Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders joined the jewellers protest against levying of one percent excise duty on gold jewellery, on the 23rd day of stir on Saturday.
But, as the cavalcade of more than 1,000 infuriated jewellers supported by district Congress president Gurpreet Gogi and AAP member of Parliament from Sangrur Bhagwant Mann advanced towards Ladhowal Toll Plaza to block the national highway 1 (NH-1), 400 cops led by deputy commissioner of police (DCP) Narinder Bhargav cane-charged them at Ladhowal Chowk itself. This all led to traffic jam in the area.
Jewellers in the district are divided over the issue of levying of excise duty. Some jewellers decided to call-off the strike after finance minister Arun Jaitly during a meeting with jewellers apex body All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation (GJF) last week assured that jewellers with annual revenue of `6 crore or above would only be liable to pay the excise duty while below that figure would be exempted. Around 25% of the total small traders (jewellers) opened their shops on Wednesday, but they were asked to shut their shops by other jewellers’ bodies that have been demanding complete rollback of excise duty.
AAP MP Mann was addressing the gathering atop a truck. He, along with member of legislative assembly (MLA) Bharat Bhushan Ashu and district Congress president Gurpreet Gogi, was detained by the police for more than three hours.
As a preventive measure, several arrests were made at the venue. Those arrested were later released, while injured members were admitted to Dayanand Medical College and Hospital (DMCH).
Launching a scathing attack on the police department’s failure to deal with the situation, Gurpreet Gogi said, “We were dealt with so aggressively. District Youth Congress president Rajeev Raja suffered severe injuries among other prominent members of district unit of the party. We were locked and detained for three-and-a-half hours.”
“The cops could have resorted to peaceful ways to manage the crowd. They should have simply accepted the memorandum of demands to disperse the gathering. Breaking sticks on already troubled traders certainly is not the way. We are fighting for the rights of traders, but detaining leaders of such repute is not justified,” Gogi said.
Meanwhile, Narinder Bhargav said, “Cases against unidentified person has been registered under Sections 283 (danger or obstruction in public way or line of navigation), 160 (punishment for committing affray) and 353 (assault or use criminal force to any person being a public servant in the execution of his duty as such public servant, or with intent to prevent or deter that person from discharging his duty) of the IPC. We have initiated the inquiry.”