Bharat Express

Timeline of Tragic Incident in Haldwani’s Complex Streets: Review of Situation Thus Far

Illegal occupation of government land in the wealthy’s garden in Banbhoolpura, Basti thwarted administration’s plan due to maze-like graveyard.

Violence escalated during the demolition of an illegal madrassa and prayer area in Haldwani, Nainital district of Uttarakhand, on Thursday. The situation deteriorated to the extent that authorities imposed a curfew in the area, with orders issued to shoot rioters on sight. As of now, two fatalities have been reported, and over 100 police officers have sustained injuries. Ambulances have transported the injured officers to hospitals, where their condition is stable. The majority of those admitted to hospitals are policemen and municipal workers.

Uttar Pradesh on High Alert

Following the incident in Haldwani, Uttar Pradesh has been placed on high alert. DGP Prashant Kumar has instructed all districts bordering Uttarakhand to heighten security measures. Screening of vehicles and individuals arriving from Uttarakhand has been intensified. Currently, a curfew is in effect in the Banbhoolpura area, with internet and mobile services suspended. Educational institutions are closed, and authorities have authorized the use of lethal force against perpetrators.

The situation escalated as follows:

In an operation aimed at removing an allegedly illegally constructed madrassa and mosque in the Banbhoolpura area of Haldwani, the police administration encountered fierce opposition from residents. As the authorities initiated the action, a multitude of enraged locals, including numerous women, poured onto the streets to vehemently protest. The situation escalated rapidly as the crowd turned violent, hurling stones and chanting slogans amidst the ongoing JCB operation. Tensions quickly engulfed the entire vicinity.

In response to the aggression, the rioters targeted the administration operating the bulldozer, pelting them with stones. Efforts to pacify the angry mob led to the deployment of tear gas shells and resorting to lathi charges by the police, inadvertently fueling the chaos further. Subsequently, additional forces were summoned from Ramnagar, bolstering the law enforcement presence at the Banbhoolpura police station.

However, the unrest persisted, with rioters setting fire to the police station and setting ablaze dozens of vehicles. The situation remained highly volatile as authorities struggled to regain control amidst the escalating turmoil.

A look at the entire sequence of events:

At 1:30 pm on Thursday, in compliance with a High Court order, a police team accompanied by the SDM and a Municipal Corporation officer proceeded to demolish illegal madrassas.

3 pm: Teams started gathering near Banbhoolpura police station to remove encroachment.
4:23 pm: The team left with the police force.
4:30 pm: The team reached Malik’s garden.
4:40 pm: People started gathering at the encroachment site.
4:42 pm: People started protesting.
4:44 pm: People started removing the barricades put up by the police.
4:51 pm: Unruly elements stopped JCB.
4:55 pm: Ruckus started and stones were pelted.
5:17 pm: Started encroachment demolition action.
5:20 pm: People broke the JCB.
5:24 pm: Police fired tear gas shells at the protesters.
5:35 pm: Miscreants set vehicles on fire.
5:54 pm: Policemen injured.
6:30 pm: Miscreants torched the police station.
7:00 pm: Injured policemen sent to hospital.
7:30 pm: CM sat down and ordered the miscreants to be shot.
7:48 pm: Curfew order issued in the city.
7:55 pm: More forces from Udham Singh Nagar reached Haldwani.
8:00 pm: Internet service stopped.

How did the violence start?

Upon the initiation of action by the Municipal Corporation team against the encroachment on the Madrasa and Mosque, a furious crowd, including women and local residents, poured onto the streets in protest, engaging in verbal altercations with the police. Subsequently, slogans were chanted, and stones were hurled at the team, escalating the situation into riots in no time.

A curfew was imposed in the area

Following the unrest, a curfew has been enforced throughout the area, with authorities taking action against those responsible for the disturbances. Both the administration and government assert that the encroachment removal was carried out in compliance with a High Court order. However, the Congress party suggests that patience should have been exercised by all parties involved.

In response to the gravity of the situation, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami convened a high-level meeting in the capital city of Dehradun to assess the situation. It was decided in the meeting that rioters would be dealt with severely, with orders given to law enforcement to use lethal force if necessary.

District Magistrate Vandana of Nainital announced the imposition of curfew in Haldwani to restore law and order, with internet services suspended and schools closed in the area. Only essential outings are permitted.

The District Magistrate affirmed that no culprit would escape justice, with evidence, including video recordings, being collected to identify and prosecute the perpetrators. Compensation for damages will be sought from the rioters, and posters will be circulated to gather information. The administration reaffirms its commitment to continue its campaign against illegal encroachments.

The question arises: Why wasn’t a survey conducted prior to taking action?

The team comprising the Municipal Corporation, Administration, and Police entered Malik’s garden to demolish the illegal madrasa and religious structure without conducting an aerial survey. Despite protests on February 4, the police, administration, and municipal corporation team downplayed the situation. Despite the availability of drones for monitoring, the police administration failed to carry out an aerial survey before initiating action on several occasions.

