Haldwani DM explains the haste in demolishing mazar and madrasa

Haldwani DM Vandana Singh admits the demolition drive began on Thursday within hours of receiving information that the high court had declined a stay

DM Vandana Singh said the structures were demolished promptly as the demolition squad was prepared (screengrab from @AjitSinghRathi/X)
DM Vandana Singh said the structures were demolished promptly as the demolition squad was prepared (screengrab from @AjitSinghRathi/X)

Shalini Sahay

Haldwani district magistrate Vandana Singh on Friday confirmed that information was received from the government lawyer on Thursday afternoon that the High Court in Nainital had verbally declined a stay on the demolition of a mazar (enshrined tomb) and Malik ke Bagiche ka Madrasa.

Since the demolition squad was ready and those who were objecting to the demolition had already been given sufficient time, she says, it was decided to immediately demolish the structures.

The DM briefed the media and reiterated that the structures were an encroachment on nazul (government) land and the municipality had served a notice on 30 January to the management of the madrasa to vacate the premises within three days.

Local residents and community representatives gathered at the municipality on Saturday, 3 February, and submitted a memorandum with documents, including a high court directive to the administration regarding the alleged encroachment. The administration, the DM informed, withdrew the demolition squad and tried to trace records to find out if the matter had been disposed of at anytime between 2007 and 2024, but drew a blank.

Meanwhile, the mazar and madrasa were vacated and the holy books taken out. The structures were sealed, the DM claimed, and were in the possession of the municipal corporation.

Community organisations demanded that they be given time to move the high court; and even as tension mounted on Monday and Tuesday in the locality, and riot police patrolled the area, the administration waited until Wednesday for developments in the high court.

The administration, the DM confirmed, heard from the government advocate on Thursday afternoon that the high court (it is not clear if it was a single-judge or division bench) had refused to grant an interim stay on the demolition.

Without wasting any time, and arguably denying an opportunity to the petitioners to appeal the decision, the administration decided to go ahead and use bulldozers to demolish the structures at around 3.30 pm on Thursday.

Would it have been prudent for the administration to have waited? Should it have called another meeting to discuss the situation before demolishing the structures? These questions will hopefully be answered by the inquiry that seems likely.

As reported earlier, a mob of infuriated people, including women and the elderly, first tried to stop the demolition. When women were caned, dragged and allegedly mistreated, a larger mob assembled and pelted stones at the police. They also surrounded a police station and allegedly attacked it with petrol bombs, stones and glass bottles, injuring several police personnel.

A curfew was declared and shoot-at-sight orders issued on Thursday evening, but there was no answer as to why the administration was in such a tearing hurry to demolish the structures, just 10 days after serving the notice to vacate the premises which were at least 15-20 years old, if not older.

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