From job aspirant to construction worker: The 5 dead in Haldwani so far

Contingents of cops are camping out at the families’ homes, trying to block media access.

WrittenBy:Sumedha Mittal& Prashant Kumar
The arson in Haldwani and the deserted streets after the violence.

At 7.30 pm on February 8, Zahid, 45, left his home in Gafur Basti in Haldwani to buy milk. 

Soon after, his son Mohammad Anas, 16, learned that violence had flared up in their neighbourhood, triggered by the Haldwani Municipal Corporation demolishing a mosque and madrasa as part of an “anti-encroachment drive”. Anxious, Anas left their home to bring his father back.

“When they reached the crossroads, they encountered the police,” alleged Zahid’s brother Arif. “We received a call from neighbours saying they had been shot. They asked us to come pick up their bodies. There were several eyewitnesses – they saw it. They said the police thrashed them with lathis after shooting them.”

Zahid and Anas are among the five confirmed dead in the violence that blew up that day. The demolitions began that evening and ended by 5.30 pm. Soon after, locals clashed with the police. Stones were pelted, vehicles were set on fire, and the police used tear gas and force in response. 

The district administration imposed curfew in the area and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami issued shoot-at-sight orders. District magistrate Vandana Singh told The Indian Express that the mob attempted to “burn alive” police personnel inside a police station and that “dozens” of cops were injured in the violence.

Apart from Zahid and Anas, the other three killed in the violence were identified as Mohammad Shaban, Fareem Qureshi and Prakash Kumar Singh, a resident of Bihar. The families of Zahid, Anas, and Shaban told Newslaundry the bodies had bullet injuries and accused the police of killing them. Newslaundry learned that the postmortems of Zahid, Anas and Shaban allegedly confirmed bullet injuries as well.

Cops at families’ homes, ‘don’t talk to media’

Zahid worked in construction and had four children including Anas, who was a Class 6 student. After receiving phone calls that they’d been shot, Arif said the family was unable to take them to the hospital immediately because of the violence and because they had no vehicle.

The bodies were only taken to the government hospital the following morning where they were declared dead. The burials took place on the evening of February 10 but only six family members were permitted to perform the last rites.

“It was to control the violence,” Arif said. “We understand the situation.”

There is currently heavy police deployment at the family’s home. “They are not allowing anyone to meet us and even not talk to the media,” Arif said. “The situation is really tense here. The police are barging inside the homes of people, beating them, randomly picking them up. At least seven people in our area have been picked up.”

At least 20 residents confirmed to Newslaundry that the police were “randomly picking up” people.

Deserted streets and police patrols after the violence.

Newslaundry saw heavy police deployment at the house of another victim, 22, who ran a confectionery shop on the ground floor of his home in Azad Nagar in Banbhoolpura. 

At least 15 cops stood at the door to the building. When we tried to approach, one of them shouted, “You cannot talk to the people. Can’t you see these are culprits? They are under suspicion.”

We just want to talk to the family, we replied. The cop said, “Media is not allowed to talk to the families.”

Later, we spoke to Shaban’s father Shafeek Ahmed over the telephone. He said, “Between 7 and 7.30 pm, he had closed down his shop and was then shot by the police. I can’t tell you more. We can’t talk to the media.”

The fourth dead, 30-year-old Faheem Qureshi, worked in transportation. His brother Farhan spoke to Newslaundry on the phone. He claimed that at about 8 pm, the police allegedly set his brother’s vehicle “on fire”. “Faheem stepped out of the house to extinguish the fire and then he was shot.”

Faheem’s other brother Javed blamed a neighbour for Faheem’s death. “My brother had a feud with him and has threatened to kill my father. He used the riots as an excuse to kill my brother. We didn’t see him shooting my brother but we are sure.”

Farhan told Newslaundry that 15 cops were stationed at the gate of their home. “They are not letting anyone step inside or out and not allowing us to talk to the media. It is a terrible situation.”

The fifth dead is Prakash, 24, originally from Bhojpur in Bihar. A graduate in agricultural studies, he had arrived in Haldwani on the day of the violence in search of work. His brother-in-law Ankit Kumar Singh reached Haldwani on February 10 to collect his body.

Ankit with a picture of his brother.

“We do not know where exactly he was at the time he was shot and how he reached the hospital,” Ankit told Newslaundry. “The police are not giving any clarification to us. On the phone, they had not even informed us that he was dead. They just said he had been shot.”

Prakash’s friend, who accompanied Ankit to Haldwani and did not want to be named, said, “Why are we not being given any clarification on his death? They would know who brought him to the emergency at the government hospital. He was shot with three bullets.”

Newslaundry reached out to Prahlad Narayan Meena, the superintendent of police in Haldwani. This report will be updated if we receive a response.

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