Pressing for immediate implementation of 'one rank one pension' (OROP) scheme, hundreds of ex-servicemen on Wednesday blocked the busy Bathinda- Chandigarh highway.
Ex-servicemen from across the state, under the banner of Indian Ex-Services League (IESL), had gathered in the city to submit a memorandum to authorities at Bathinda cantonment in support of their demands.
However, a group of angry veterans decided to lay siege to the highway and sat on a dharna in-front of the Cantt police station blocking both lanes, resulting in a traffic chaos.
The blockade began around 10 am and continued till 1 pm with protesters shouting slogan against the central government. The road in front of the Chetak park was also blocked, as a result the traffic had to be diverted from Bhucho, on outskirts of Bathinda city.
Six protesters, including Bhinder Singh, Ramji Das and Sukhdev Singh, all from Sangrur, Baldev Singh from Tarn Taran and Kartar Singh, Baldev Raj Joshi, both from Bathinda, were booked under Indian Penal Code sections 283 (danger or obstruction in public way or line of navigation) and 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant). The police have also registered case against over 150 unidentified protesters.
As the police were not expecting such a protest by the veterans, it hadn't deployed much force in the area. The local administration had a tough time persuading the protesters to remove the blockade. Sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Damanjit Singh Mann said the ex-servicemen had initially planned to submit a memorandum. However, a section of protesters later sat on a dharna, disrupting traffic.
A delegation of ex-servicemen, led by Brigadier Inder Mohan Singh (retired), submitted a memorandum to a representative of the core commander at Bathinda cantonment.
He said veterans have decided to stage protests outside military stations over OROP. Similar protests would be held at other cantonments in the state in the coming days, he said.
Mohan Singh said the association has urged former Punjab chief minister and Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, Captain Amarinder Singh to be a part of protests in the coming days.
"Earlier, we had planned to stage a protest at Amritsar with Amarinder Singh on July 22. But we were told that he might not be available on that day. So, we have yet to finalise a date," he said.
Apologising for inconvenience to the public, he said:"We had to resort to aggressive protests as no one is paying heed to our demand."
Scuffle between ex-servicemen, locals
High drama was witnessed outside the Bathinda Cantt police station as scuffle broke out between ex-servicemen and residents. The protesters didn't allow even the two-wheelers to pass through the area. Even vehicles were stopped from entering the ring road. Later, some protesters also raised slogans against the Punjab and Chandigarh IESL president, blaming him for mismanagement.