Two dead as anti-encroachment drive turns violent in Uttarakhand

Tension after a team of district officials attempted to demolish an ‘illegal madrasa’ in Haldwani’s Banbhoolpura area

February 09, 2024 12:36 am | Updated 10:11 am IST - New Delhi

Vehicles were set on fire by miscreants over the demolition of an “illegally built” madrasa at Banbhoolpura area in Haldwani, Uttarakhand on Feb 8, 2024.

Vehicles were set on fire by miscreants over the demolition of an “illegally built” madrasa at Banbhoolpura area in Haldwani, Uttarakhand on Feb 8, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

Two people died and over 30 were injured in violent clashes between police and locals in Haldwani’s Banbhoolpura area of Uttarakhand on February 8 when a team of district administration officials attempted to demolish an ‘illegal madrasa’ in the area. Miscreants gheraoed the police station, pelted stones on officials, torched vehicles and public property. Shoot-at-sight orders were issued and curfew was imposed in the town.

A doctor at the Sushila Tiwari Medical College in the district told The Hindu that over 20 policemen and 10 civilians were brought to the hospital in critically injured condition.

“One person with bullet injury was brought dead,” said a hospital staff member on condition of anonymity. The police denied any casualty when last reports came in.

Emergency meeting

Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, who called an emergency meeting of the police and administrative officials, said those responsible for the riots would not be spared.

“Following court’s orders, a team from the district administration had gone to conduct an anti-encroachment drive in the Banbhoolpura area of Haldwani on Thursday. This is when some miscreants entered into a brawl with the police which left several policemen and officials injured. We have sent additional forces to the spot and I appeal to everyone to maintain peace,” said Mr. Dhami.

Municipal Commissioner Pankaj Upadhyay told media that the encroachers had not just built a madrasa at the spot but even a prayer space was being erected and both were illegal. He said acres of land was freed during Thursday’s anti-encroachment drive.

The Education department has ordered closure of schools in the city on Friday.

Banbhoolpura is the same locality where hundreds of Muslim families — living in a two km stretch along the railway track — face uncertain future after the Railways served eviction notices to them citing their homes were built on its land. The residents, after weeks of protest against eviction ordered by the Uttarakhand High Court, later moved the Supreme Court and the matter is sub-judice.

Residents in the area informed that the owners of the madrasa had approached the Supreme Court against the demolition, and the next hearing in the matter was scheduled for February 14.

“The police team still came to the locality and started the demolition. The scuffle broke out when the residents tried to stop the demolition,” said an eyewitness.

The State has asked the Centre for extra forces for Haldwani, said Uttarakhand Director-General of Police Abhinav Kumar who added that the situation is tense but under control.

Congress MLA from Haldwani Sumit Hriyadesh said that the Uttarakhand Police arrived at the spot for the demolition of the madrasa without taking residents and representatives of the community into confidence.

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