The agitation against Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda continued in Punjab for the third day. However, barring violence in Patiala, the rest of the state saw peaceful demonstrations on Wednesday.
Trouble arose in Patiala when shopkeepers at Arya Samaj Chowk, resisting closure of shops, threw stones at the protesters.
The protesters, who were in large numbers, ransacked shops and kiosks and even entered a few houses in the area, damaging private and public property.
A large police team, headed by the Patiala DIG, reached soon, but it had a tough time before things cooled down. A flag march was subsequently held.
The violence left at least 10 persons injured. Four persons were arrested and booked for rioting.
The police later prevented an attempt by the shopkeepers, mostly Hindus, to launch a counter-protest.
A heavy police presence has ensured peace in the area.
Elsewhere in the state, Anandpur Sahib remained completely shut down. All commercial establishments and educational institutions run by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee remained closed on Wednesday.
The protests have continued after Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh allegedly dressed up like Guru Gobind Singh and copied his actions.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Wednesday charged the Congress with conspiring to disturb communal harmony.
SAD general secretary Prem Singh Chandumajra alleged that seven Congress MLAs were present in Bhatinda on Tuesday during a violent protest. This, he said, was proof of the party's complicity.
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal too blamed the Congress for “fomenting trouble” in the state. He said it was well known that MLAs of the party were followers of Dera Sacha Sauda.
In Delhi, the Centre on Wednesday assured all possible help to Punjab in dealing with the situation. Home Minister Shivraj Patil told the Rajya Sabha: “I have spoken to the Punjab Chief Minister and he has said he is taking action. We have assured him all possible support.”
As soon as the House met, SAD and BJP members raised the issue, accusing Dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of hurting Sikhs sentiments.
On demands for arresting the Dera chief, Patil said it would not be appropriate for the Centre to bypass an elected government.
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