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Friday, May 17, 2024

Uttarakhand Riots : 2 Deaths, 250 Injured, Curfew Measures Enacted

On Thursday, there was widespread rioting over the destruction of an illegal madrasa and an adjoining mosque in Uttarakhand’s Haldwani, with two people killed and 250 wounded. The city is now under curfew, with shoot-at-sight orders issued for rioters and internet services entirely shut down.

The fight erupted when a team of government officials, joined by police officers, sought to demolish the buildings in response to a court order. The authorities ruled the madrasa and mosque unlawful, which resulted in its destruction. Residents of Haldwani’s Vanbhulpura locality, on the other hand, were outraged by the decision.

Initially, it was claimed that four persons had died in the fighting, but the district magistrate later lowered the fatality count to two.

Over 50 police officers were injured during the altercation, which also involved many administration officials, municipal workers, and media. The big throng, dubbed “unruly elements,” hurled stones at the authorities, leading the police to respond with tear gas. The violence worsened when cars outside the police station were set on fire.

The demolitions, conducted out with strong police and Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) presence, were intended to remove government land allegedly encroached upon by the madrasa and mosque. According to senior Superintendent of Police Prahlad Meena, the demolitions were carried out in compliance with a court order.

As the bulldozer demolished the buildings, outraged people, including women, flocked to the streets to protest. As they knocked down barricades and battled with police, the situation quickly deteriorated. Mobs then flung stones at officers, municipal personnel, and journalists, injuring and damaging property. More than 20 motorbikes and a security van were set on fire.

“The police did not provoke anyone. Despite this, they were attacked, a police station was vandalised, and protesters attempted to burn police officers inside,” stated Nainital District Magistrate Vandana Singh.

According to Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, a teamhad been dispatched to the area to carry out the demolition after a court order. The Chief Minister stressed that “anti-social elements” in the area had clashed with the police. Additional police and central forces are being deployed to restore order. Mr Dhami has appealed to the public to maintain peace.

Municipal Commissioner Pankaj Upadhyay claimed that the madrasa and namaz site were illegal, highlighting that the Haldwani civic body had previously seized three acres of nearby land and sealed the structures. The Chief Minister, in a meeting with senior officials, discussed prohibitory orders and the necessity for a shoot-at-sight policy against rioters to control the escalating unrest.

As a precautionary measure, a curfew has been imposed across Haldwani; shops and schools have been closed in the affected areas. The situation remains tense, with the Chief Minister urging officials to deal sternly with “anarchic elements.” The injured are being treated in hospital, with many suffering head and face injuries.

The Uttarakhand High Court had a hearing on Thursday on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking to halt the demolition. The court, however, did not grant relief, and the demolition continued. The matter is scheduled for further hearing on February 14.

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