The situation remains tense in Uttarakhand’s Haldwani after violence broke out in Banbhoolpura area on Thursday. The violence reportedly took place after the authorities demolished a madrasa during an anti-encroachment drive.

The state government has now issued shoot at sight orders. Four people are said to have lost their lives in the violence, while over 200 have been injured, according to NDTV.

According to reports, locals pelted stones when the authorities were demolishing the madrasa, which is allegedly on Nazool (state) land.

However, according to some videos surfacing online, Uttarakhand Police is allegedly “seen lathi charging women who tried to stop the demolition of Masjid and madrasa”.

Meanwhile, according to officials, a joint team from the Nainital district administration and local civic authorities undertook the demolition on Nazool land, leading to a violent backlash from enraged locals.

The district administration has imposed a curfew in the restive Banbhulpura area and all roads leading to it have been barricaded. Schools have also been shut.

The state government also issued orders authorising law enforcement to “use lethal force” against unruly elements and reportedly even “shoot rioters on sight”.

Chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami convened an emergency meeting to review the escalating situation. Chief Secretary Radha Raturi, Director General of Police Uttarakhand Abhinav Kumar, and ADG (Law and Order) AP Anshuman were present at the meeting, stated news reports.

Dhami said that the administration's action was in response to a court order, as they embarked on an anti-encroachment drive in the area.

“Anti-social elements there entered into a brawl with the Police. A few Police personnel & administrative officials sustained injuries. Additional companies of Police and Central Forces are being sent there. We have appealed to everyone to maintain peace. Curfew is in place. Strict action will be taken against rioters and encroachers who committed arson,” he told ANI.

Locals of Haldwani, meanwhile said that there is a police crackdown since the protest by the people against the demolition of the madrasa. “We do not know who started it but there was violence. Police beat up people with lathis. Shots were also fired,” a local who did not want to be named said.

According to SSP Prahlad Meena the madrasa demolition took place after a prior notice to the residents. The demolition was carried out in the presence of Municipal Commissioner Pankaj Upadhyay, City Magistrate Richa Singh, SDM Paritosh Verma, Meena added.

Uttarakhand DGP Abhinav Kumar said, "As of now, the situation is under control. Several police personnel and administration officials sustained injuries and have been admitted to hospitals. No casualties reported yet. The situation is tense but under control. In the days to come, the people behind the incident will be identified and action will be taken against them.”

Multiple district police and paramilitary units deployed in Haldwani.

The mob, described as "unruly elements", pelted stones at the officials, prompting the police to retaliate with tear gas, stated news reports. The violence escalated as vehicles outside the police station were set on fire, further deteriorating the law and order situation.

The demolitions carried out with a heavy police and Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) presence, aimed to clear government land allegedly encroached upon by the madrasa and mosque. Meanwhile, the Senior Superintendent of Police Prahlad Meena told the media that the demolitions complied with a court order.

As the bulldozer razed the structures, enraged residents, including women, took to the streets in protest. According to reports they broke barricades and engaged in heated confrontations with the police, the situation escalated rapidly.

The Uttarakhand High Court had a hearing on Thursday on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking to halt the demolition. The court, however, did not grant relief, and the demolition continued. The matter is scheduled for further hearing on February 14.