Haldwani violence: Police charge accused under draconian UAPA, Qaumi Ekta Manch seeks Supreme Court-monitored probe

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By SMA Kazmi

DEHRADUN—Uttarakhand police have now added stringent provisions under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) against all 107 accused, including seven women, in Haldwani violence case that took place on February 8, 2024.

The violence had claimed seven lives and injuries to dozens of others in police firing and police repression later on. Private properties worth millions were also damaged in the violence.

Meanwhile, Quami Ekta Manch, a group of public spirited bodies in its report titled “Banphoolpura violence: Who is the real culprit?”, has demanded a Supreme Court-monitored probe into the violence.

All the accused are currently in jail.

The police had already taken action against 36 persons under UAPA on February 26 itself.

It has now charged 71 more persons, including seven women, under UAPA.

A total of 98 accused were produced before District Judge, Haldwani, on Friday last after which they were sent to judicial custody for 28 more days.

Qaumi Ekta Manch(QEM) convener Rajni Joshi explained about the major findings of its report and demanded a Supreme Court-monitored probe into Banphoolpura incident.

The Manch, in its report, sought a compensation of Rs. 25 lakh for the kins of those killed in the violence, Rs. five lakh for injured persons and monetary compensation for those who lost their properties in police action.

Those who attended the press conference include Rajni Joshi of Pragtisheel Mahila Ekta Kendra, Basanti Pathak of Uttarakhand Mahila Manch, P P Arya of Krantikari Lok Adhikar Manch, K K Bora of CPI(ML), Rohit of Inqualabi Mazdoor Kendra, Mahesh of Privartankami Chhatra Sangathan and Dheeraj Joshi of Mazdoor Sahyog Kendra. 

The fact-finding team found that the violent incident were the outcome of complete failure of administration and communally-biased attitude of the state government.

The report also flagged the double standards of the political leadership by highlighting that Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami and local MP visited the injured police personnel but ignored the families of those killed in police firing.

Similarly, injuries to women police personnel were highlighted but the alleged police repression on poor people during curfew remained completely ignored.

The indictment of the BJP state government and police administration for their alleged biased communal approach before, during and after Banphoolpura violence by Manch’s fact-finding report, is not the first one.

Earlier, a  group of 83 senior retired civil servants including former bureaucrats, police officers and diplomats, in a letter to Uttarakhand Chief Secretary Radha Raturi in March this year, had expressed their deep concern about violence in Haldwani and requested her to take urgent action to prevent the situation from deteriorating further, provide relief to the affected citizens of Haldwani, ensure that all citizens of the state feel safe and that the administration is perceived to be neutral in enforcing the law. However, nothing much was done on the ground.

Former senior bureaucrats had also demanded an impartial judicial inquiry into the Haldwani incident and subsequent actions by the administration as they believed that the magisterial inquiry by the Kumaon Divisional Commissioner ordered by the state government was insufficient to convey the appearance of impartiality.

The former officials in their letter had also highlighted the press reports about police beating residents (including women and children1) and damaging property in the area, as well as detaining people.

The signatories had also drawn the attention to their earlier letters of June 12, 2023 and July 18, 2023, in which they had raised the concern about a violent and criminal campaign targeting the minority community that appeared to be underway in Uttarakhand state. Incidents of violence took place, including the vandalism and destruction of shops in the towns of Purola, Badkot and Haldwani, and a climate of terror was created that forced Muslim families to leave the area. Many of these people have not been able to return till now. “It is deeply disturbing that no action at all appears to have been taken on these incidents. Individuals involved in dozens of incidents of hate speeches have not even been prosecuted, and no one has been arrested till date for these serious crimes. The law must not only be enforced equally for all, it must also, in the public perception, be seen as being equally enforced for all individuals and sections of society,” letter said. 

The former officials also  requested that the orders of the Supreme Court regarding hate speech and mob violence be immediately enforced in Uttarakhand and the government take immediate steps to ensure that all its actions convey a message of security to all citizens of the state, regardless of religious community.

A fact-finding team comprising Nadeem Khan and Mohd. Mobashshir Aneeq of Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), Harsh Mander, Navsharan Singh, Ashok Sharma, Kumar Nikhil of “Karawan-e-Mohabbat” and Zahid Qadri, a civil rights activist in its report in the month of February, 2024 had reported police repression and enormous avoidable hardships and sufferings caused to the inhabitants who are low-income daily wage earners.

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