A day-long bandh called by Sikh outfits to protest the proposed execution of Balwant Singh Rajoana, convicted in the Beant Singh killing case, disrupted normal life in Punjab on Wednesday. Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh has meanwhile appealed for maintenace of peace and harmony.
Reports from Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Tarn Taran, Bathinda, Ropar and Patiala said that the bandh hit normal life. Sikhs in Jammu also observed a bandh during the day, with reports saying that protesters had blocked the Jammu-Pathankot road.
In Patiala, the call for bandh evoked total response in the city where Rajoana is lodged in the local central jail awaiting his execution on March 31 as per Chandigarh sessions court orders.
The situation in the industrial town of Ludhiana was peaceful. Restaurants and eating houses were open while commercial establishments in some markets were partially open. Government offices were open but the attendance was thin, a report said.
A report from Bathinda also said that roads were deserted in the city as people observed a bandh. Protesters had blocked the Bathinda-Mansa road, the report said.
A report from Amritsar also said that bandh call evoked good response from people, with shops in the walled city downing their shutters. Reports said people were also unhappy over disruption of normal public transport services in the state.
Bandh was also observed in Jalandhar and Kapurthala, with security forces patrolling the streets to prevent any violence in the two places.
In Jalandhar, a few Sikh activists tried to barge into State Bank of India and Oriental Bank of Commerce of branches. However, timely intervention of police and paramilitary jawans brought the situation under control.
In Phagwara, the bandh was complete in the city located on the Delhi- Jalandhar national highway. Road traffic was plying normally though passengers using public transport were few.
Section of Sikhs took to streets in some areas carrying flags as security personnel patrolled sensitive areas to maintain peace.
Hardliners Dal Khalsa, Khalsa Action Committee and Khalra Mission organisation had urged the Sikh community to voluntarily shut down their business establishments and observe the day-long bandh peacefully.
Security forces have been conducting flag marches at key locations in the state to instill confidence among the people. Security around Patiala central jail where Rajoana is lodged had been beefed up with erection of additional security points.
Special control rooms have been set up in the districts to keep an eye on the movement of protestors.
On the directions of Akal Takht, prayers are being held at different places in the state in support of Rajoana.
In Kapurthala, a complete bandh was observed today as all commercial establishments remained closed, a report said adding Pepsu roadways and private buses remained off the road.
Tension prevailed in Gurdaspur town when some shopkeepers at Bata Chowk asked the police to provide security to them to open their shop but members of a Sikh organisation forced the shopkeepers to close their shops.
They also forced the authorities of Axis bank to close the bank. The tension was defused when the police disperse the agitators, a report from Batala said.
In Mohali, normal life was badly disrupted following the bandh call.
All shops and commercial establishments, private schools, colleges and banks were closed as the protesters took out marches through various parts of Mohali, Kharar and other parts of the district.