Residents of Deluana village here held hostage an excise inspector to reportedly protest against untimely raids and harassment.
Villagers claimed that department officials repeatedly conducted raids at their houses at night and at odd hours on the pretext that some recovery of illegally manufactured material would be made. A wine shop owner has been found to be involved in the matter.
The raids had gone on for three consecutive days without any recovery being made, locals alleged.
The official, Varinder Pal Singh, was released only after the intervention of the police.
The breaking point that led to the hostage drama being played out was a raid on the house of Naib Singh, a labourer at a brick-kiln, where once again nothing incriminating or unlawful was recovered.
Angry at the frequent 'intrusions' by officials, villagers gathered and started raising slogans against the harassment. An announcement was also made from the gurdwara, after which more locals gathered and decided to take the official hostage, till their plea of harassment was heard.
Mansa city police reached the spot and had to work hard to persuade the villagers to release Varinder.
More than one official had been held hostage, but the private contractor and other officials accompanying the inspector managed to escape.
Village resident Inderjit Singh Deluana said: "Excise department officials conduct raids regularly without any logic, harassing us no end. This is being done at the behest of a local private wine contractor. We have been unable to sleep. Annoyed villagers had the official hostage and questioned him on any recovery. He was later released."
Station house officer of the area Harwinder Singh said, "Excise inspector Varinder Pal Singh has been conducting raids in the village. However, there were no recoveries. Residents held him hostage on Thursday, but he was released after we intervened. No case has been registered against any villager."
However, excise inspector Varinder told HT that it was not the first raid in the village. "No raids were conducted before this. There was a minor scuffle between the wine shop contractor and villagers. The matter is solved now. I have nothing more to say."