Violence erupted in Haldwani, Uttarakhand on Thursday after authorities demolished an allegedly illegally constructed madrasa and adjoining mosque, prompting outrage from local residents. What began as protests rapidly devolved into wider communal riots, with two locals killed and over 250 injured, prompting security forces to impose curfew orders and suspend internet services.

Demolition Followed Court Order, Tensions Quickly Flared

The madrasa, along with an adjoining mosque, was demolished by authorities stating the constructions had encroached on government land and violated zoning regulations. The demolition team acted in compliance with a court order, according to Senior Superintendent of Police Prahlad Meena.

However, local Muslim residents strongly opposed the demolition, gathering to protest the actions. As police moved to break up the initial protests, clashes erupted between officers and local residents. Some in the crowd began attacking police with stones, vandalizing the nearby police station and attempting to set it on fire, per District Magistrate Vandana Singh.

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Violence Spirals Overnight Leaving Two Dead

The already tense situation rapidly descended into open conflict between the sizeable crowds and police overnight. Unidentified rioters set multiple vehicles ablaze outside the local police station as violence spread to other locales like Gandhi Nagar.

Scores were injured on both sides, primarily from stone-pelting according to authorities. While early reports cited 3-4 deaths, DM Singh has since clarified that two fatalities have been confirmed so far. The identities of the deceased have not yet been released. Officials have promised a full investigation into any police actions that may have resulted in loss of life.

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Emergency Curfew, Shoot on Sight Orders Issued to Contain Unrest

With rampant vandalism and attacks spreading, officials called for backup from neighboring districts to help control the escalating situation. By early Friday morning, District Magistrate Singh made the decision to impose a curfew on Haldwani along with suspending mobile internet services across the town.

It currently remains unclear how long the temporary measures will stay in effect. The district magistrate also controversially issued shoot at sight orders against rioters in an attempt to curb further violence and property destruction.

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Chief Minister Calls for Harsh Steps Against ‘Anti-Social Elements’

Chief Minister Dhami denounced the rioters as “anarchic elements” in a public statement while calling for harsh prosecution. He insisted police were initially restrained in only responding after themadrasa protesters turned violent first. Additional security forces are expected to arrive in Haldwani over the next 24 hours.

However, the opposition and some local community leaders have criticized the government’s heavy-handed response, arguing the madrasa demolition unnecessarily targeted minority groups during a religious observance month. Officials counter the actions were court authorized and necessary to uphold zoning regulations on disputed land titles.

With tensions still high, the state government has closed local schools and shops to avoid further possible clashes. Officials urged the public to remain peaceful and avoid spreading misinformation as investigations continue into the loss of life, rioting, and property damage stemming from the controversial demolition drive.


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