Four people have died and 250 others were injured in widespread violence over the demolition of a madrasa and an adjoining mosque in the Indian state of Uttarakhand.
Authorities have imposed a curfew on Haldwani city, issuing shoot-at-sight orders against rioters and shutting down internet services following Thursday's clashes, Indian broadcaster NDTV reports.
Tensions in the city boiled over into violence when a team of government officials, accompanied by policemen, attempted to raze the 'illegal' structures following a court order.
However, they were met with fierce resistance from residents in the Vanbhulpura area, prompting clashes that led to injuries to over 50 policemen, with several administration officials, municipal workers, and journalists also caught in the crossfire.
The protesters hurled stones at officials near a police station, encouraging the police to respond with tear gas. The situation worsened when vehicles parked outside the police station were torched, reports NDTV.
Officials said that the madrasa and the mosque were illegally built on government-owned land.
Tensions escalated when local residents, including women, protested the bulldozing of the structures by breaking barricades and clashing with police officers.
The confrontation intensified as the crowd attacked police, municipal workers, and journalists with stones, causing injuries and property damage. Over 20 motorcycles and a security bus were set on fire.
"Police did not provoke anyone. Despite that, they were attacked, a police station was vandalised and the rioters tried to burn police personnel inside the station," Nainital District Magistrate Vandana Singh is quoted as saying by NDTV.
The state's Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami explained that the demolition was conducted following a court order and condemned the clash with police by "anti-social elements". To quell the unrest, additional police and central forces are being deployed.
As a precautionary measure, a curfew has been implemented in Haldwani, leading to the closure of shops and schools in the vicinity.