Banbhoolpura area were police personnel. The remaining were municipal workers involved in the demolition of the local madrasa and a mosque in its complex, they said.

The injured also included the Haldwani SDM, they added.

In state capital Dehradun, chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami held a meeting with senior officials, including chief secretary Radha Raturi and DGP Abhinav Kumar to review the situation in Haldwani, according to an official statement.

Besides the imposition of curfew in the entirety of Haldwani, shoot-on-sight orders against rioters were also issued in the city, the statement said.

The chief minister urged everyone to maintain calm and asked officials to deal sternly with "anarchic elements", it added.

As the violence escalated, all shops in Haldwani were closed. After the imposition of curfew, all schools with from classes 1 to 12 in and around the city have also been closed.

Senior superintendent of police Prahlad Meena said the madrasa and the mosque stood on illegally encroached government land and the demolitions were carried out in the heavy presence of police and provincial armed constabulary (PAC) personnel in compliance with a court order.

Angry residents in large numbers descended on the streets to protest the action as the demolition of the two structures began.

They were seen breaking barricades and arguing with the police personnel engaged in the demolition exercise.

As a bulldozer razed the madrasa and the mosque, a mob hurled stones at the police personnel, municipal corporation workers and journalists, leaving over 60 people injured, the officials said.

The police tried to disperse the irate mob by resorting to a mild lathi charge and bursting of teargas shells. However, tension escalated with the mob setting fire to several vehicles, including a police patrol car, they said.

By late evening, tension mounted further and the Banbhoolpura Police Station was also set on fire, leading to imposition of curfew in the town, they added.

The injured people have been admitted to the Soban Singh Jeena Hospital here, the officials said, adding that a majority of them suffered injuries on their heads and faces.

Meanwhile, a hearing was held by the Uttarakhand High Court on Thursday, 8 February, on a PIL seeking to stop the demolition of the mosque and madrasa in Haldwani. Filed by Malik colony resident Safia Malik and others, the petition challenged the notice given by the Haldwani Municipal Corporation to the petitioners.

However, no relief was granted in the matter by the vacation bench of Justice Pankaj Purohit, following which the demolition exercise began. The matter will now be heard on 14 February.

After his meeting with senior officials, Dhami said, "A team of the administration had gone to the Banbhoolpura area to remove encroachments in compliance with a court order. Anarchic elements clashed with the police and indulged in arson. Curfew has been imposed and additional companies of police and central para-military forces are being rushed to Haldwani to maintain order."

"Everyone has been asked to maintain peace. Stern action will be taken against the rioters who indulged in arson," the statement quoted him as saying.

Anyone violating the curfew orders will be punished under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code, the curfew order said.

Earlier, the Banbhoolpura area of Haldwani had made news in December 2022 when its residents held protests against the imminent removal of encroachments from around 29 acres of railway land there in compliance with a High Court order.

The protesters had subsequently got relief from the Supreme Court in the matter.

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