Hundreds of passengers were put through unnecessary inconvenience as train traffic on the Amritsar-New Delhi route was affected since 2pm on Saturday after farmers held a sit-in on the tracks at the Jandiala railway station, around 17 km from Amritsar, to demand the immediate release of 11 farmers arrested in the wake of death of a Punjab Police ASI.
Major trains affected due to protests by farmers included Shan-e-Punjab and Amritsar-New Delhi Shatabadi. Later, these trains left Amritsar after a delay of more than an hour via Tarn Taran. Other affected trains were Chhattisgarh Express and Howrah Mail.
However, no train arrrived at Amritsar after 2pm since those from New Delhi which had crossed Beas remained stuck due to the agitation, forcing harried passengers to wait for tracks to be cleared or look for alternative transport.
The farmers had been staging a dharna at Tarn Taran for the last three days to press their demand for the release of those arrested, even though the state government had agreed for a judicial probe into the alleged 'murder' of the assistant sub- inspector at Geobala village in March. On Saturday afternoon, the protesters suddenly rushed towards Jandiala and pitched a tent on the tracks at the railway station there.
The protesters raised slogans against the Punjab government which, they alleged, had failed to fulfil many promises made to them.
Even as a heavy police force was rushed from other border districts to the railway station to prevent any unsavoury incident, parleys between authorities and protestesting farmers were deadlocked at the time of filing of the report. Amritsar deputy commissioner Rajat Aggarwal and DIG (Border Range) Paramraj Singh Umranangal held talks with Kissan Sangharsh Committee leader Satnam Pannu and others spearheading the protest, but with no result. The farmers asserted that they would not lift the dharna till their demands were met.
Kissan Sangharsh Committee leader Satnam Pannu said, "Although the state government had assured of a judicial probe, we want that a sitting judge should be named for conducting the probe into the ASI's death. All 11 farmer leaders lodged in jail must also be released immediately while 33 others booked in the case should not be arrested."
Pannu also demanded for a meeting with Punjab DGP Sumedh Saini to take up all issues farmers had with the state police. "Some of our issues related to the Beas agitation are also pending. We will not withdraw this protest until our demands are met," Pannu said.
The body of ASI Kulbir Singh, incharge of Manochahal police post, was found a few kilometres away from Geobala village after he fled in the wake of resistance put up by farmers whom he had gone to detain in March this year. His post-mortem report did not indicate any external injury.
While the farmer leaders claimed that the ASI had died of heart attack, police registered a case under Section 304 of the IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), but later slapped murder charges (302 of IPC) after the ASI's family alleged that he was murdered. As many as 44 farmers were named in this case.