At Least 6 Dead, Many Injured: Masjid Demolition Led to Violence in Haldwani

Authorities in Uttarakhand state’s Haldwani town bulldoze a mosque and religious school, triggering anger among the residents.

Police officers stand near burnt vehicles following protests in Haldwani in the northern state of Uttarakhand, India [Reuters]

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At least five people have been killed and dozens others injured during a protest sparked by the demolition of a mosque and a religious school in India, the latest in a spate of demolitions targeting Muslim structures.

Municipal authorities in Haldwani town in the northern state of Uttarakhand bulldozed the buildings on Thursday, saying they had been built without permission.

Police said Muslims torched vehicles and threw stones at them in the protest that followed, prompting them to fire live ammunition and tear gas in response.

A top police official in Uttarakhand on Friday told The Indian Express newspaper five people were killed in the protest, but did not identify them. Dozens of others, including police officers, were wounded and are being treated in various hospitals of the city.

Vandana Singh, the district magistrate of Nainital district, where Haldwani is located, said at a news conference the demolition and its aftermath were “not communal and should not be seen as such”.

She said the protest was linked to a government drive to demolish a “property that is neither registered as religious site nor has it been given any such recognition”.

“Some call the structure a madrassa,” she added.

But residents said the mosque and the school in Haldwani’s Banphoolpura area were nearly two decades old and had been unfairly targeted, despite a court hearing on the matter scheduled on February 14.

They also said all those killed in the police firing were Muslim.

“When the police arrived with bulldozers, the men were at work. When the women protested the demolition, the police batoncharged and teargassed us,” Najma Khanum, 21, a resident of Malik Ka Bagicha in Banbhoolpura told Al Jazeera.

A vehicle burns following the protests in Haldwani [Reuters]

Authorities in Haldwani have given shoot-on-sight orders, imposed a curfew, suspended internet services, closed schools and banned large gatherings.