Saturday, February 24, 2024

Haldwani violence: Tensions persist as local Muslims say police acting vindictively

Haldwani town in Uttarakhand’s Dehradun district remained under tight police and paramilitary deployment with curfew and internet suspension in place for the fourth consecutive day after it grappled with communal tensions over the demolition of Mosque and Madrasa despite the matter being contested in the court and the next hearing was scheduled for February 14.

Al least five people have been killed during the violence while the authorities are yet to confirm the actual death toll.

On Sunday, some spots in the town witnessed movement; limping back to normalcy with shops reopening for people to restock groceries after households reported running out of cooking gas on Saturday. Snapped internet services were also restored in some areas for some time but suspended again in the evening.

However, the movement is still restricted in Banbhoolpura, where the violence took place. The area was intensified with local police, Provincial Armed Constabulary and Rapid Action Force.

Additionally, Radha Raturi, Uttarakhand Chief Secretary in a letter to the Home Minister has requested more companies of Paramilitary Forces citing ‘disruption of law and order by anarchist elements during the demolition’.

A local speaking to Maktoob said, “Some households on Saturday slept without having food because they ran out of gas and they couldn’t buy anything from outside due to curfew.”

“Nobody knew in advance that there would be a curfew, we were not prepared, and people didn’t have milk and bread in homes which is basic. The curfew in some areas has been lifted, this was a little relaxing but the situation is still the same in Banbhoolpura, which is in the centre of the city. The area around the mosque has tight security”, he added.

On Saturday, police apprehended 5 individuals. Local media reported that one of them was the ‘mastermind’ behind the entire unrest that followed after the Municipal Corporation demolished the religious structure.

In the ‘search operation’ carried out by the police 30 more people were also arrested late night on Saturday and the total number of arrests has risen to 90, Amar Ujala reported.

The 5 arrested include 2 former councillors Mehboob Alam and Zeeshan, members of the Samajwadi Party, Arshad Ayyub, and Aslam Chaudhary, and Jawed Siddiqui, brother of another Samajwadi Party leader Abdul Mateen Siddiqui.

As curfew was lifted some residents left the town to avoid ‘unnecessary police action’. At the same time, some were unable to return as state-run buses to Haldwani were suspended and no trains were halting at the station.

“People are terrified and living in constant fear as police are picking up anyone in the name of suspicion and interrogation. Even if anyone was seen standing on the spot where violence erupted”, said a resident, who had to attend a wedding in the adjacent state.

He said, “My wife had gone to Uttar Pradesh a day before the curfew was imposed to attend a wedding scheduled for Friday, I had to attend that too and was supposed to leave on Friday but couldn’t, due to curfew and transport restrictions.”

“Now, she can’t come here and I can’t go there”, he added.

Meanwhile, all the main entrances leading to the Banbhoolpura area in the town are barricaded along with police presence.

There is heavy surveillance around the houses of those who lost their lives during the violence. Sources say that police are not allowing anyone to meet the family members, only 2-3 people were allowed to take the dead bodies to the graveyard and the entire process of burial was guarded by the police.

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