Haldwani: Why does the Uttarakhand govt need more central forces?

5,000-plus FIRs, five arrests; meanwhile, students appearing for the GATE 2024 to be taken to Bareilly by bus and appear for the exam there

Police deployment clogs the narrow lanes of Banbhoolpura, Haldwani (photo courtesy @CivilLearning1/X)
Police deployment clogs the narrow lanes of Banbhoolpura, Haldwani (photo courtesy @CivilLearning1/X)

NH Political Bureau

With shops still shut and streets largely deserted this Sunday, 11 February, internet services still suspended, curfew still enforced in the worst affected area, the Uttarakhand government sought the deployment of yet more central forces in Haldwani this morning, per official sources.

Violence had erupted in the town on 8 February following the demolition of a madrasa and mosque in Banbhoolpura. Six "rioters" were killed while 60 people were injured in Thursday's violence, officials said.

Meanwhile, a key "conspirator" was arrested from Delhi, the Deccan Herald reports, adding that internet connectivity has been restored in the town as of this evening.

Nearly 1,100 security personnel are already deployed in the town. Now officials have reportedly sought said four companies of the Central Paramilitary Forces, with about 100 personnel each, from the Union home ministry to maintain law and order in the Banbhoolpura area, the alleged epicentre of the mob violence.

On Thursday, 8 February, the municipal authorities demolished the Mariyam masjid and the Abdul Razzaq Zakariya madrasa in this locality, because they allegedly encroached on government. The school and attached mosque were built in 2002 on nazul land, per an Indian Express report, which is government land meant for public utilities. The violence following the demolition saw 6 killed and many injured— mainly security forces, official sources claimed.

Locals claimed that they had been remonstrating with the administration and their case was due for a hearing in the courts on 14 February, yet the authorities refused to wait.

Curfew remains in force in Banbhoolpura area though it has been lifted from the outer areas of Haldwani town.

Meanwhile, the violence has been contained but not fully controlled. on 10 February, Saturday, a father and son duo from a Muslim family were killed while out to get milk while a curfew was in place, NDTV reported.

This morning, 11 February, the Indian Express reported that the local intelligence unit of the Nainital Police had warned days ago of the possibility of unrest if demolition plans were carried through.

The unit's recommendation to the district magistrate—that the anti-encroachment drive commence early in the morning and with a close eye on neighbouring rooftops—was reported to be standard operating procedure for similar drives in "sensitive areas". It also recommended drone surveillance and handing over of any items of religious symbolism to the local maulvi before commencement of operations.

However, the drive commenced finally at 4:30 in the afternoon.

Today, 11 February, News18 reports said that raids were on in Delhi in the afternoon to apprehend Abdul Malik, a "key accused" per officials, along with Javed Siddiqui, brother of Samajwadi party leader Matin Siddiqui. The two have allegedly been named the "main conspirators" in the case.

News agency IANS reported that five people have been arrested in Haldwani itself, along with FIRs having been registered against 19 specific people and another 5,000 unnamed persons.

Speaking to the media on Saturday, 10 February, Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said, “In Haldwani, miscreants misbehaved with women soldiers and media personnel. They tried to burn them alive." He vowed strict action, per News18.  

Per the Deccan Herald report on his arrest, Malik is the alleged 'owner' of the land on which the madrasa and the mosque had been built. Officials, the report said, claim he bought the nazul land "illegally". Malik, who was reportedly "absconding" until today, is one of those who had filed a petition in the Uttarakhand High Court seeking quashing of the government demolition order.

Action will be taken against miscreants and rioters by imposing NSA and UAPA, the local DGP Abhinav Kumar has claimed, per IANS. Compensation for losses worth Rs 6 crore will also be recovered from the rioters, he reportedly said.

Shoot-on-sight orders had already been put in force the day of the incident. The Newslaundry reported several of the bodies recovered on the day showed bullet wounds. The independent news site also reported that 'at least 20 residents' claimed the police were picking up people at random. The report also claimed that in a firsthand conversation with police officers deployed in one home, they were informed the 'culprits' were not allowed to speak to the media.

Meanwhile, students appearing for the EC and EE papers in the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE), administered by the IISc, Bangalore, have been issued fresh admit cards to appear for the tests in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, instead, the Hindustan Times has reported.

Bareilly, of course, has also seen its share of communal unrest this last week, with a 'jail bharo' andolan called by Barelvi cleric Tauqeer Raza Khan bringing thousands into the streets in a show of civil dissent. This in turn was connected with a different mosque and a different administration's attitude (if not action) on it—the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath had recently called for the Muslim community to 'return' the Gyanvapi Masjid to Hindus.

With PTI and IANS inputs

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