In the aftermath of five days of unrest and violence in Haldwani, the city is slowly witnessing a return to normalcy. Schools have reopened in most areas, indicating a tentative resumption of daily life for many residents. However, tension persists in the violence-stricken neighborhood of Banbhulpura, where a curfew remains in effect and schools remain shuttered.
Despite the restoration of internet services citywide, Banbhulpura remains under strict lockdown.
In the streets of Banbhulpura's Malik Ka Bagicha area, an eerie silence prevails as most residents have vacated their homes, fearing repercussions amidst ongoing police operations. Reports indicate that a significant number have sought refuge in neighboring cities and villages in Uttar Pradesh.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a member of a Muslim family shared their experience with FPJ, stating, "We left the area the day after the police began conducting search operations and arresting Muslims, accusing us of pelting stones at the police force. Four families, including ours, fled our neighborhood in the early hours of February 9, taking shortcuts to reach the main road. From there, we hired a tempo traveler to reach Bareilly."
The family member revealed that they are currently residing with relatives in a village near Bareilly, while others have sought refuge in Sambhal and Faridpur in Bareilly district. He estimated that over 90 percent of Banbhulpura's residents, predominantly Muslims, have fled the area.
However, authorities dispute claims of mass migration, attributing the deserted houses to individuals leaving before the imposition of the curfew and ongoing police operations.
Nainital Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Prahlad Singh Meena rejected assertions of migration, clarifying, "This is not migration. Some individuals left before the curfew, and their houses remain locked. We are conducting door-to-door searches as part of our efforts to apprehend those involved in the violence."
Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Paritosh Verma acknowledged the situation's complexity, stating, "While a large community has chosen to stay in the area, we are providing relief materials, including medicines, fruits, and vegetables, in Banbhulpura. The decision to lift the curfew will depend on prevailing circumstances."
In response to the unrest, authorities have taken decisive action, with the police arresting 30 individuals suspected of involvement in the violence. Among the apprehended are two former councilors and leaders of the Samajwadi Party (SP). Abdul Malik, believed to be the mastermind behind the violence, is also in police custody.
Union Minister of State for Defence and Tourism Ajay Bhatt visited Haldwani on Sunday night to assess the situation. During his visit, he met with injured police personnel, offering assurances of government support. The emotional encounter witnessed injured officer Govindi expressing gratitude for surviving the violence and highlighting its severity.
As Haldwani endeavors to restore peace and normalcy, authorities remain vigilant, with hopes of quelling unrest in all parts of the city, including the troubled neighborhood of Banbhulpura.