The central city and Kotkapura and Jaitu main towns of this district shut down yet again on Friday on the call of the joint action committee protesting against the kidnapping of a minor at gunpoint.
Members of many trade unions marched to Faridkot to join a massive protest outside the mini secretariat, where political leaders pledged their support to the cause of recovering Shruti, 16, whom the police claim to have eloped.
More than 1,000 students, including girls, joined the protest under the banner of the Punjab Student Union. Police contingents from six districts of the Bathinda zone were deployed to maintain law and order. Quick Reaction Team and women commandos were also out in good number.
Even small shops, tea stalls, and liquor kiosks, besides most private schools, were closed. The protest was peaceful. Political leaders condemned the government for the inefficiency of the police in tracking Nishan Singh, abductor of Shruti (16).
"I am shocked at the minor's kidnapping," Laxmi Kanta Chawla, senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and former minister, said in her address to protesters. "I have never heard of an incident so serious even in Bihar. Ravans (goons) kidnap girls in broad daylight, and the chief minister doesn't react," she said. "On coming Dussehra, I call upon the Faridkot people to burn the effigies of politicians who patronise goons."
Chawla also criticised the dormant role of Parmjeet Kaur Gulshan, member of parliament from Faridkot. "Being a woman MP from Faridkot, she should have taken lead in this fight for justice," she said. "She did not."
Avtar Singh Brar, former Congress minister and ex- MLA of Faridkot, blamed chief minister and deputy chief minister for the crippled law and order. "The CM and his deputy should have spoken a few words on this incident and ordered to arrest the suspect," he said. "It seems they want to project that the girl has eloped with her kidnapper and got married to him. What bigger encouragement could there be for goons."
"The girls of Punjab now are unsafe even inside their house," said Congress leader Sukhwinder Singh Danny. "Politicians who use money and muscle power to grab votes are to blame for the crime. The central bureau of investigation (CBI) should look into this case."
"The suspects have not been arrested for 19 days," said Rajinder Singh, state secretary of Punjab Student Union. "We see some high-profile politicians behind this police inaction."
"Since being elected legislator of Faridkot, I have tried my best to eliminate the influence of goons," said Deep Malhotra, MLA of Faridkot, who also joined the protest. "I may have failed to control it fully yet, but I have reined it to a greater extent. I stand by the people of Faridkot to get the kidnapped girl back."
Senior communist leaders Hardev Arshi and Joginder Dyal also addressed the people. The joint action committee of citizens demanded the case be moved to the CBI and the names of politicians shielding the suspect be made public. Bhupinder Singh of the joint action committee termed the transfers of police officers no solution to crime.
On Thursday, Faridkot's senior superintendent of police, Gurinder Singh Dhillon, and Ferozepur's deputy inspector general of police (DIG) were transferred. Both were under public criticism for releasing the photographs of the abducted minor girl to the media. Gurpreet Singh Toor is new SSP of Faridkot.
On Friday, district Congress president Surinder Gupta also joined the protest. On September 28 also, there was complete shutdown in the city, but on Friday, the impact was in all district.
"We will bring the kidnapped girl back home," said Gurpreet Singh Toor, new SSP of the district. "We'll suppress the goon elements." Some senior politicians feared for the safety of the girl's life.
Shruti, aged 15 years and 6 months, was kidnapped at gunpoint in full public view on September 24 from her house
The abductor, Nishan Singh, fired shots in the locality as his accomplices dragged the girl out
He had kidnapped the same girl on June 25 as well, and then she was recovered on July 27.
So far, the police claim to have arrested two suspects and recovered the getaway vehicle
On Monday, the police released a letter and some photographs of the girl to the media in which she was shown to have married Nishan Singh after the first kidnapping. The police were criticised for it because the victim is minor.