SYL march: Abhay Chautala, 73 other INLD leaders jailed | punjab | Hindustan Times
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SYL march: Abhay Chautala, 73 other INLD leaders jailed

Top leaders of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), including Abhay Chautala, 18 other MLAs and two MPs, were arrested by Punjab Police at Shambhu barrier on the Punjab-Haryana border on Thursday after they, along with several supporters, entered the state to undertake digging of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal.

punjab Updated: Feb 24, 2017 10:22 IST
Vishal Rambani and Rajesh Moudgil
Punjab police arrest the INLD Leader Abhay Choutala along with other party workers at Shambhu Barrier near Ambala in Haryana on Thursday.
Punjab police arrest the INLD Leader Abhay Choutala along with other party workers at Shambhu Barrier near Ambala in Haryana on Thursday.(Ravi Kumar/HT Photo)

Top leaders of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), including Abhay Chautala, 18 other MLAs and two MPs, were arrested by Punjab Police at Shambhu barrier on the Punjab-Haryana border on Thursday after they, along with several supporters, entered the state to undertake digging of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal.

They were rounded up for violating prohibitory orders and were sent to Patiala jail in judicial custody till February 27. A case under Section 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was registered against Abhay and 73 other party leaders, who courted arrest, after the police refused to allow them to enter the state.

Also read |SYL face-off: Section 144 invoked in Patiala, Ambala districts

The INLD leaders had threatened to march into Punjab along with their shovel-carrying supporters towards the contentious canal, but heavy force was deployed to thwart their attempt. Punjab Police responded by constructing a 10-feet high wall of iron barricades and deployed about 5,000 armed personnel to stop the protesters from marching into the state.

INLD supporters began to symbolically start the digging work for SYL at Shambu on Thursday. (Ravi Kumar/HT Photo)

When the INLD workers reached the Punjab-Haryana border at the Shambhu barrier, they were clearly outnumbered by the police. They first tried to climb up the barricades to cross into Punjab, but failed and symbolically started the digging work of the SYL Canal right there. As slogans of SYL being their legal right rent the air, Abhay delivered a short speech. He accused the Centre of being biased against Haryana, saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not implementing the court decision on the SYL canal.

After his speech was over, Abhay and his supporters turned to go back, but suddenly stopped to have a brief consultation with party leaders. He then changed his mind and decided to court arrest by entering Punjab. Police officials held brief parleys with the protesters before making an announcement on loudspeaker that whosoever enters Punjab will be arrested for breaching the prohibitory orders. Abhay and other party leaders did not resist the arrest and were taken to the Shambhu Serai where a temporary control room of Punjab Police had been set up.

Also read |SYL face-off: Centre intervenes as tension builds up over INLD’s threat

After his arrest, Abhay warned that his party would not allow any Punjab leader who is opposed to the SYL Canal to travel through Haryana.

Earlier in the morning, INLD supporters started gathering at the new grain market in Ambala City for the “Jal Yudh Sammelan”. Though the number of workers at the venue was modest at the start, it began to swell rapidly after 12.30pm.

The venue was packed by the time Abhay arrived. After a quick round of speeches, they started marching on National Highway-1 (also known as GT Road) towards the Punjab border, about 2km from the rally spot. The party leaders were ferried in tractor-trailers. Though Haryana Police had made heavy bandobust, they did little to stop protesters from entering Punjab.

No traffic was allowed on the highway from Rajpura onwards and traffic to Ambala was diverted through Sirhind via Landran. They were stopped by Punjab Police which had deployed 10 companies of paramilitary, anti-riot squads at all entry points, besides using a helicopter and drones to keep vigil to avert any untoward situation, director general of police (DGP law and order) Hardeep Dhillon, along with inspector general, Patiala, B Chandra Sekhar, was in command of the operation.

Meanwhile, Punjab Police also didn’t allow All India Sikh Students Federation and Bains brothers’-led Lok Insaaf Party workers to reach the Punjab-Haryana border as they had announced to take the INLD head-on.