The entire city has responded to the shutdown call over the police's inability to trace Shruti, 16, and arrest the man who kidnapped her at gunpoint second time in three months.
The people who took away the girl from her house at Dogar Basti here on Monday also injured her parents and fired shots to intimidate her neighbours. All shops in the city were closed during Fridays' protest. Even small vendors in far-off localities and off main market streets suspended their business.
Hundreds of citizens came out in the morning and gathered at Shaheed Bhagat Singh Park, from where they marched towards the main bus stand and stopped buses from entering the zone. For more than an hour, the protesters engineered a blockade on the main road outside the bus stand. The police station was their next target, where they raised slogans against the force.
Friday was the fifth day of kidnapping. The police have declared a bounty of Rs 1 lakh for any substantial clue to the whereabouts of the main suspect, Nishan Singh, yet it is without a breakthrough. "People do not take much notice of elopement, but here a minor has been kidnapped and her parents wounded in broad daylight," said one of the protesters. "The people are scared, and that's why they are out. Tomorrow, anyone can be the target."
The police had to divert traffic and put city-bound buses on to the bypass. "The events would not have taken such a turn had the police been serious about cracking the case," said a close friend of the aggrieved family (name withheld on request). "The girl was first kidnapped on June 25 and recovered near Kharar after more than a month. The kidnapper had just left the place a few minutes before the raid, and even afterwards, the police failed to catch him. He roamed the streets freely, which emboldened him to kidnap the girl again."
The second time as well, the police failed to reach the scene of crime in time, giving the suspect an ample time to flee. His kidnappers' car was trapped in a drain for about 15 minutes after the incident, yet he got away. "I am disturbed to see this incident," said local legislator Deep Malhotra. "I have brought the matter to the notice of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, and he had ordered the police to intensify the hunt for the suspect. The broad daylight crime is intolerable, and now the government has its eyes on the case."
The girl's family had blamed political protection to the suspect for the police inaction. The police have handed suspension order to two of their officials. Senior superintendent of police Gurinder Singh Dhillon said that action was in some discipline-related matter. "I am in operation, and you call me later," he said.
Amarinder condemns kidnapping
Punjab Congress president captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday lashed out at the local police and administration over their remaining quiet after the kidnapping of a girl from her house on Monday.
In a statement issued here, Amarinder expressed solidarity with the girl's parents and said it was a tragedy that they had undergo a trauma because of a slack law and order administration.
Supporting the shutdown call of local residents against the kidnapping and police inaction, he said the people had no other way of expressing their anger. "It was shameful on part of the state administration to turn a blind eye to such a serious issue," he said.
The state Congress president asked chief minister Parkash Singh Badal how could he ignore the kidnapping of a girl a few kilometres from in his native village, where he held a medical camp. He regretted the insensitivity of the people, administration and the powers that be about it.
Punjab Congress general secretary Kikki Dhillon, who is former legislator of Faridkot, has also condemned the kidnapping. He charged the police with going slow at the behest of some local Akali politicians.