Police stood mute as Balmikis took to city streets brandishing sharp weapons protesting against the film ‘The Legend of Michael Mishra’. Protesters demanded a ban on the movie because it hurt their religious sentiments. The city witnessed a shutdown for over seven hours with traffic snarls and closed shops.Protesters robbed a general store in Gur Mandi area and vandalised 12 two-wheelers, following which heavy security was deployed in the area.
Balmiki followers forced shopkeepers to close shops, resulting in a clash in Gur Mandi and Akalgarh markets, when shopkeepers resisted by holding up bottles and stones. Reacting to this, protesters threatened to torch shops. Protestors struck different parts of the city in groups flaunting swords and rods, trigerring panic among commuters who were stuck in traffic snarls on the Dugri Road, Gill Road, Gill Chowk, Shastri Nagar, Model Town, Ghumar Mandi, Clock Tower, Basti Jodhewal, Salem Tabri, Kochar Market, Bharat Nagar Chowk, Bhai Bala Chowk and Aarti Chowk. No amount of security stopped agitators, as roads were left paralysed and commuters inconvenienced from 10.30am to late in the afternoon.
Ambulances carrying patients were also stuck in traffic jams, but police did not do anything to deter agitators or get the traffic moving. Gill Road resident Iqbal Kang said he was stuck in a traffic snarl while on his way to the Ludhiana railway station to receive relatives arriving from Delhi.
Atam Nagar resident Mukesh Sharma said he was stuck in a traffic snarl for half an hour while on his way to pick up his son from school located in Dugri area.
Protesters moved to Gur Mandi in the afternoon, and forced shopkeepers to close their shops. However, they faced resistance from shop owners in that area. Angered by the resistance, protesters vandalised vehicles and robbed a general store.
Shop owner Rakesh Tangri said protesters looted cash and valuables. Deputy commissioner of police Dhruman Nimbale, additional deputy commissioner of police (city 1) Joginder Singh, ADCP (city 4) Satvir Singh Atwal and others reached the spot on being informed.
The protesters then moved to Akalgarh market in Chaura Bazar. Turning violent on facing resistance, protesters started pelting stones. But they soon fled as shop owners retaliated by throwing soda bottles at them.
A group of protesters burnt the effigies of prime minister Narendra Modi and the information and broadcasting minister at Professor Mohan Singh Chowk. They said film-makers were targeting Balmikis and the government was not taking any action against them.
Police ensured there was no violence: Police commissioner
Even as incidents of violence and clashes between shopkeepers and protesters were reported from many areas, police commissioner Jatinder Singh Aulakh maintained his stand that cops ensured that protesters did not turn violent. “The police was on its toes. We diverted traffic and also ensured there was no violence,” he said.