Even as the police continue to rule out the presence of a gang of robbers or 'kala kachha' gang active in the Majha region, repeated incidents of violence and clash with police have put the police on the backfoot.
As the police have failed to control the rumours and convince people, a situation has arisen where people in rural areas are losing trust in the police. The recent incidents where people did not believe the police and which led to a situation where they pelted the police with stones forcing them to open fire indicate towards this. In the past couple of days, about 15 people have been injured in such clashes, including a DSP.
The situation is grim in Amritsar (rural) and Batala. At times even innocent people have been stopped and beaten up by people on night vigil in villages.
The Amritsar and Amritsar (rural) police have issued press releases and held press conferences to rule out the presence of a gang. But that doesn't seem to work. At Kotla Tarkhana and Bal Khurd villages, people pelted the police with stones, damaged their vehicles and were not ready to listen to the police.
In Batala, a couple of days ago, people attacked a police party when the police urged them to hand over a suspected robber.
A murder at Fatehgarh Churrian led to protest by people who alleged that it was the handiwork of the same gang. Though, the police denied it.
Police have been taking all sorts of initiatives such as meeting villagers, holding flag marches and making announcements, but they seem to have little impact. Out of fear and unsure of their safety people are looking after their security on their own.
Talking to HT, Amritsar police commissioner Ram Singh said, "We have been saying this from day one that there is no such gang. In city things are fine and people are listening to the police.
We have given instructions to all officers to react immediately to any information and talk to people repeatedly. Now we are making efforts to reach sources from where these rumours started."
Since the major affected part comes under the Border Range, DIG Border Range Paramraj Singh Umranangal said, "I think the entire rumour is a conspiracy to disturb peace. It started from a small village near Beas and now has spread to Mehta, Jandiala, Batala and the border villages."
He said, "We have appealed to the people, held meetings and even convinced them that there is no such gang. But still there are groups in each village which are not listening and are undertaking night vigil. This has led to innocents being thrashed and even the police being attacked."
He said, "We will deal with the situation in an effective manner. Soon orders will be issued wherein 'theekri pehras' will be allowed only after thorough identification by the panchayat."
The DIG said around 3,000 to 4,000 policemen were deployed to keep a vigil daily.