In the village of Banbhoolpura, near the town of Haldwani in Uttarakhand, a violent outbreak occurred following the demolition of a madrasa during an anti-encroachment operation. This incident led to the unfortunate demise of four individuals and left over 100 police personnel injured.
AP Anshuman, the Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order), verified the casualties and the injuries sustained by the police force. In response to the escalating violence, district authorities enforced a curfew in the area, suspended mobile internet services, and issued shoot-at-sight orders against those participating in the violence.
The local municipal authorities demolished a madrasa, allegedly illegally constructed on government land, along with an adjacent mosque on Thursday. This action provoked local residents to retaliate by throwing stones at the police and setting vehicles ablaze. The police responded by deploying tear gas and resorting to baton charges to subdue the violence.
Abhinav Kumar, the Director General of Police, stated that the anti-encroachment operation was executed at 4 pm on Thursday in compliance with a court order. He reported that after the operation, some troublemakers responded by throwing stones at officials and setting fires. There were also allegations of these individuals firing at the police using illegal firearms.
Nainital District Magistrate Vandana Singh revealed that certain members of the mob threw petrol bombs at the Banbhoolpura police station and set some vehicles parked outside on fire. She affirmed that the demolition was conducted as per a High Court order and was not an isolated activity targeted at any specific property. She added that everyone was given notice and time for a hearing.
Local councillor Shakeel Ahmad claimed that the High Court had not yet made a final decision on the removal of the encroachments. He mentioned that they had requested the administration to halt the demolition until the next hearing date, February 14.
The mosque remains sealed
The neighborhood had been on edge since January 30, when civic authorities issued an order to demolish the structures. Local religious and political leaders later negotiated with authorities to cancel the demolition. Around 1:30 am on February 4, the municipal corporation sealed the mosque but did not demolish it. However, bulldozers reportedly arrived without any prior notice on Thursday.
Ziyauddin Qureshi, Lok Sabha in-charge of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s minority cell, Uttarakhand, informed that the mosque was 20–25 years old. On February 3, the BJP’s minority cell had written to Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami demanding that the madrasa and mosque not be demolished.
Protests in the recent years
Banbhoolpura had also witnessed protests last year when the High Court ordered the eviction of 50,000 people in response to a public interest litigation claiming that the locality had come up illegally on railway land. The Supreme Court stayed the High Court order, stating that 50,000 people could not be displaced in a week.
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