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Haldwani violence: Who is Nainital DM Vandana Singh who exposed the mob’s plot to kill and didn’t submit to media’s pressure tactics? Details

Singh pushed back against the media pressure and clearly stated that the violence was not the state's failure.

The administration in Haldwani has cracked the whip on vandals who indulged in arson in the Banbhoolpura area on 8th February injuring more than 300 police personnel.

At the centre of the action is Nainital District Magistrate (DM) Vandana Singh. In a bold press briefing on the Haldwani violence, Singh minced no words when she called out the rioters and their conspiracy.

Nainital DM Vandana Singh has made headlines with her no-nonsense attitude towards the rioters, which was reflected during her press briefing on Haldwani violence.

Notably, Singh quelled all doubts and rumours about the violence that suggested that the violence was communal in nature. She did so with utter calmness and focus ensuring that no scope was left for misleading interpretations.

She unhesitatingly stated that the mob aimed to threaten the state machinery and the law and order situation in the city in a bid to show that they were above the law. “They were dealt with accordingly,” she said.

Here’s how Nainital DM Vandana Singh responded when she was heckled by the media

Immediately after the briefing, the DM took questions from the media. A media person asking the first question stressed and insisted that the violence was the failure of the state.

A second question was followed by another media person asking what necessitated the demolition on 8th February knowing very well that UCC had been passed in the state and that it was already a sensitive matter and it was known that such a reaction could have come.

To this, Singh, undeterred, replied saying, “You ask yourself this quesion once. There is an area in Haldwani city in Uttarakhand which is a state in India where the administration has to do an enforcement activity, not a war, they don’t have to fight a battle there. If to implement an enforcement activity, an administration has to do war-like preparation, then does that not tell whether that area respects and abides by the law or not?”

At this point, the media began to heckle the DM. This time, the media began insisting that the violence was a result of the failure of state machinery instead of asking a question.

“You are saying that you were monitoring since 3-4 days through drones, so this is your failure then,” a media person asked rather aggressively.

Singh pushed back against the pressure and said that it was not the state’s failure. Another media person immediately followed continuing the heckling as he asked, “Such a big incident happens and you are not accepting failure.”

This was followed by a din of questions with another media person pressuring Singh asking repeatedly whether or not this was an intelligence failure.

The DM again said, “This is not an intelligence failure at all. All preparations were in place. This was a demolition drive and not a preparation for riots. Complete preparation was done for the demolition drive and resources were kept ready accordingly which is why we could control the violence despite such severity of the situation. That we could control this within 2-2.5 hours despite such a violation of law and order and prevented it from reaching the main city area of Haldwani then it is rather a success of preparation,” she said putting to rest all pressure tactics.

She further added that had there been no preparation then the administration and the forces would have lost to the mob itself. “Instead we controlled the mob. We retaliated to the second attack too where petrol bombs were used and to the third attack too,” she said.

The DM said that had there been no preparation then the very first attack of stone pelting itself would have deterred the forces from containing the violence.

When asked why wasn’t it taken into account that forces from outside the city and state could also have come into play, Singh said it was indeed taken into account.

“Not a single person in the outer perimeter suffered even a scratch. Not a single outsider entered. This would have been deemed a failure only if a large mob from the outer area would have entered Haldwani. This did not happen because we controlled it because we were prepared,” she said.

Who is Vandana Singh?

Vandana Singh is currently the District Magistrate (DM) of Nainital. She is a 2012-batch IAS officer of the Uttarakhand cadre.

Singh, who hails from Haryana’s Nasrullagarh village, secured AIR 8th in UPSC in 2012 in her very first attempt at the age of 24. But Singh’s path to this victory was not an easy one.

Initially, Singh was denied education because she was a woman. Moreover, there was no school in her village. As per reports, while her brothers studied abroad, Singh had to ask for her right to education.

She went on to pursue Sanskrit honors from Kanya Gurukul Bhiwani and LLB from BR Ambedkar University, Agra. Some reports claim that she pursued distance education due to a lack of support for college.

Soon after she became an IAS officer, Singh was appointed as the chief development officer (CDO) of Pithorgarh, Uttarakhand. She was the first woman CDO of the district.

Vandana Singh also served as the brand ambassador of the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” campaign between 2017 and 2020. In 2020, she was appointed as the DM of Rudraprayag and DM of Almora in 2021.

She has been serving as the DM of Nainital since 17th May, 2023.

Here are the details revealed by DM Vandana Singh revealed about the Haldwani violence

The DM categorically said that the violence was pre-planned and that the mob wanted to burn the police alive.

“No one provoked them (the mob), no one tried to harm them, no one tried to hurt them. Despite that, an unprovoked attack was attempted on the police personnel inside the police station. They were not let out. They (the mob) tried to burn them (the cops) alive,” the District Magistrate said.

The DM showed precise footage of the violence with specific timings and also videos from days before the demolition to make the case that how the violence was indeed planned and was unprovoked, meaning an attack which was not provoked by anyone, let alone state parties.

Singh said that the attack was perpetrated by the mob in three stages. The first attack was with stones targeted at the team of the municipal corporation and the police.

Seeing that the forces did not budge with stone pelting, the mob then launched a second attack with petrol bombs and hurled them inside the police station. At this point, vehicles were set ablaze and property was being damaged. But the police personnel still did not withdraw.

Seeing this a third mob, the DM said, gheraoed the police station. Magistrate, police personnel, officers, some state machinery and teams among others were present inside the police station.

“Those who were inside the police station were not allowed to come out. Stones were first pelted on them, then petrol bombs were hurled and vehicles stationed outside were set on fire. The smoke from the fire filled the police station and it got suffocating inside,” Singh said.

On 8th February, an Islamist mob assembled at the site of an illegal property which was due to be demolished the same day. The locals in the area had converted the illegal property into a madrassa. The civic body team and police personnel who had arrived for demolition were attacked shortly after the structure was demolished. Heaps of large stones were showered on the forces, petrol bombs were hurled and gun shots were also fired.

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Pragya Bakshi Sharma
Pragya Bakshi Sharma
Journalist with a journey from print to TV to digital news. Multi-tasker. Unstoppable Type 1 Diabetic running on insulin.

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