Haldwani: Fact-Finding Team Allege 'Police Set Up Detention Centres', Cops Deny

"Official data claims only 30-36 people are detained, but the truth is different," reads the report.

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Hindi Female

It has been over a week since tensions gripped Uttarakhand's Haldwani after demolition of the Maryam Masjid and Abdul Razzaq Zakariya Madrasa. A fact-finding report has brought forth damning allegations about how the violence broke out and the lapses that took place.

Titled, 'Bulldozing Peace: State Violence and Apathy in Muslim Settlements of Haldwani' the fact-finding report was carried out by the Association For Protection of Civil Rights (APCR).

The fact-finding team included APCR's Nadeem Khan and Mohd Mobashshir Aneeq, Karawan-e-Mohabbat's Harsh Mander, Navsharan Singh, Ashok Sharma, Kumar Nikhil and Zahid Qadri, a civil rights activist.

Haldwani violence saw the deaths of at least six people, including a driver Faheem Hadi and a father-son duo Mohd Zahid and Anas, as The Quint reported. In the aftermath of the incident, around 300 houses faced a police crackdown, where many household belongings damaged, family members beaten up and picked up while a curfew persists.

"Official data claims only 30-36 people are detained, but the truth is different. Police have set up detention centers resembling torture chambers where numerous individuals, including those from Haldwani who were away in other cities for various reasons are being held captive," reads the report.

Speaking at the Press Club of India, Nadeem Khan said, "More detentions than arrests, according to sources on ground there is a school some 15 kilometers away which is being used as a centre where people are being rounded up. Locals told us there are over 5,000 people said to be involved but they are not able to match people from video samples because the culprits are probably not locals."

Speaking to The Quint, Dinesh Joshi, PRO Haldwani police denied such allegations, he said, "There is no such detention centre. The school is functioning as per usual and they're conducting their board exam and texts."

According to the team, the Haldwani incident is deeply linked with the notion of creating Uttarakhand as a Devbhoomi the holy land for Hindus which would have no place for other religious minorities.

This is where the Chief Minister's statement also holds relevance as he declared as an accomplishment of his government the "destruction of 3000 Mazaars, while adopting mostly silence about unauthorized Hindu religious structures in forest and Nazul lands," the report added.
"Official data claims only 30-36 people are detained, but the truth is different," reads the report.

Several local Muslims have migrated to different places.

(Photo: Umar Altaf)

The team also stated that right from the number of deaths to the shoot-at-site orders, it has been dubious to say the least.

"The violence resulted in the death of 7 individuals. 31 people so far have been arrested and over 90 detained for questioning. An unnamed FIR has been registered against 5,000 individuals. The locals claim that the death toll is higher than 20," reads the report.

Joshi has told The Quint that a total of 42 people have been arrested.

Meanwhile, officially, with Mohd Israr succumbing to his injuries on 13 February, the death toll rose to six. However, earlier while SSP Prahlad Meena maintained the death toll was at 5, SP Harbans Singh told PTI on 9 February that at least six people had died.

Talking about the violence, Nadeem stated that , "a committee has been organised to look into the incident, the members of the committee include the police authorities. Police officers will investigate actions by police officers."

Responding to this, Joshi said, "The investigation in the committee is being done by IAS Deepak Rawat, Kumaon Commissioner."

The team stated that the polarising narratives and unsupported claims of Love Jihad, Land Jihad, Vyapar Jihad, and Mazaar Jihad and the calls for economic and social boycotts of Muslims have also played a role in aggravating unrest.


From Role of Municipal Commissioner to Sanitation Workers: Key Points

  • Non-relieving of position by Municipal Commissioner Pankaj Upadhyay. He was transferred on 31 January yet did not take up his new position and was seen abusing Muslims, misbehaving with Muslim women on 8 February.

  • Sanitation workers from the Valmiki community sided with the police in attacking Muslims. It seems that their attack was a "part of anti-Muslim hatred and radicalization" as one Sanjay Solankar of the Valmiki Community also killed his neighbor Faheem.

  • A separate incident involving the attack on the police station saw the involvement of a third group leading to further casualties and worsening the crisis.

  • The police did not make the list of the Quran and other belongings kept there and also refrained from handing them over to the responsible authority.

