On February 8, the Haldwani Municipal Corporation demolished a madrasa and a mosque in the town’s Banbhoolpura locality as part of an anti-encroachment drive. The demolition led to a clash between the locals and police officials, with videos of arson and stone-pelting pouring out on social media.

The clashes were followed by a curfew and shoot-on-sight orders. Uttarakhand director general of police Abhinav Kumar told The Indian Express that five people have died in the violence. ANI reported that 100 police personnel were injured in the demolition drive.

Called the Mariyam mosque and the Abdul Razzaq Zakariya madrasa, the structures were built in 2002 in Banbhoolpura’s Company Bagh locality. They were looked after by Abdul Malik and his wife, Safia Malik.

Pankaj Upadhyay, Haldwani’s municipal commissioner, told Scroll that the structures were built on nazul land – government land meant for public utilities. The corporation had given a notice for the demolition of the mosque and the madrasa to Abdul Malik on January 30, said Upadhyay.

On February 6, Safia Malik moved the Uttarakhand High Court alleging that the land on which the mosque and madrasa were built had been leased out in 1937 and sold to her family in 1994. A plea to renew the lease had been languishing before the district administration since 2007, she added.

Malik sought interim relief against the demolition of the religious structures, especially the madrasa, which was run for poor children for “charitable purposes”.

The court heard the matter on February 8.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami has claimed that the anti-encroachment drive had been sanctioned by a court direction. Nainital District Magistrate made the same assertion.

But a copy of the order passed by Justice Pankaj Purohit shows that his bench only noted the presence of the parties and listed the matter for February 14.

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