Sikhs protesting against the killing of Balkhar Singh (45) by a bodyguard of Dera Sacha Sauda head Ram Rahim Singh stalled the Central Railway for over an hour, blocked the Eastern Express Highway and enforced a partial shutdown in Mulund, Bhandup and Thane on Saturday.
Police arrested three of the Dera chief’s bodyguards, charging them with murder, along with 14 other followers.
Balkhar was part of a group agitating against the Dera head — the target of Sikh ire ever since he dressed up as Guru Gobind Singh and appeared in public in May last year — on Friday in Mulund. He was shot after the agitation turned violent.
Mulund, Airoli and Thane remained tense till Saturday night as 1,500 Sikhs gathered to demand the arrest of those responsible for Balkhar’s death.
Brandishing swords and kirpans, the protestors forced shops to down shutters in Mulund, Bhandup and Thane. In a sit-in outside Mulund police station, they chanted Punjabi devotional songs. Carrying religious flags and swords, several Sikh youth went around the area raising slogans against the police “inaction”.
“The protestors dispersed when I promised action against the culprits,” said Senior Police Inspector Prakash Lange.
Central Railway services were disrupted as protestors sat on the tracks, shouting slogans against state Home Minister R.R. Patil and Ram Rahim Singh.
Sriniwas Mudgerikar, Central Railway spokesperson said: “All four tracks were blocked till 12.45 pm. Services were delayed by 45 minutes, but normalised by evening.”
At 4 pm, the protests had shifted to the Eastern Express Highway. Police had to resort to tear gas and lathi charges to disperse the mob.
BEST Public Relations Officer Abdul Sattar Tamboli said eight buses were damaged. When asked if they would file a complaint, he said: “Whom do we name in the complaint when such situations arise?”
Although no one was arrested, 17 protestors were detained and later let off.
Meanwhile, 14 Dera followers, including three of Ram Rahim Singh’s bodyguards, were arrested for Balkhar’s killing. One .30 bore licensed pistol and eight live rounds were recovered from Jagdev Singh (30), the bodyguard suspected to have fired at Balkar. They were arrested from Khalapur, where the Dera had organised a spiritual camp.
JCP (Crime) Rakesh Maria said they were charged with murder, attempt to commit murder and rioting. Police are looking for 60 more Dera supporters.