NEW DELHI: At least five people were killed and over 100 injured in violent protests in India’s northern city of Haldwani following a government demolition drive against what it calls illegal encroachments, officials said.
The violence erupted on Thursday when Uttarakhand state officials moved to demolish a property that an official said was neither registered as a madrasa nor as a place to offer Islamic prayers, though some locals considered it a religious site.
Haldwani madrasa was demolished while the matter was still in the High Court, @sighyush reportshttps://t.co/FuVxlE20cA
Days before the demolition, BJP's minority wing leaders had written to the chief minister, pointing out that the madrasa was "used by poor children" and…
— Supriya Sharma (@sharmasupriya) February 9, 2024
Police said Muslims torched vehicles and threw stones at them in the protest that followed, prompting them to fire live ammunition and tear gas in response.
A top police official in Uttarakhand on Friday told The Indian Express newspaper five people were killed in the protest, but did not identify them. Dozens of others, including police officers, were wounded and are being treated in various hospitals of the city.
Vandana Singh, the district magistrate of Nainital district, where Haldwani is located, said at a news conference the demolition and its aftermath were “not communal and should not be seen as such”.
“I can confirm two have lost their lives and three people are serious (injured),” said senior police official Prahlad Narayan Meena. “Over 80 suffered injuries due to stone pelting, including some police and reporters.”
The officer, who goes by one name, said the protests were linked to the government drive to demolish a “property that is neither registered as religious site nor has it been given any such recognition. Some call the structure a madrasa”.
Sumit Hridayesh, a state lawmaker from the opposition Congress party who represents Haldwani, said the violence was a result of “hasty action” by the administration. He said locals of the area, including Muslim clerics, should have been taken into confidence before starting the drive.
Uttarakhand’s chief minister, Pushkar Singh Dhami, said the government would take the “strictest action against rioters and miscreants”.
#WATCH | Almora: Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami says, "…Whoever is responsible for breaking the laws (Haldwani incident) will not be spared…The rioters will not be spared and soon they will realise that they have tried playing with fire…We are trying to remove… pic.twitter.com/arLLc1XjBn
— ANI (@ANI) February 10, 2024
“Police have been given clear instructions to deal strictly with unruly elements,” he said in a statement. “Every rioter who indulged in arson and stone pelting is being identified. No miscreant who disturbs harmony and peace will be spared.”
Haldwani is under curfew for a second day.
-With Agency Input