Police failed to understand the maze of narrow streets

The police and administration devised a plan to demolish the illegal encroachment on government land in the Malik’s Garden area of Banbhoolpura in Haldwani. However, they encountered difficulties navigating the labyrinth of narrow streets in the area. This oversight proved disastrous as the surrounding settlement posed further challenges. Thousands of two to three-story houses encircled the encroachment site.

When the miscreants began pelting stones at the police-administration team from the front, a barrage of stones rained down from rooftops. Despite the administration’s attempts to resolve the situation through police force, the aggressiveness of the miscreants suggested a determination to risk their lives. Their relentless stone pelting forced the police force, administration, and municipal corporation team to retreat.

Miscreants and attackers took advantage of the narrow roads

The only road leading to the site of the encroachment demolition is a narrow 10-foot-wide thoroughfare surrounded by densely populated areas with narrow side streets. Upon the team’s arrival, chaos erupted on the main road. As they advanced further, protests intensified from all directions. The area comprises more than five narrow streets, making it impossible to anticipate from where and when stones would be hurled. Consequently, a significant number of police personnel and corporation workers sustained injuries during the operation.

Police who came from other districts had no idea of ​​the situation

The police force dispatched to Banbhulpura found themselves ensnared in their own predicament as they attempted to disperse the miscreants. Stones continued to rain down on the policemen from the rooftops of houses, making their progress perilous. With great difficulty, they managed to navigate back to the main road, narrowly avoiding the treacherous side streets. According to experts, the police force deployed to Banbhulpura were unfamiliar with the area, having been drafted from other districts or police stations. Despite their efforts to carry out orders, they found themselves entangled in a metaphorical “Chakravyuh,” putting their lives at risk.

High Court had given order to remove encroachment

The uproar erupted following Municipal Corporation’s enforcement action against an unauthorized madrasa and a prayer facility. The administration asserted that the madrasa was illegally constructed, with a demolition notice issued by the Municipal Corporation on January 30. Prior to this, the Corporation had already taken possession of three acres of land, and both the madrasa and prayer facility were subsequently sealed. Despite the organization operating the madrasa appealing to the High Court, their petition was dismissed. Consequently, the demolition operation against the illegal madrasa commenced at one o’clock.

Why did the High Court order to remove the mosque and madrassa?

District Magistrate Vandana Singh stated that the High Court had issued directives to eradicate unlawful constructions in Haldwani. Specifically, a madrasa and mosque were constructed illegally on three acres of land in the Banbhulpura area. The administration clarified that on January 30, the Municipal Corporation issued a demolition notice for these structures, subsequently taking possession of the land and sealing it. Senior Superintendent of Police Prahlad Meena of Nainital affirmed that the demolition was carried out in adherence to the court’s mandate.

On whose land are the madrassa and mosque built?

Vandana Singh explained that the property in question was originally vacant, upon which two buildings were erected. While some refer to them as madrasas and prayer areas, they lack official registration as religious structures and do not hold any formal recognition. Singh noted that locals recognize the site as Malik’s Garden, yet there is no official documentation supporting this designation.

For how many days was the process of removing Haldwani’s madrassa and mosque going on?

Vandana Singh stated that on January 30, directives were issued for the removal of these buildings, accompanied by a notice requiring evacuation within three days. Removal of the structures is imperative.

who said what?

Deputy Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Brajesh Pathak assured, “Everything is well organized, there is no problem anywhere. We are prepared for every situation.”

UP Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya expressed concern, stating, “This is worrying, but the Uttarakhand government and the police administration there will handle the situation, and action will be taken against those who are guilty.”

Former Chief Minister Harish Rawat voiced concern over the unrest, emphasizing, “If Haldwani, which was always peaceful and progressing, is boiling today, then it is a matter of concern. Haldwani is the pride of all of us, our pride, the pride of Uttarakhand, our commercial capital. I would like to request all the people to cooperate in maintaining peace and harmony and bring peace. Every person should avoid any kind of stimulating activity. The administration and the people should also move forward towards peace.”

SP leader Swami Prasad Maurya criticized the actions of the BJP government, stating, “In the Banbhulpura area of Haldwani, Uttarakhand, the Municipal Corporation first demolished the madrasa and mosque and then the police brutally lathi-charged the women, which shows the dirty thinking of the BJP government. The BJP government should look within itself and see that it is openly killing the slogan of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ given by Prime Minister Modi. After all, gradually a glimpse of BJP’s hateful thinking is beginning to be seen. I strongly condemn this misdeed of the Uttarakhand government.”

Union Minister Giriraj Singh emphasized, “No one has the right to take the law into their hands, whether it is a religious situation or any other reason. The government of Uttarakhand is capable in Uttarakhand, and if any law is taken into its own hands, then the government has also made preparations to deal with it.”