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Dera row: Strike hits Punjab, clashes in Haryana
May 22, 2007 10:36 IST
Last Updated: May 22, 2007 23:10 IST
Businesses were shut and public transport stayed off the roads as the day-long Punjab bandh, called by the Sikh clergy to protest alleged blasphemous act of Sirsa-based Sacha Sauda sect, paralysed normal life in the state on Tuesday.
The shutdown was peaceful in Punjab, but in neighbouring Haryana, skirmishes broke out at two places in Ambala between police and protesters leaving 10 injured, including a superintendent of police.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the bandh was complete in Jammu, Udhampur and Poonch where protesters torched effigies of Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and demanded his immediate arrest.
Raising slogans, Sikhs, denouncing Dera Sacha Sauda chief's alleged imitation of Guru Gobind Singh, their tenth Guru, staged demonstrations across Punjab where normal life was hit in the wake of the dawn-to-dusk bandh.
Shops downed shutters, educational institutions were shut and fewer vehicles plied on roads as government offices reported thin attendance in the state.
Peace prevailed in Sirsa in Haryana, the headquarters of Dera Sacha Sauda, as security forces in battle gear kept a tight vigil. A team of religious leaders, including Swami Agnivesh, met the Dera chief to persuade him to apologise to defuse the volatile situation.
Sources said the Dera chief had softened his stand a bit though there was no official confirmation about this.
On Sunday, the five Sikh High Priests had given a call for shutdown to protest Dera chief's alleged portrayal of Guru Gobind Singh.
In Ambala, clashes erupted between Sikh protesters and police at Badshah Bagh Gurdwara and at Manji Sahab Gurdwara leaving 10 injured, including SP Amitabh Dhillon and two constables.
Protesters indulged in stone-pelting as some 500 Sikhs came face to face with police, which had set up a security cordon. No untoward incident was reported from Bhatinda, which houses the Punjab branch of the Dera at Salabatpura.
A report from Batala said some unidentified persons tried to attack the Dera of Ashutosh Maharaj but security personnel foiled their design.
State-owned buses remained off the roads in Punjab and on inter-state routes. Buses of other states, including Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan, did not enter Punjab as a precautionary measure.
Train traffic was disrupted on Ludhiana-Ambala and Hoshiarpur-Jalandhar sections, Railway sources said. Essential services were exempted from the purview of the bandh and water and power supplies were normal.
About 15 people received injuries in Ferozepur when protesters clashed with police who swung batons to scatter them. A policeman was injured in a minor skirmish between police and SAD activists at Samana in Patiala.
Some Sikhs, brandishing swords, forced closure of business estblishments in Amritsar, police said adding they also raised slogans of 'Khalistan' (separate Sikh homeland), police said.
Punjab Police chief N P S Aulakh said the bandh was by and large peaceful with no report of any major untoward incident from anywhere. Shiromani Akali Dal working president Sukhbir Singh Badal thanked the people for maintaining peace and communal harmony during the shutdown.
In a statement, he termed the bandh a 'complete success.' The Punjab BJP also thanked people for maintaining calm and communal harmony.