Skip to main content

Haldwani violence: CM, radical rightist groups 'created' highly polarizing narrative

Counterview Desk 

A citizen fact-finding team visited Haldwani on 14th Feb 2024 has said that the violent incident that occurred on February 8 was “not sudden” but an outcome of “steady rise in communal tempers in the state of Uttarakhand over recent years”, adding, “Haldwani which has a significant Muslim population has witnessed in recent months a series of small communal clashes and disputes.”
Consisting of Nadeem Khan and Mohd Mobashshir Aneeq from the Association for Protection of Civil Rights; Harsh Mander, Navsharan Singh, Ashok Sharma and Kumar Nikhil from Karawan-e-Mohabbat; and civil rights activist Zahid Qadri, the team's interim report is based on the conversations with a large number of members of civil society, journalists, writers, and lawyers; and telephone conversations with a few affected persons.
“We also reached out to members of the district administration, however, they either did not respond or informed us that they were very busy and therefore unable to meet us”, the team said in its report.


The violent incident that occurred on 8.02.2024 in Banbhulpura, Haldwani was not sudden. It is the outcome of a steady rise in communal tempers in the state of Uttarakhand over recent years. The state government led by the Chief Minster Mr Pushkar Dhami and radical rightwing citizen groups have together contributed to a highly polarizing narrative with many disturbing elements. One strand of this discourse is about creating Uttarakhand as a Devbhoomi the holy land for Hindus which would have no place for other religious minorities.
Other strands of this divisive discourse include unsupported extravagant claims of a series of Jihads allegedly waged by the Muslim population of the state including Love Jihad, Land Jihad, Vyapar Jihad, and Mazaar Jihad. One consequence of this discourse has been calls for economic and social boycotts of Muslims. The eviction of Muslim tenets from houses and shops and demands and threats for them to leave the state.
Along with this the Chief Minister has made repeated declarations that his government would take the strongest action against Love Jihad and all the other alleged forms of Jihad. The Chief Minister also has proudly declared as an accomplishment of his government the destruction of 3,000 mazaars, while adopting mostly silence about unauthorized Hindu religious structures in forest and nazul lands.
Prior to the incident of 08.02.2024 Haldwani which has a significant Muslim population has witnessed in recent months a series of small communal clashes and disputes. There has also been a prolonged dispute around claims by the Indian Railways that the large settlements substantially of Muslim residents is in Railway land.
The proposed eviction has been stayed by the order of the Supreme Court. More recently disputes arose about the legal ownership of tracts of urban land in Haldwani, again in Muslim-majority areas. The people in occupation of these lands claim to be rightful lessees of the land whereas the state government has taken the position that these are nazul (government) lands.
The immediate dispute relates to around 6 acres of land claimed to be rightfully leased by Sophiya Malik. The state government on the other hand claims that this is nazul land. In one portion of this land is located a 20-year-old mosque and madrasa. 
In recent weeks eviction notices have been peacefully served on other residential buildings and demolitions have been undertaken without resistance. However, when on 30.01.2024 eviction notices were served to vacate the mosque and madrasa within a short period of two days committee members gathered.
This was followed by a delegation of ulemas of the city who met the Municipal Commissioner Haldwani and pleaded against the proposed eviction and demolition. However, when no agreement was reached, on 4.02.2024 the municipal office sealed the masjid and the madrasa.
On 6.02.2024 Sofiya Malik who claims to be the rightful lessee of the disputed land on which Mosque and Madrasa are located moved the High Court in Nainital. The matter was heard on 8.02.2024 by a single judge bench and was admitted with no order passed fixing for substantive hearing an early date of 14.02.2024.
Matters continued to be peaceful with the local community satisfied with the intervention of the High Court to resolve the question of ownership however without warning on the evening of 08.02.2024 the officer of the municipal office with significant police protection arrived with bulldozers and a large contingent of municipal workers to undertake the demolition the sealed Mosque and the Madrasa despite the matter being sub-judice.
There was immediate anguish by the residents and a group of women residents who stood before the bulldozers in a bid to prevent the demolitions. However, both female and male police personnel reportedly not just forcefully removed them but also beat and dragged them. This further inflamed the sentiments of the local community.
Their anguish was further aggravated when their plea that the Quran and other sacred properties in the Mosque be respectfully handed over to the Imam before the demolition was also brushed aside.
Once the demolitions began some members of the community threw stones at the police. Some Municipal workers and press persons reporting live the incident were also reportedly injured. There is also video evidence that the police persons also resorted to extensive stone throwing on the crowd.
Violence continued to escalate rapidly. Crowds set alight vehicles parked near the police station on fire and parts of the police station were also set ablaze. The police resorted to firing. It may be noted that before firing crowd control protocol requires resorting first to less lethal modes of crowd dispersal such as lathi charge, tear gas, and water cannon. It is also disputed when the police began resorting to firing and when formal orders of shoot at sight were made.
As a consequence of the police firing several people were injured and reportedly six people were killed. According to eyewitnesses, several hundreds of rounds were fired and local people believe that the number of people injured and killed may be significantly higher than the official claims however we are unable to verify this because we could not enter the affected areas and meet the officials concerned.
At 9 p.m. on 8.02.2024 the curfew was imposed, and this continued without letting up even six days later when the team visited. A curfew of this length of time particularly in a settlement with a large number of low-income daily wage earners is causing enormous avoidable hardships and sufferings. Our team believes that much more extensive relief should have been extended by the district administration and arrangements made for periodic relaxations, particularly for women and children.
Both senior members of the civil society and the people from the affected areas that we were able to make telephonic contact with including the local journalists reported that the police entered homes an estimated 300 homes extensively for searches, but they reportedly beat up residents including women and children and extensively damaged properties both within the homes and the vehicles parked outside. 
Large numbers of young men, some women, and juveniles are also reportedly beaten detained, and taken to unreported locations for interrogation. As a result, the entire area is engulfed in fear and dread.
This is further aggravated because of the internet shutdown which again continued right till the time of the day of our visit which along with the unmitigated curfew has not allowed the residents to communicate their fears, concerns, and grievances and also report the alleged incidents of vandalization and beatings.



