Despite ‘strictly’ being a no-protest site, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s residence here in Sector 2 has become the ground zero for dharnas and showdowns. Other than the Congress MLAs who held a round-the-clock protest for four days before ending it on Saturday evening, protesting war widows and families of slain home guards have also pitched their tents outside the CM’s house, refusing to budge till their demands are met.
Besides these three groups, over a dozen widows of Punjab Police cops tried to reach the gate of the CM’s residence on Saturday, raising slogans against the government. Before they could reach the gate, the Chandigarh Police forcibly removed them from the area.
At least six Congress MLAs led by leader of the opposition Charanjit Singh Channi spent three nights and four days outside the CM’s house following the clash between Congress and Akali workers in Ludhiana on Monday.
The Congress’ sit-in seems to have encouraged protesting home guard families to shift their protest from Sector 25 — the designated protest site in Chandigarh — to outside the CM’s residence on Friday.
“They sneaked in near the CM’s residence in groups of twothree and then got together and sat on a day-and-night dharna. They knew that if they moved towards the CM’s residence together, they will be stopped,” said a police officer posted outside the CM’s residence.
Nearly 20 war widows have been sitting outside the CM’s residence since September 23. “It’s been 19 days today and our demand has not been met,” said the leader, Baljinder Kaur. “We are demanding the implementation of the scheme as part of which we have to be given 10 acres of land by the government. Instead, we have been offered a grant of `50 lakh that will be paid in three instalments. We have rejected the offer. We will not budge till we get the land,” she said.
Slain home guards’ families are demanding government job to at least one member each. Sources in the CMO said this demand cannot be met as there is no policy to provide jobs to anyone in the family of a home guard killed on duty. “With barely four months to go for Punjab assembly polls, protests have escalated. The protesters believe that the outgoing government will be under pressure to fulfil their demands,” he said.
Besides the Punjab chief minister, Sector 2 has houses of the Haryana chief minister, the Punjab deputy chief minister and several Punjab cabinet ministers. The area is a strict noprotest zone with Section 144 in force at all times, rendering all protests illegal. The CMO, however, is caught in a bind about taking any action against the protesters. “We are constantly being threatened that our dharna is going to be forcibly lifted,” said Baljinder Kaur.
The chief minister, who met the Congress protesters on Thursday, is away and is expected to be back on Monday. Chandigarh Police that is responsible for the security of the CM house is however taking no chances. Over 140 policemen and women are on the spot in anti-riot gear, equipped with tear gas shells, besides a water cannon vehicle parked nearby. A Punjab Police SWAT team on duty with the chief minister also shields the house, staying put near the gate.