Amrutha Avasarala, Pune
On February 2nd, the Local Intelligence Unit at Nainital notified Haldwani’s District Magistrate and the Senior Superintendent of Police. The letter stated that a violent reaction is expected of the demolition drive to be carried out on February 8th, 2024.
Abdul Malik, the “Malik ka bagicha’s” owner on whose land the masjid and the madrasa were illegally built, had reported the possibly violent turn to the District Magistrate and the Senior Superintendent of Police and warned them about the possibility of protests. It is also learned that Abdul Malik requested the authorities not to demolish the illegal structures as it would cause aggressive repercussions.
The latter suggested the drive to perform early in the morning with a police force surveillance stationed on nearby rooftops. Despite this caution, the structures were demolished only at 4:30 pm on Thursday, 8th February 2024. The latter further mentioned surveillance measures of using drones to videograph the rooftops to keep an eye on what is kept on the roofs and watch the people gathered. Barricades were asked to be put up on all roads leading to the masjid and madrasa.
Soon after this, stones were thrown at the authorities on demolition sites from nearby rooftops, petrol bombs were tossed at municipal workers and also, and cars were set ablaze. Nearly 100 policemen were injured and were forced to take shelter in the police station. A group of people surrounded the police station and set it on fire. The violent attack left five people dead, seven common people, and a hundred policemen injured.
Curfew was imposed at 9 pm in the Banbhoolpura area where the whole series of violent events took place. Internet services were cut off. Chief Minister Pushkar Dhami issued ‘shoot at sight’ orders to the police.
A probe into the issue led to five arrests and charges against sixteen people under three First Information Reports (FIRs). The police are said to take action against the houses from whose rooftops stones were rained down. The state also ordered a magisterial probe.
SSP of Nainital, PN Meena told ANI that cases were registered on five thousand unidentified people and several others have been taken into custody. On being asked about the report, the Uttarakhand DGP refused to comment. However, a magisterial probe is being issued.