Around 20 persons were injured as violence marred the polling for panchayat elections in the Majha belt on Wednesday, also leading to suspension of polling at several villages.
Though injuries in all violent incidents were not very serious, police booked around 30 persons under Section 307 (attempt to murder) and others sections of the IPC.
However, the polling was overall described as "peaceful" by the officials spokespersons of four districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Tarn Taran and Pathankot.
With leaders and supporters of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP alliance and the opposition Congress accused each other of bogus voting, tension prevailed outside polling stations at several villages. Despite the tension, an estimated 76% of the 26.67 lakh electorate in the four districts exercised their franchise.
75% polling in Tarn Taran
Six persons sustained bullet injuries in Uboke village following a clash between two groups owing allegiance to Manjit Kaur and Ranjit Kaur, both candidates for the post of sarpanch. Both groups owe allegiance to the SAD.
Patti DSP Jagdeep Singh said that the clash took place over allegations and counter-allegations of bogus voting. While five of the injured - Gursahib Singh, Sukhwinder, Gurvinder, Sardool and Gurlal - belonged to the Manjit Kaur group, the sixth unidentified injured person was said to be a supporter of Ranjit Kaur. All the injured were admitted to the civil hospital at Patti. Police have since booked 10-12 supporters of Ranjit Kaur under different sections of the IPC, including Section 307. No arrests have been made so far.
Meanwhile, deputy commissioner BS Dhaliwal cancelled the entire polling process in Sarhali Khurd village in view of tension prevailing there. Supporters of two candidates for the post of sarpanch even pelted each other with stones even as the cops kept them at bay.
"Tension arose following allegations of bogus voting by the polling staff. However, after verification, this was found to be false. But this did not pacify some people and thus it was decided to cancel the entire election process. A detailed report has been sent to the state election commission, which will notify a fresh date for polling," the DC said.
In another incident before the polling, police booked three persons under the Scheculed Castes and Tribes (prevention of atrocities) Act and under the IPC on charge of threatening a SC voter and for using abusive language in Shakri village.
65% polling in Amritsar
Barring allegations of bogus voting, polling was by and large peaceful in Amritsar district. The lone violent incident was reported from Buanangli village, where a SAD polling agent Baljit Singh was allegedly beaten up by Congress supporters inside a polling booth. Akali supporters sat on a dharna on the Ajnala-Amritsar road for about four hours but witdrew their protest on the intervention of senior police officers.
Meanwhile, an altercation took place between industries minister Anil Joshi and SAD councillor Om Prakash Gabbar outside a polling booth in Ramnagar village, which was set up in adjoining Naushera village. According to reports, Joshi rushed to the polling booth after his supporters informed him that Gabbar had entered the polling booth along with his supporters and were casting votes for a particular candidate.
Joshi along with his supporters reached the spot and questioned Gabbar's entry into the polling booth. The situation was controlled as senior police officer rushed there and asked Gabbar to move out of the village.
84% polling in Pathankot
The district witnessed perhaps the most peaceful polling in Majha as the whole process went on smoothly barring a couple of objections over the identities of voters.
According to official reports, in Kaunterpur, polling for the post of sarpanch was cancelled due to wrong symbols printed on the ballot papers. However, votes were cast to elect the panches in the village. The polling for the post of sarpanch would be held later on.
In Mirzapur village, voting for panches had to be cancelled due to wrong printing of symbols of candidates. However, votes were cast to elect the sarpanch. A fresh date to elect the panches would be notified by the state election commission.
79% polling in Gurdaspur
The elections passed off peacefully in the district, barring stray incidents of violence. In Chhotepur village, supporters of former minister and Akali leader Sucha Singh Langah and those of another minister Sucha Singh Chhotepur clashed and resorted to brickbatting. This led to injuries to three of the supporters of Chhotepur, including one Surjit Singh contesting the post of sarpanch. All the three were admitted to the Naushehra Majha Singh community health centre.
SSP Sukhwant Singh Gill controlled the situation from flaring. He said that a case was registered against 10 persons under Sections 308, 323, 354, 148 and 149 of the IPC at Dhariwal police station. Those booked included Akali-supported sarpanch candidate Satnam Singh, his brother Gurnam Singh, Sukh, Tejinder Singh, Talwinder Singh, Vir Singh, Kulwinder Singh, Harvinder Singh, Balwinder Singh and Sucha Singh.
At Harcharanpura village in Batala block, 5-16 Akali supporters snatched a ballot box from the village polling booth but the Batala police recovered it intact. Batala SSP Tulsi Ram said that no case was registered. Polling remained suspended for about an hour at this polling booth.
At Kot Todar Mal village in Qadian block, one person was caught by the security staff for possessing 5-6 ballot papers. Congress leader Fateh Jung Singh Bajwa brought the matter to the notice of Qadian DSP Ranjit Singh. Polling was suspended for about two hours at Doggar Mahesh village after two groups owing allegiance to the SAD and the Congress clashed over bogus votes. Both groups threw bricks and stones at each other, leading to minor injuries to over a dozen persons from both the sides.The agitated voters hurled abuses at police personnel deployed at the polling booth even as polling staff saved themselves by bolting the doors of the polling booth from inside. They were later rescued by a police party led by Sri Hargobindpur DSP.
Dinanagar MLA Aruna Chaudhary of Congress sent an SMS to the Punjab election commission, alleging that BJP leader BD Dhuppar entered polling booth numbers 153 and 154 at Talibpur Pindori in Dinanagar block and threatened and pressurised the voters to cast their votes in favour of his candidates.
Meanwhile, Fategarh Churian's Congress MLA Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa claimed that new names, including even those of minors, were included at the 11th hour to the list of voters to favour Akali candidates in several villages like Bajjuman, Bullpur, Khojkipur, Shampura and Bhole Ke.