Operation Blue Star anniversary: Swords brandished at Akal Takht as radicals clash with SGPC men, cops
Swords were brandished and pro-Khalistan slogans raised when Sikh radicals had a face-off with workers of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and the police at the Akal Takht in Amritsar on the 35th anniversary of Operation Bluestar on Thursday.
Keeping in view the violent clashes that took place during the anniversary in the past, the Punjab Police had made heavy security arrangements in and around the Golden Temple complex. Barricades were put up in front of the Akal Takht, where the main ceremony was held in the memory of those killed in the army operation in 1984.
Akal Takht acting jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh addressed the kin of militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and others who were killed in the operation. They were also honoured by him with ‘siropas’. As these customary acts finished, the SGPC played ‘gurbani kirtan’ on loud speakers with high volume.
This angered the activists of separatist Sikh bodies, including Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), whose president Simranjit Singh Mann was scheduled to make a speech on the occasion.
The SGPC men interrupted the ‘sandesh’ to be delivered by parallel acting jathedar of Akal Takht, Dhian Singh Mand. The latter was stopped at the barricades when he was moving towards the podium at the Takht. Thereafter, SGPC officials tried to snatch the written message he was reading out. This led to an altercation between the both sides and Mand’s supporters protested against the SGPC move strongly.
Supporters of Mand and Mann started raising pro-Khalistan slogans. A scuffle took place when a group of Sikh youths carrying ‘kirpans’ tried to break the barricades to approach the podium at the Takht. The barricading was manned by cops in civil dress.
The tension rose further when some of these youths started brandishing swords and even pushed away one of the barricades. Some youths tried to attack the cops and SGPC employees with swords in an attempt to push them back. The scuffle continued for over 20 minutes and turned into a minor clash wherein the turban of a man was also tossed.
The SGPC task force also brought sticks and swords to counter them. The cops brought the situation under control by calling extra force. However, nobody was injured in the scuffle. Later, Mand read out his ‘sandesh’ in front of the Takht building.
Complete shutdown in Amritsar
On the call of pro-Khalistan outfit Dal Khalsa, a complete shutdown was observed in Amritsar on Thursday. Shops, malls other business outlets, banks and private institutions remained closed. The markets of the city gave a deserted look.
However, health institutions and government offices functioned normally. Through buses were allowed to ply, hardly any bus was seen on the road ferrying passengers.