In the northern town of Haldwani, Uttarakhand, India, violent protests ensued following the demolition of a mosque and religious school by municipal authorities, resulting in at least five deaths and numerous injuries. The demolition was part of an anti-encroachment drive, with officials claiming the structures were built without permission.
The incident, labeled an “anti-encroachment drive” by the police, led to clashes between protesters and law enforcement, leaving hundreds injured. Videos depict protesters setting vehicles ablaze and pelting stones, while police respond with tear gas. A curfew has been imposed, and authorities issued “shoot at sight” orders to restore control.
District Magistrate Vandana Singh asserted that the demolition was not targeted at any specific community and was based on a high court order to clear illegal settlements. However, Muslim residents argue they were unfairly targeted, and tensions have escalated in recent months over demolitions of Muslim structures.
The clash occurred in the Banbhoolpura area, where authorities had previously served eviction notices, triggering widespread protests in January of the previous year. The Supreme Court later stayed the demolitions, emphasizing the need for a cautious approach.
The recent violence comes amid rising tensions over demolitions of mosques, with Muslim groups expressing dissatisfaction with the Hindu nationalist government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Critics accuse the government of religious polarization, a charge the government denies.
The situation remains tense in Haldwani, with authorities imposing a curfew, shutting down internet services, and deploying thousands of police personnel. The demolition and subsequent clashes have once again ignited concerns about the treatment of religious minorities in India, prompting international human rights groups to condemn the actions.