Even as the Punjab government too is demanding release of Sikh prisoners languishing in jails after purportedly having completed their terms, a protest march was held here by a group of Sikh preachers and activists, flagged off by Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh, in support of the demand raised by fasting ex-militant Gurbaksh Singh.
There was pandemonium as heavy police force unsuccessfully attempted to stop the hundreds of marchers from entering the city from Talwandi Sabo. Eventually, it culminated at the local grain market.
Nandgarh — who has been on a collision course with the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) over his demand to stick to the Nanakshahi calendar for Sikh festivals — flagged off the march that had prominent participation of a section of Sikhs who are against the Bikrami calendar. It was led by preacher Panthpreet Singh, and had SAD (Amritsar) leader Parminder Singh Balianwali, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Baljinder Kaur who had unsuccessfully contested the Talwandi Sabo assembly bypoll, and Sikh religious leader Satnam Singh Chandar too.
Black flags in their hands and on their vehicles, with placards demanding release of Sikh prisoners and in support of Gurbaksh Singh Khalsa, hundreds of protesters marched towards Bathinda from Takht Damdama Sahib headquarters in Talwandi Sabo around 30km away.
But the plan of the police to stop the protesters near a railway underbridge at Jassi Pauwali Chowk boomeranged as the agitated protesters made phone calls to their supporters and the crowd swelled considerably. After some negotiations, the police allowed the protesters to reach the grain market.
On the way, there was a brief confrontation with the police near the Bathinda-Mansa railway bridge. At the grain market, the protest concluded with the participants handing over a memorandum to additional deputy commissioner (general) Sumeet Jarangal in support of their demand. Some of the protesters belonging to the recently-formed United Akali Dal blocked the Bathinda-Mansa road outside Circuit House briefly.
Similar protests were held in Sangrur and Patiala.