Shruti Sneha, Pune
In Haldwani, Uttarakhand, a confrontation over the demolition of an illegal madrasa and mosque turned violent, killing two people and injuring approximately 250 others. The clash began when government officials, accompanied by police, moved to demolish the structures after a court order declared them illegal. However, residents in the Vanbhulpura area were vehemently opposed to the action, resulting in a chaotic situation.
Over 50 police officers were injured during the confrontation, along with several administration officials, municipal workers, and journalists caught in the crossfire. The situation escalated when “unruly elements” threw stones at officials, prompting police to respond with tear gas. During the chaos, vehicles outside the police station were set ablaze.
The demolitions, which were carried out with heavy police presence, aimed to clear government land that the madrasa and mosque had allegedly encroached on. Despite efforts to maintain order, enraged residents, including women, took to the streets to protest, breaking down barricades and clashing with police.
Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami emphasized that the demolition was done by a court order and condemned the actions of the “anti-social elements” involved in the clashes. Additional police and central forces were deployed to restore order, and a curfew was imposed in Haldwani as a precaution. Schools and shops in the impacted areas were closed.
Municipal Commissioner Pankaj Upadhyay reiterated that the madrasa and namaz sites were illegal, citing the civic body’s previous actions to seize land and seal the buildings. In a meeting with senior officials, the Chief Minister discussed the need for a tough stance against rioters, emphasizing the importance of a shoot-at-sight policy to quell unrest.
Meanwhile, the injured were rushed to hospitals, with many sustaining head and facial injuries. The Uttarakhand High Court heard a Public Interest Litigation seeking to halt the demolition but did not grant relief, instead scheduling additional hearings for February 14.
The situation in Haldwani remains tense, with authorities urging the public to stay calm while dealing harshly with those inciting violence.