Atleast eleven persons including two policemen were injured when two groups of Sikh Students Federation and Hindu Suraksha Samiti clashed in Patiala in the wake of day-long bandh called by Sikh outfits to protest the proposed execution of Balwant Singh Rajoana, convicted in the Beant Singh killing case.
A near total bandh disrupted normal life in Punjab as shops and commercial establishments remained closed to protest the proposed execution of Balwant Singh Rajoana convicted in the Beant Singh assassination case.
The day-long shut down was called by radical Sikh outfits and other social organisations to protest the scheduled execution of Rajoana.
A blanket of saffron colour enveloped Punjab with women carrying same colour dupattas, Sikhs with saffron head gear and saffron flags donning residential and commercial establishments.
Shops, commercial establishments, offices and various educational institutions were closed. A number of examinations scheduled for the day by state educational institutions have also been deferred.
Traffic on the national and state highways was also thin with buses of a number of private operators and state-owned operators being off the road.
Though prohibitory orders banning assembly of five or more persons were in force at various places, Sikhs took out small processions in support of Rajoana, who is lodged in the Central Jail at Patiala.
Security personnel have been deployed in strength in Punjab and in Chandigarh to maintain a strict vigil.
Hardliners Dal Khalsa, Khalsa Action Committee, Khalra Mission organisations had urged the Sikh community to voluntarily shut down their business establishments and keep the day long bandh peaceful.
Political parties, including SAD and Congress, have backed Rajoana seeking clemency for him. However, SAD key ally BJP has maintained their anti-terrorism stand saying the law should take its course.
Security forces have been conducting flag marches at various places in the state to instill sense of 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 watch each and every moment of protester even as activists of All India Sikh Students Federation have started debate, held congregations and conferences alleging discrimination meted out to Sikhs in the country.
On the directions of top temporal seat of Sikhs, Akal Takht, prayers are being held at different places in the state in support of Rajoana.
Trade and Industry body had yesterday asked the Punjab government to ensure peace and tranquillity in the state in the wake of the bandh call.
The special CBI court had awarded death sentence to Rajoana and Jagtar Singh Hawara in the Beant Singh case on August one, 2007. Three others -- Lakhwinder Singh, Gurmit Singh and Shamsher Singh -- were sentenced to life imprisonment for hatching the conspiracy to kill Beant Singh.
The Chandigarh court had issued the death warrant to the Patiala jail authorities earlier this month, asking them to hang Rajoana on March 31. Rajoana did not appeal against the judgement. The death penalty of Hawara, who filed an appeal against it, was commuted to life term.
Reports of a complete Bandh being observed have been received from a number of districts including Patiala, Batala, Amritsar, Kapurthala, Ludhiana, Phagwara and Mohali.
In Amritsar, as per the edict of Akal Takht (the highest Sikh Temporal seat), every member of the Sikh community were asked to wear saffron turban and affix saffron flag atop of the business establishments and residential areas to express anguish over the hanging order 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.
In Ludhiana, most of the business establishments were closed. Government offices were open, but the attendance was thin, a report said.
A report from Phagwara said there was complete bandh in the city located on the Delhi-Jalandhar National Highway.
Tension prevailed at Gurdaspur town when some shopkeepers at Bata Chowk asked the police to provide security to them to open their shop but a Sikh organisation forced the shopkeepers to close their shop.
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 the shops and commercial establishments, private schools, colleges and banks were closed as the protesters took out protest marches through various parts of Mohali, Kharar and other parts of the district.
Meanwhile in Jalandhar, a few Sikh activists tried to barge in to a State Bank of India and Oriental Bank of Commerce of branch. However, timely intervention of police and paramilitary jawans made the situation under control.