Twenty-five more people have arrested in connection with the February 8 riots after the demolition of an “illegal” madrassa in Haldwani in Uttarakhand, police said on Sunday, as a delegation of two Muslim bodies visited the area and alleged that protesters are treated differently on the basis of religion.
Nainital Senior Superintendent of Police Prahlad Meena said the fresh arrests took the total number of people arrested so far to 30, and added that key accused Abdul Malik would be nabbed soon.
On Thursday, violence broke out over the demolition of an illegally built madrassa in the Banbhoolpura area, with locals hurling stones and petrol bombs at municipal workers and police, forcing many police personnel to seek refuge at a police station, which the mob then set on fire.
In the violence, six rioters were killed and more than a hundred, including police personnel and mediapersons, were injured, according to the police.
Curfew remained in force in Banbhoolpura but was lifted from the outer areas of the town. Shops were still shut and roads deserted in Banbhoolpura.
Internet services also remained suspended in the area to prevent rumour-mongering through social media platforms.
Nearly 1,100 security personnel are already deployed in the town. And, the state government has sought four companies — containing about 100 personnel each — of central paramilitary forces from the Home Ministry to maintain law and order in Banbhoolpura.
During the day, a delegation of the Uttarakhand Congress met Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami and demanded an impartial probe into the violence.
Dhami told the delegation led by Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Yashpal Arya that the state government had taken immediate action to maintain law and order in the riot-hit area and that the Kumaon commissioner was conducting a magisterial probe into it and would submit his report in 15 days.
The chief minister expressed his determination to deal sternly with those involved in the violence.
“Action is continuously being taken against the rioters and unruly elements involved in the Haldwani violence. All rioters are being arrested one after another. The drive against illegal encroachments in the state will not stop,” the chief minister said in a post on X.
Addressing the media Sunday evening, SSP Meena said most of the fresh arrests had been made from within the limits of Nainital district in the past 24 hours.
Seven pistols and 54 live cartridges that had allegedly been looted from the Banbhoolpura police station were recovered from those arrested, the police officer said.
Asked whether those arrested included key accused Abdul Malik, the SSP said he would be arrested soon.
Malik had allegedly built the illegal structure whose demolition triggered the violence.
On Sunday, a delegation of representatives from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and Jamaat-e-Islami Hind visited Haldwani.
Condemning the police action in Haldwani, Jamiat chief Maulana Arshad Madani said the report submitted by the delegation was extremely painful.
“According to the report, the police are arresting people by breaking all limits of cruelty and abuse, even breaking doors and forcibly entering houses,” he said, alleging that both men and women were being harassed.
“We have also written a letter to the Uttarakhand DGP yesterday demanding immediate attention in this regard. Not just the abuse of innocent citizens but also the nefarious series of arrests that have started should be stopped immediately,” he said.
Madani said there should be a fair investigation into this whole incident. Local people protesting against the administration is not a crime, he said.
He alleged that the police “used lathicharge and started firing” to suppress a protest by local residents against municipal officials who had reached the site with bulldozers.
Madani alleged that the police, instead of enforcing law and order, “become a party against Muslims everywhere” but act differently in cases involving others.
“Discrimination on the basis of religion among (different groups of) protesters is deplorable,” he said.
Meanwhile, Maulana Mahmood Madani, who heads the other faction of the Jamiat, has written a letter to Union Home Minister Home Minister Amit Shah, expressing profound concern over the situation in Haldwani.
He questioned the haste in carrying out the demolition and urged that a lasting solution needed to be found on demolitions, particularly involving religious places.