India town sets curfew, orders police to shoot violators after fatal clashes over mosque

Three people were killed in India and dozens injured after religious clashes sparked by the destruction of a mosque and seminary, officials said on Friday, the latest in a spate of demolitions targeting Islamic structures.

Hindu nationalist groups have been emboldened in their campaign against Muslim religious structures since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office a decade ago.

Authorities in the northern Indian town of Haldwani imposed an indefinite curfew and ordered police to shoot violators after clashes left three dead and more than 150 hurt, officials said.

The violence on Thursday also led authorities to shut down internet services and schools in the town, Uttarakhand state government official Chief Radha Raturi said.

The situation was brought under control with nearly 4,000 police officers rushing to the area, said police officer A.P. Anshuman. He said police were ordered to shoot protesters violating the curfew.

On Thursday, thousands of protesters tried to block government officials and police who arrived to demolish the seminary and mosque following a court order that the structures were being built on government land without local authorisation, Anshuman said.

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As violence escalated, police fired live ammunition and tear gas to disperse protesters using petrol bombs and stones to attack a police station and set several vehicles on fire, Anshuman said.

Earlier, government administrator Vandana Singh Chauhan said two people died in the violence, over 150 police officers were injured and several people were hospitalised.

Anshuman did not say whether police fire killed the protesters. He also did not identify the religion of the victims.

Abhinav Kumar, the state director general of police, said the situation in the town was tense but under control on Friday with protesters dispersed.

Haldwani is about 270km (170 miles) northeast of New Delhi.

Muslim groups have accused India’s Hindu-nationalist government of using bulldozers to demolish their homes and businesses in the past.


Inauguration of India’s Ayodhya temple tipped to whip up Hindu nationalism ahead of elections

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Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of looking the other way and sometimes enabling hate speech against Muslims, who comprise 14 per cent of India’s 1.4 billion people.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party denies the accusations.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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