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‘Killed by police bullets’: Deadly clash scars Muslims in India’s Haldwani

Violence that erupted after a mosque and school were demolished has killed six people and deepened religious divisions.

Haldwani, India – At about 6:45pm on February 8, Mohammad Arif called his brother Zahid. A mosque and an Islamic school had been razed by government officials in their town of Haldwani in northern India, and violence had broken out. The 52-year-old Arif wanted his brother, seven years younger, to return home immediately from the iron and cement shop he worked in.

Zahid rushed home on his motorbike and parked it outside the house. Unaware that the protest had become violent, Zahid hurried to buy milk for his infant grandchild.

When Zahid’s 16-year-old middle son Mohammad Anas learned that his father had gone out again, he went looking for him in the cramped, dingy lanes of Haldwani’s Banbhoolpura area, a Muslim ghetto. The police shot the son in the stomach in the lane, and the father in the chest 200 metres along the same road.

Zahid and Anas are among at least six people killed, including five Muslims, in clashes that involved mob violence and police firing. At least two dozen civilians and more than 100 police personnel were injured, several police vehicles were burned and a police station was attacked in the fallout from protests in Haldwani, the latest site of government-led demolitions in India targeting Muslim structures.

The town’s municipal authorities bulldozed the buildings called the Mariyam mosque, which could accommodate 500-600 worshippers, and the Abdul Razzaq Zakariya school in Malik ka Bagicha in Banbhoolpura on February 8, saying that they had been built without permission.

Residents said the mosque and the school – built in 2002 – have been unfairly targeted, despite a court hearing