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Frustration With UCC or Pre-Planned Violence? Why Tensions Keep Simmering in Haldwani’s Banbhoolpura

  • February 10, 2024

Located close to a railway station along the railway line, Banbhoolpura is a densely populated area that houses about one lakh Muslims as per estimates. (PTI)

Located close to a railway station along the railway line, Banbhoolpura is a densely populated area that houses about one lakh Muslims as per estimates. (PTI)

In 2022, thousands of Banbhoolpura residents were up in arms against a high court order that sought eviction of encroachers from land belonging to the Railways. Though the Supreme Court stayed the order on January 5, 2023, the area has been restive since then

Uttarakhand’s security forces are keeping a strict vigil in Haldwani after violent clashes broke out between police and locals in the Banbhoolpura area on Thursday evening as the administration, in a bid to evict encroachers, bulldozed an “illegal” Madrasa.

Officials said at least four people had been killed while hundreds were injured. Director General of Police Abhinav Kumar, after returning from Haldwani, told News18: “It seems the violence was pre-planned. Police are identifying those involved in the incident.”

Roots of Agitation

In 2022, thousands of Banbhoolpura residents were up in arms against a high court order that sought eviction of encroachers from land belonging to the Railways. Though the Supreme Court stayed the order on January 5, 2023, the area has been restive since then.

Located close to a railway station along the railway line, Banbhoolpura is a densely populated area that houses about one lakh Muslims as per estimates.

Haldwani resident Paramjit Singh said: “I’m 63 years old and Banbhoolpura existed before that. Earlier, there were a few thousand families but now that number has exceeded.”

In recent years, many families shifted base from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh towns like Swar, Tanda and Bahedi to Banbhoolpura, given that Haldwani city is the gateway to Kumaon hills and provides ample business opportunities.

Encroached Land

Recently, Haldwani administration had cleared around 30 acres of land housing Mazars and Madrasas. On Thursday, one such structure was demolished from ‘Malik Ka Bagicha’. The administration also identified ‘Kabul Ka Bagicha’, ‘Safdar Ka Bagicha’, and ‘Najakat Khan Ka Bagicha’ as official land belonging to the government.

Records suggest that most of Haldwani rests on ‘Nazool land’ — government land that could be allotted to an individual for a specific year and was non-transferable.

“Not only Haldwani, people in various towns live on Nazool land. There is a need for a broader outlook to avoid a Haldwani-like situation,” said PC Tiwari, president, Uttarakhand Parivartan Party.

Banbhoolpura’s Political Connection

Over the years, Banbhoolpura remained a political cauldron due to its vote bank. In the last five assembly elections held since Uttarakhand was carved out of UP in 2000, the ruling BJP has won only once in Haldwani in 2007, while Congress has remained victorious the remaining four times.

Blaming the Grand Old Party, the BJP said the former stood by the residents whenever the administration attempted to clear the 29 acres of land, despite knowing that it belonged to the government.

“The Banbhoolpura incident is a result of appeasement politics. Our government is dealing with those involved in clashes with an iron fist,” a leader said.

Another BJP MLA, Mahant Dilip Rawat, stressed that stringent action was needed to stop “outsiders” in Uttarakhand.

Meanwhile, questions are also being raised about a possible Intelligence failure that led to violence just two days after the Uniform Civil Code Bill was passed in the state assembly. Cabinet minister Ganesh Joshi, while speaking to News18, said the violence was a result of the “frustration visible in Haldwani owing to UCC”.

Neelesh Anand Bharne, spokesperson of Uttarakhand Police, said the department would look into chances of an Intel failure.

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