What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Muted profit margins, moderate increase in costs and sales: IIM-A survey of 1000 cos

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad’s (IIM-A's) latest Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES) has said that the cost perceptions data obtained from India’s business executives suggests that there is “mild increase in cost pressures”.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Govt putting India's professionals, skilled, unskilled labour 'at mercy of' big business

By Thomas Franco, Dinesh Abrol*  As it is impossible to refute the report of the International Labour Organisation, Chief Economic Advisor Anantha Nageswaran recently said that the government cannot solve all social, economic problems like unemployment and social security. He blamed the youth for not acquiring enough skills to get employment. Then can’t the people ask, ‘Why do we have a government? Is it not the government’s responsibility to provide adequate employment to its citizens?’

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

IMA vs Ramdev: Why what's good or bad for goose should be good or bad for gander

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* Baba Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for their propaganda about their Ayurvedic products and belittling mainstream medicine. Baba Ramdev had to apologize in court. His apology was not accepted and he may face the contempt of court with harsher punishment. The Supreme Court acted on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site The article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

Youth as game changers in Lok Sabha polls? Young voter registration 'is so very low'

By Dr Mansee Bal Bhargava*  Young voters will be the game changers in 2024. Do they realise this? Does it matter to them? If it does, what they should/must vote for? India’s population of nearly 1.3 billion has about one-fifth 19.1% as youth. With 66% of its population (808 million) below the age of 35, India has the world's largest youth population. Among them, less than 40% of those who turned 18 or 19 have registered themselves for 2024 election. According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), just above 1.8 crore new voters (18-and 19-year-olds) are on the electoral rolls/registration out of the total projected 4.9 crore new voters in this age group.

Indians witnessing 'regression to Hindutva politics' under Modi ahead of elections

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The forthcoming general election in India, scheduled from April 19, 2024, to June 1, 2024, to elect the 543 members of the 18th Lok Sabha and the new Government of India, carries immense significance for the preservation of India's identity as a liberal, secular, and constitutional democracy.

Anti-Rupala Rajputs 'have no support' of numerically strong Kshatriya communities

By Rajiv Shah  Personally, I have no love lost for Purshottam Rupala, though I have known him ever since I was posted as the Times of India representative in Gandhinagar in 1997, from where I was supposed to do political reporting. In news after he made the statement that 'maharajas' succumbed to foreign rulers, including the British, and even married off their daughters them, there have been large Rajput rallies against him for “insulting” the community.