The Moga tragedy provoked protesters to gherao private buses across Punjab on Wednesday and the stir took a violent turn in Faridkot.
By this agitation, the Left parties, Punjab Students Union (PSU), and farmers' organisations hope to build pressure on the government for a case against deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. "We also want the permits of his Orbit Aviation bus company cancelled," said PSU president Karamjit Singh.
While there were huge protests in Sangrur, Patiala, Moga, and Jalandhar, police had to resort to cane in Faridkot to stop people from venting ire on a private bus. Sensing that buses run by the ruling alliance leaders were a target, most drivers had bypassed the Faridkot bus stand. Shortly after this bus of New Deep Company, which said to be owned by a senior Akali leader from Giddarbaha, moved out and reached the Chahal road, the police team aboard saw the protesters coming and asked the staff to flee.
"The driver tried to crush us under its wheels when we signalled him to stop, so we attacked the bus," alleged a protester.
The bus driver and some passengers received injuries in the stoning incident. "We demand a criminal case against the owners and partners of Orbit regarding the death of a Moga girl who was thrown off the company's bus. Orbit's routes should go to the government buses and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal should resign for her lying about the company's ownership," said student union state general secretary Rajinder Singh.
"Private bus operators put up illegal checkpoints on roads and play vulgar music and videos on board. On Tuesday, the police had a meeting with their managers, but today (on Wednesday), their musclemen were back with an illegal checkpoint on the Kotkapura road to harass the passengers and students," said the student leader.
The police had to use mild force and arrest 14 protesters to get the hostile mob away from the bus. "They tortured the protesters in police custody at the behest of the bus company and in the presence of the bus crew," said Kotkapura student union leader Karamjeet Singh. Later, 29 people, 15 of them unidentified, were booked under Sections 307 (attempt to murder), 427 (mischief causing damage worth a petty amount), 148 (armed riot), 149 (unlawful assembly with common intent), and 141 (unlawful assembly) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Student union leaders Rajinder Singh, Amarnath, and Hardeep Kaur Kotla are among the people booked and taken into custody.
"Protests must be peaceful, all grievances against transporters brought to the police first, and no passenger put in danger," said Faridkot senior superintendent of police Charanjeet Singh Sharma. The 14 arrested people include two women.
Left parties, including Communist Party of India (CPI), CPI (Marxist), and CPI (Marxist-Leninist) protested at different places in Moga district and burnt effigies of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal across Punjab. Farmers' organisations, including Bharti Kisan Union (BKU) and Khet Mazdoor Sangh, joined them in the agitation.
With agency inputs