Independent MLA Simarjit Singh Bains and his 15 supporters were arrested by the Ludhiana police on Monday after a protest against the “suspension of services” of a Punjabi news channel by a cable network operator turned violent.
More than 500 supporters, including women, of Bains gathered outside the Grand Walk Mall on Ferozepur road. Bains had organised the protest against the Fastway cable network accusing it of suspending services of Zee Punjabi news channel.
Sensing that situation could go out of control, cops from different police stations of the city were deployed in front of the mall housing the office of the cable network.
As soon as supporters of Simarjit and his brother Balwinder Singh Bains, also an independent MLA, along with members of Team Insaaf tried to enter the mall, police stopped, leading to an altercation. Later, police resorted to baton charge to disperse them. In the melee, turbans of many protesters, including Simarjit, fell off.
The protesters then hurled stones at police personnel. Later, Bains and his 15 supporters were rounded up They were booked under sections 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 334 (voluntarily causing hurt on provocation), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions) and 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon) of the Indian Penal Code.
Additional deputy commissioner of police (crime) Balkar Singh said 10 cops were injured in stone-pelting by protesters.
Balwinder Singh Bains said an interview of his brother Simarjit was telecast on Zee Punjabi news channel after which viewers made a demand for its re-broadcast. “The Fastway cable network suspended the services of Zee Punjabi channel immediately when it was about to broadcast the interview again. We organised the protest only to highlight how the cable mafia was gagging the media,” said Bains.
Chief executive officer (CEO) of Fastway Peeyush Mahajan said: “We haven’t stopped relaying Zee Punjabi channel. The channel has been shifted to platinum package and HD network. There is no restriction on watching the channel”.
HT reporter roughed up
Hindustan Times reporter Harshraj Singh, who was present at the spot, was also cane-charged by police. The cops assaulted Singh even as he revealed his identity to them. Later, a delegation of mediapersons went to the commissioner of police office where they were assured of action against the guilty cops.