Nainital: Following violent clashes that erupted on Thursday night after an anti-encroachment drive, Chief Secretary Radha Raturi, DGP Abhinav Kumar, and ADG Law & Order AP Anshuman reached Haldwani on Friday to assess the situation.
The state government issued a high alert across the state on Friday, and security was tightened in Banbhoolpura.Meanwhile, the district administration has ordered the suspension of internet services and the closure of all schools and colleges.
Expressing deep concern over the Haldwani violence incident, Nainital District Magistrate Vandana Singh termed the incident unfortunate and assured that the accused will be identified and strict action will be taken against them.
Singh emphasized that the incident was not communal and urged everyone to refrain from making it a communal or sensitive issue. She clarified that no particular community was involved in the retaliation.
"The police station has been completely damaged by the mob...This is an unfortunate incident. The accused will be identified and strict action will be taken. This (incident) was not communal. I request everybody to not make it communal or sensitive. Any particular community did not retaliate...This was an effort to challenge the state machinery, state govt and the law and order situation...A briefing will be done again in the evening," she said.
Nainital DM Vandana Singh said this while addressing the media on Friday, providing details about the incident.
"According to official information till now, two people have died," DM Singh said.
Refuting claims of the property being a Madrasa, the DM specified that it was an empty property.
"It is an empty property that has two structures, which are not registered as religious structures or have been given any such recognition. Some call the structure a Madrasa," she said.The DM said the demolition drive started peacefully but stones were pelted at the Municipal Corporation's team. The DM said the attack on the forces was planned.
"The demolition drive started peacefully, the force was deployed for prevention...Stones were pelted on our Municipal Corporation's team...It was planned that the day the demolition drive will be conducted the forces would be attacked...The first mob with stones were dispersed & the second mob that came in had petrol bombs. This was unprovoked and our team did not use any force..." she said.
"You can see (in the video) that the police force and the administration are not provoking or harming anybody," she added.
The DM said, after the HC's order, action has been taken against encroachment at various places. This was not an isolated activity and was not targeted at a particular asset.
"After the HC's order action has been taken against encroachment at various places in Haldwani...Everyone was given notice and time for hearing...Some did approach the HC some were given time while some were not given time. Where time was not given demolition drive was conducted by PWD & Municipal Corporation. This was not an isolated activity and was not targeted to a particular asset," she said.
The DM claimed that despite the "peaceful" demolition drive, a large mob attacked the municipal team.
"We decided to continue the demolition drive because there was no stay on the assets... A legal process to remove the encroachment is being carried out at various places and so it was done here too...Our teams and resources moved and nobody was provoked or harmed...No actions were taken (by Police and administration) to cause harm to life and property...The demolition drive began peacefully...Despite the entire process being carried out properly, a large mob, within half an hour, attacked our municipal cooperation team," she said.
Further, the DM claimed efforts were made by the mob to terrorize the area... Our priority was to protect the police station and then ensure that no loss of life or property occurred in Gandhi Nagar
"Maximum force was used for the protest of the police station...As soon as they (the mob) were dispersed from the police station, they headed to the Gandhi Nagar area...People from all communities and religions stay there...Efforts were made (by the mob) to terrorize the area...Our priority was to protect the police station and then ensure that no loss of life or property occurred in Gandhi Nagar...Our efforts were directed to protect the main city of Haldwani," she said.
The DM said that the mob surrounded a police station, trapping those inside. The mob attacked with stones and petrol bombs, setting vehicles on fire.
"Later, the police station was surrounded by the mob and those inside the police station were not allowed to come out. They were first pelted with stones and then attacked by petrol bombs. The vehicles outside the station were set on fire, and due to the smoke, there was suffocation due to the smoke...Tear gas and water cannons were used only to safeguard the police station," she said.