Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, March 28. Apart from a police lathi charge on protesters in Patiala, Jalandhar and Phagwara, the statewide bandh passed off peacefully today.
Tension gripped Patiala after five persons, including a police commando, were injured in a clash when some youths brandished swords and raised pro-Khalistan slogans.
Sikh radicals had declared a Punjab bandh today to demand clemency for Balwant Singh Rajoana convicted in the Beant Singh assassination case.
The clash occurred in Arya Samaj area at 11.30 am when some youths took out a procession and raised pro-Khalistan slogans. Area residents objected to such sloganeering and a clash ensued which soon turned bloody with a mob of over 100 youths thronging the locality, attacking policemen on duty and damaging two cars and a two-wheeler.
For some 10 minutes, area residents threw stones from inside their houses while some youths on the streets were thrashed by a mob. The policemen on duty, most of them young recruits, ran for cover instead of taming the mob.
The youths brandishing swords and sticks challenged the cops. Patiala SSP Gurpreet Singh Gill, who reached the site, suffered minor injuries when pushed around by the mob. The police then resorted to a mild lathi charge. Additional force was summoned and the situation was brought under control.
Commando (constable) Gurcharan Singh was injured and admitted to a private hospital.
Patiala DC Vikas Garg, who reached Arya Samaj area, faced a barrage of complaints and he left within minutes. Patiala IG Paramjit Singh Gill and DIG LK Yadav also visited the spot. Later in the evening, Garg said that the administration would pay the medical bills of the injured.
Patiala SSP Gill said they are trying to identify the culprits through video-recording and an FIR would be registered thereafter. Most business establishments in the city remained shut. Some trains were stopped. A group of radicals blocked the national highway near Rajpura for a few hours, causing inconvenience to commuters. A report from Sangrur said members of Sikh organisations clashed with shopkeepers in Lehra. Two persons received minor injuries.
Trains held up
In Jalandhar, the police resorted to a mild cane charge after activists of various Sikh outsfits assaulted head constable Harpreet Singh at a railway crossing. He received injuries on his hand. The armed activists also tried to damage the statue of Beant Singh at BMC Chowk.
Brandishing swords, the activists smashed the windows of a bank at Bhagat Singh Chowk and forced Central Government offices to shut.
More than 1,500 protesters gheraoed the Amritsar-bound Shan-e-Punjab train and the Jammu Tawi Express for almost 45 minutes.
Holding saffron flags, the activists, including women, took to the roads in open jeeps, SUVs, motorcycles and tractors. They forced the lawyers to close their chambers.
Some shops were ransacked in Attari Bazaar as also two banks at Phagwara Gate and the Mandi road.
Tension prevailed in this industrial town after a clash between Sikh radicals and activists of Hindu organisations near the old sabzi mandi on the Phagwara-Banga road this evening.
Over 12 persons- three cops, two scribes, four Sikh youths and three Hindu activists- sustained injuries. A car was damaged by some unidentified persons even as its occupants fled to save their lives. The police resorted to a mild lathi charge to disburse the mob. The police also opened fire into the air.
In Amritsar, the bandh crippled life with almost all commercial establishments, schools and colleges remaining shut. Activists of various outfits carrying sticks and swords ensured that the bandh was successful. The entire city wore a deserted look with government and private buses and auto-rickshaws off the road. The residents had a tough time getting LPG, petrol and diesel as all the filing stations and gas agencies remained shut. The police and paramilitary forces remained on their toes throughout the day. Government offices and hospitals also wore a deserted look. Dal Khalsa and Sikh Students Federation (Mehta) activists held separate marches in support of Rajoana.
In Bathinda, the daylong bandh crippled life and disrupted public transport services in the district. Sikh leaders held a protest march in the city. A group led by Rajinder Sidhu, president of Khalsa Diwan Gurdwara Singh Sabha blocked GT Road outside Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Colony. Police commandos, riot vehicles and senior police functionaries were deployed there in strength.
The protesters, however, made way for the ambulances and the ailing. They squatted on the road chanting “Satnam Waheguru. There was a similar blockade near the Goniana mandi. The protesters performed ardas at Gurdwara Qila Mubarak. In Gurdaspur, various Sikh organisations forced a complete bandh in the town. State-owned and private buses remained off road. Banks too remained closed. A group of Sikh radicals tried to block the Gurdaspur-Pathankot road. However, SSP Varinder Pal Singh intervened and the protesters agreed to lift the blockade after brief negotiations.