"Official data claims only 30-36 people are detained, but the truth is different," reads the report.

Gafoor Basti, Haldwani.

(Photo: Umar Altaf)

"The police has questioned the resistance shown by local Muslim women, but this was not sudden. Local women had also protested during the anti-CAA movement in the city. This time, they were mishandled and beaten too," said Nadeem.

Report Raises Questions

Now that some revelations have been put forth, some questions that ought to be asked of the authorities were also stated by the team.

Another statement was made by the district magistrate that the leaders of the community were called prior to demolition on 8 February but their phones could not be reached as they were switched off. However, the Muslim clerics and leaders deny this statement.

"80 individuals can not have their phones turned off at the same time," Qazi said. They demand the district magistrate’s accountability to prove their claims.

Here are some pertinent questions that the team puts forth:

  1. Why was the administration in such a hurry to demolish the Masjid and Madrasa despite the impending hearing on February 14 in the High Court?

  2. Why was the Muslim community not taken into confidence for the second time when they already cooperated at the time of sealing?

  3. As for Municipal Commissioner Pankaj Upadhyay, why is an individual with objectionable actions still allowed to manage prevailing circumstances despite his transfer to another office?

  4. The police also barged into the home of a journalist Saleem Khan of Uttaranchal Deep. His wife and children became victims at the hands of police sustaining fractured hands. How can the government claim that the situation is peaceful with the curfew and shoot-at-sight orders still in effect?

  5. There was another incident where a nearby Muslim wedding was attacked by the same mob who attacked the police station. The locals and police could not identify the attackers, indicating that the attackers were outsiders. If the mob or the attackers were from the Muslim community, why would they attack their people?

"Official data claims only 30-36 people are detained, but the truth is different," reads the report.

Vehicles damaged in Haldwani.

(Photo: Umar Altaf)

Moreover, the team added that during the violence, there was continuous police firing in different city areas with approximately 1,000-2,000 rounds fired in two hours. However, the media only reported 350 rounds fired.

In addition to this, "electricity was deliberately cut around 5 PM, anticipating that all the inverters would be exhausted by 7 or 8 in the evening," it said. During the blackout, some individuals set the police station on fire.

It is also disputed when the police began resorting to firing and when formal orders of shoot at sight were made as there was no publicly available order, police were functioning on internal information.

What Do We Know About The Nazul Land?

Nazul land is owned by the government but most often not directly administered as state property. The state generally allots such land to any entity on lease for a fixed period, between 15 and 99 years.

In case the lease term is expiring, one can approach the authority to renew the lease by submitting a written application. The government is free to either renew the lease or cancel it.

The report said, "The fact that, on one hand, the matter is sub-judice in court, and on the other hand, the government is moving forward with its regularisation, clearly indicates a communal agenda on the part of the Government. This pattern is evident throughout Uttarakhand."

Apart from this, there has been a prolonged dispute around claims by Indian Railways that large settlements of Muslim residents are on their land. Their proposed eviction has been stayed by the Supreme Court.

In this story, The Quint reported that Uttarakhand High Court lawyer Ahrar Baig had stated that eviction notices were sent to vacate the mosque and madarsa within a short period of time.

When no agreement was reached between the delegation of Ulemas of the city and the Municipal Commissioner of Haldwani, on 4 February, the Municpal office sealed the mosque and madarsa.

Sofia Malik who claims to be the rightful lessee of the disputed land moved to High Court. The petition was heard on the 8 February and 14 February was fixed for next hearing. "But no order was given out in the case," Baig added.

Both, the mosque and madarsa were two decades old and established around 2003-2004. The land in this area has been on lease since 1937 with a settlement registered under category one or A in the slum scheme.

"The property in 1937 was given on lease by the British which later came into possession of Sadiya Begum in inheritance. However, the matter of land regularisation has been pending at the government administration level for a long time since 2006," stated the report.
"Official data claims only 30-36 people are detained, but the truth is different," reads the report.

Aneesha, 75, was allegedly beaten y the police during a raid at her place.

(Photo: Umar Altaf)

Additionally, a curfew of this length and time in a settlement with a large number of low-income daily wage earners has also caused enormous suffering.

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