or hours, three trains and the traffic in eight areas couldn’t move. The protest over a Sunday tragedy, in which four people drowned in the Sutlej river while immersing a Ganesha idol, held the city to ransom on Monday.
The protesters blocked traffic on the critical Jagraon Bridge for six hours and held up three trains — the Amritsar-Delhi Superfast Inter-city, Delhi-Amritsar Shatabdi Express, and Ambala-Ludhiana 3ULM passenger — at the Ludhiana railway station for more than four hours. They pelted police and the Superfast Inter-city with stones, and clashed with the passengers who resisted. When stones hit the engine, the driver was forced to apply brakes. The projectiles hurt two policemen. Cops had to baton charge the agitators, which injured three of them.
The protesters demand a murder case against the divers who declined to help the victims’ families until they could pay up Rs 15,000. They say even if police had come to their help, their relatives would have been alive.
The demonstrators seek Rs 1 crore and a government job as compensation for each of the bereaved families. “In spite repeated drowning incidents every year, the district administration has made no arrangements for the safety of devotees who come to the river to immerse idols,” said a protester.
The Jagraon Bridge is the only link between the city’s two parts. Patients on way to the civil hospital and Christian Medical College and Hospital (CMCH) were harassed a lot, as ambulances got struck in the logjam. Even a heavy police force failed to stop the stone-pelting mob from damaging vehicles.
The victims’ relatives from Islamgunj led this protest. At 9am, the marched towards the bridge and, on the way, forced shopkeepers to down the shutters. When the traders declined, they smashed a car parked on the roadside.
Congress legislator Surinder Dabur joined the blockade at the bridge but left when it turned violent. The protestors raided the railway station. Around 3pm, when police tried to remove them, stone-pelting and cane charge started at the bridge. In 35 minutes, the crowd had dispersed.
The disturbance caused big traffic jams at Ferozepur Road, Gill Road, Vishwakarma Chowk, Club Road, Bus Stand road, Bharat Nagar Chowk, Ghumar Mandi, Samrala Chowk, and Civil Lines.
“Road blockade has become a fashion in Ludhiana,” said commuter Sushil Ahuja. “Over any issue, people come out on streets.”
Police commissioner Jatinder Singh Aulakh said no case had been registered against any protester.
Police commissioner Jatinder Singh Aulakh suspended motorcycle-squad cop Sarbjit Singh on Monday for not taking timely action to save four youths from drowning in the Sutlej river on Sunday. An inquiry against sub-inspector Kuldeep Singh of the Ladhowal police station is on.