The holy city of Amritsar on Monday witnessed a near complete bandh in protest against the recent violence at Baltal base camp for Amarnath pilgrimage in Jammu and Kashmir, with activists of Shiv Sena and some other Hindu organisations, brandishing swords and sticks, forcing shopkeepers to down their shutters.
Barring minor skirmishes near the Hall Gate area and some other parts of the city, the bandh, called by Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), passed off peacefully.
Although police had made elaborate security arrangements, the protesters were seen forcing the shopkeepers to down their shutters in various parts of the city while cops remained mute spectators.
However, tension prevailed in the area of Hall Gate when activists of the Shiv Sena and other organisations made efforts to enter into a mosque. As the police had done barricading outside the mosque and deployed a large number of police personnel in the area, they managed to stop the agitated protesters from entering the mosque.
Activisits, carrying swords and sticks, haggled with a police team, led by additional commissioner of police (ADCP, City-1) Parampal Singh, who tried to restore law and order by snatching their weapons.
During the protest, agitators raised slogans against the Jammu and Kashmir government and burnt effigies of chief minister Omar Abdullah in various parts of the city.
At several places, including Putli Ghar and Naraingarh, heated arguments were witnessed between shopkeepers and the activists enforcing the bandh.
Skirmishes were reported in the areas of Gate Hakima and Shastri Market when some persons brandishing swords forced the shopkeepers to down their shutters.
In the Shastri market area, some protesters were roughed up by shopkeepers whereas a shopkeeper was injured in the Gate Hakima area.
Talking to HT, ADCP Parampal Singh said, "We cannot allow anyone to take law and order in their hands. We immediately snatched swords from the protestors and also stopped them from forcing people to close down shops."
He said, "Some persons have been nabbed and we will be registering cases against them regarding the incidents in the area of Gate Hakima and Shastri Market".
Amritsar police commissioner Jatinder Singh Aulakh said, "Though it was a complete bandh, by and large it passed off peacefully. Some people did use swords to force closure of shops in the morning, but later our men snatched their swords. Security was heightened around the mosque in Hall Gate area to avoid any untoward incident. Cops were briefed in detail to deal with the situation."
Shiv Sena and other Hindu organisations have been staging protests in Amritsar and slamming the Jammu and Kashmir government eversince the attack on 'langar' tents at Baltal took place.
NORMAL LIFE AFFECTED
The city residents faced great inconvenience as the bandh affected the public means of transport. There were very few auto-rickshaws on the roads and city bus service was also affected.
In the bus stand area, one could see the people, carrying their luggage, walking long distances to search for some mode of transport.
Even the private buses were hardly spotted in the city, adding to the woes of the commuters. The otherwise busy Bhandari Bridge also wore a deserted look.
EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTES REMAIN CLOSED
The bandh call affected not only the business establishments and shopkeepers but also the educational institutes. Majority of the schools and colleges in the city remained closed on Monday.
Some schools had made an announcement in this regard on Sunday evening whereas others declared it on Monday morning. At many places in the city, filling stations also remained closed.