Violence in Uttarakhand’s Haldwani while officials were demolishing an illegal mosque and madrasa resulted in the deaths of 4 people. The clash led to injuries to over 50 policemen, with several administration officials, municipal workers, and journalists also caught in the crossfire. Shoot-at-sight orders have been issued in Haldwani and internet services completely shut down in a bid to control rioters.
Describing the gravity of the situation, Nainital District Magistrate said that rioters threw petrol bombs at a police station, and also set vehicles on fire.
“The demolition drive started peacefully, the force was deployed for prevention. Stones were pelted on our Municipal Corporation’s team. It was planned that the day the demolition drive will be conducted the forces would be attacked,” Vandana Singh said.
“The first mob with stones were dispersed and the second mob that came in had petrol bombs. This was unprovoked and our team did not use any force,” she added.
She said that the rioting mob used “maximum force” while attacking the police station.
“Efforts were made (by the mob) to terrorise the area. Our priority was to protect the police station and then ensure that no loss of life or property occurred in Gandhi Nagar,” Ms Singh said.
The madrasa and mosque had been declared illegal by the administration, leading to their demolition. Ms Singh emphasised that the demolition drive was taken in compliance with the High Court’s orders, and notices were issued to all parties involved.
“After the High Court’s orders, actions against encroachments were taken in various places in Haldwani. A task force has been formed at the district level to remove illegal encroachments on other government lands,” she said.
The official said that due process was followed, notices were issued to all concerned parties, and a hearing committee was formed to ensure a fair evaluation of each case. However, some individuals resorted to violence, attempting to breach the High Court’s doors.
As the bulldozer razed the structures, enraged residents, including women, took to the streets in protest. As they broke barricades and clashed with the police, the situation escalated rapidly. Mobs then hurled stones at cops, municipal workers, and journalists, resulting in injuries and property damage. More than 20 motorcycles and a security bus were set ablaze.
The DM emphasized that the police force exercised maximum restraint and did not provoke or harm anyone. Tear gas and water cannons were only used to safeguard the police station. The primary goal was to protect public safety and prevent loss of life or property.
While the situation remains tense, authorities are actively working to restore order in Haldwani. The demolition drive, aimed at removing illegal encroachments, will continue as part of the ongoing efforts to safeguard government properties across the region.