Violence broke out in Haldwani town after police launched its “anti-encroachment drive”
Indian state Uttarakhand remained on alert on Friday after at least five people were killed due to the ongoing violence after authorities demolished a mosque a day earlier, alleging it was constructed illegally, BBC reported.
Violence broke out in Haldwani town during what police said was an “anti-encroachment drive” launched to remove illegal buildings, including the mosque and a joint madrasa.
However, Muslims who attended the mosque to worship claim they have been unfairly singled out.
The clashes that began on Thursday night resulted in hundreds of injuries for both police officers and demonstrators.
Videos circulating online show demonstrators throwing stones and setting cars on fire while the police attacked them with tear gas.
To get things under control, the state has given “shoot at sight” orders in addition to imposing a curfew.
The madrassa and the mosque were razed, according to District Magistrate Vandana Singh, since they were not recognised as religious buildings and were constructed unlawfully on government property.
“The drive was not targeted at any particular community. It began peacefully, but a mob attacked officials soon after, leading to violence,” Singh said, adding that authorities had given the mosque’s administration prior notice about its demolition.
Locals have denied the district administration’s claim, stating that the mosque was demolished before the court could give a final decision in the case.
“When the administration came to demolish the structures, we asked them to stop until the next court hearing. But they did not listen. If they had waited for the final decision of the court, there would have been no resistance from us,” Shakeel Ahmad, a local councillor, told the Indian Express.
Tensions over the demolition of mosques have risen in the past few months.
Ahead of the general elections that are scheduled in two months, Muslims claim that they are being unfairly singled out by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist administration and accuse it of inciting religious conflict.