Twelve people were injured in a clash between a group of armed youths and members of the task force of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) at the Golden Temple here on Saturday.
The injured include four members of the task force. Two of the injured, with multiple injuries, were admitted to the civil hospital.
The incident took place in the afternoon, long after the commemoration ceremony in memory of those killed in Operation Bluestar had concluded peacefully at the Akal Takht. The cops stationed inside the shrine rushed to the aid of the task force members.
Perhaps the peaceful conclusion of the function at the Akal Takht did not go down well with the youths who had come for the purpose of creating trouble. After failing to whip up communal passions during the function, some of the youngsters stayed back. They were also infuriated as the police had taken some of their colleagues into custody from outside the shrine after the function.
The confrontation took place in the shrine 'parikarma', near Beri Baba Buddha Sahib when the task force asked the youths to move out of the shrine. This led to heated exchanges and the youths, with swords in their hands, attacked the task force members who were armed with sticks. Soon, cops in civil clothes overpowered some of the youths.
Blood spilled on to the marbled 'parikarma' and turbans fell to the ground. The cops caught hold of some of the youths and dragged them out of the shrine into the waiting vehicles.
Justifying the action, SGPC additional secretary Daljit Singh Bedi said, "These youths remained inside after the ceremony had concluded and kept taking rounds of the shrine shouting pro-Khalistan and pro-Bhindrawale slogans. When we requested them to move out they attacked the task force members."
Bedi said they had seen some of the youths for the first time. A few had short hair over which turbans had been tied; an inquiry is needed to identify these elements, he added.
Peaceful conclusion of ceremony
The clash took place five hours after the conclusion of 31st anniversary of Operation Bluestar at the Akal Takht. The large police presence inside the shrine had earlier thwarted the designs of these youths to create trouble.
While in the afternoon, around 25 youths were detained, in the morning around 15 were taken into custody after their attempts to enter the Akal Takht were thwarted. They were picked up by the police from the narrow lanes around the shrine.
DCP Parampal Singh confirmed that around 40 youths had been detained. He said they would verify the groups to which they belonged and their motive behind coming to Amritsar and attending the function. He clarified that most of those involved in the clash were outsiders.
Barring the raising of pro-Khalistan slogans by supporters of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) in the 'parikarma' of the shrine, the bhog ceremony passed off peacefully. The activists were led by their senior vice-president Dhian Singh Mand.
Even in the vicinity of the shrine, the cops were stationed in strength. A company of the BSF was also pressed into service for maintaining peace.
Police presence in shrine
The large presence of the police ensured that no one created trouble inside the shrine. Cops in civil clothes could be seen all around the 'parikarma' and inside the Akal Takht.
As the ceremony concluded after Giani Gurbachan Singh read out his message to the community, a group of around 30 youths, some armed with sharp-edged weapons, marched aggressively towards the Akal Takht building. However, the police and task force prevented them from going there.
The youths retreated but were shadowed by the cops inside the shrine. Thinking that the police intended to arrest them, some of the youths tried to escape through the narrow lane of Atta Mandi and other areas. However, the cops chased them and even used lathis to push them into waiting vehicles, that took them to a police station, where they are still under detention. A case is likely to be registered against them.
In his message, Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh called for unity in the Sikh community. He also focused on drug addiction and female foeticide.
The jathedar called for bringing about an awakening among the Sikh masses. He felt that this movement of awakening should begin in schools and colleges. He stressed on inculcating values among the youth.
The jathedar honoured Ishar Singh, son of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, by presenting him a sirpoa.
Barring Amritsar (rural) district SAD president Veer Singh Lopoke, no other senior leader of the ruling Akali faction was present.
After initial fears among devotees, normalcy returned to the shrine. Soon after the clash a number of devotees who were inside the shrine moved to 'safer' areas within the complex.