Protesters outsmarted Punjab Police by sneaking into the Shiromani Akali Dal’s Baisakhi rally here on Wednesday and raised anti-government slogans soon after deputy chief minister and SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal began his address.
The protesters, including unemployed linemen, were spread out in groups across the venue despite the tight security. They sprang up to raise slogans and wave banners at short intervals, causing a flutter among the police and Akali leaders on the dais. Jobless linemen in the front row were the first to hold up posters. They were overpowered by the police, while Akali supporters raised pro-government slogans. Minutes later, another group was on its feet at the centre of the venue.
Interrupted six times during his 25-minute speech, a visibly upset Sukhbir asked SAD workers to ignore the protesters. He called the them ‘topiwalas’, referring to supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party.
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal was also interrupted thrice in five minutes. “Sit down and listen,” an exasperated Badal said as policemen dragged the protesting linemen out of the venue.
The protests left the police embarrassed. Five district police chiefs of Malwa were at the venue led by DGP (law and order) HS Dhillon. Policemen in plainclothes were also deployed yet the protesters had a field day.