The security task force of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) is once again at the centre of a controversy following a clash between its members and some shopkeepers in the vicinity of the Golden Temple complex over a demolition drive.
The clash, which occurred on Sunday, left seven persons, including five of the task force members, injured. Police said the clash took place when the task force and some SGPC officials, without informing the police, descended on a cluster of seven empty shops that are reportedly in its possession in the bazaar at Chowk Baba Sahib, and began demolishing these with the help of earthmovers. The SGPC plans to build a serai (resthouse) over the 500 square yards. Besides the seven shops, a closed school and a couple of other properties are to be demolished for the construction. Despite the resistance, the task force succeeded in partly demolishing the properties.
However, it turned violent after a man named Satbir Singh and his family members, who own shops in the area and is already fighting a case against the SGPC for ownership of the seven shops, objected to the demolition. In the clash that ensued, bricks, swords and sticks were used. The five injured task force members were identified as Paramjit Singh, Lakhwinder Singh, Gurvinder Singh, Gurdeep Singh and Banta Singh; and are admitted to the civil hospital. Identities of the two injured men from the other side, admitted to a private nursing home, were not known immediately.
Police reached the spot, while more SGPC officials also arrived with revenue records to justify their action. But Satbir claimed the SGPC action was illegal as the seven shops in question were in his possession. Bothe sides alleged that the other already had weapons and started the clash; cross-complaints were lodged.
This was yet again an incident where, rather than intimating the police, the religious body took matters in its own hands. In May, the SGPC task force had courted controversy when its armed members went to forcibly occupy around 161 acres of land in Bhai Rupa area of Bathinda. Those tilling the land resisted the attempt, and it led to a clash.
Meanwhile, station house officer of the Amritsar C-division, inspector Devinder Singh, said both sides lodged complaints against the other: “We are in the process of recording statements of eyewitnesses and those injured. Thereafter, cases will be registered accordingly and arrests made.”