Amid high security, protest against scrapping of Art 370 proves a damp squib in Mohali
With the district administration turning Mohali into a fortress on Sunday, the protest called by a few Punjab-based unions against the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status turned out to be a damp squib. Barring minor altercations between a few student activists and security personnel, the day went off peacefully.
Citing serious threat to public life as well as law and order, deputy commissioner Girish Dayalan on Saturday denied the permission to conduct the rally. The organisers, in their application, had stated that around 8,000 people will converge on the Dussehra Ground in Phase 8 before moving towards the Mohali-Chandigarh border.
The Punjab and Haryana high court, while hearing a Chandigarh resident’s petition, had directed both Punjab and Chandigarh authorities last Wednesday to ensure law and order during the proposed procession. The Mohali administration had also issued prohibitory orders against the assembly of five or more people the same day.
Around 2,500 police personnel along with paramilitary forces were deployed in Mohali on Sunday. They sealed the borders at Balongi and Airport Road on the Zirakpur side. Multiple nakas were set up on the way to Mohali to stop the demonstrators. Chandigarh Police, too, deployed 1,500 cops to ensure law and order.
Both Dayalan and senior superintendent of police (SSP) Kuldeep Singh Chahal were present at the Dussehra Ground amid heavy police deployment.
Small crowds of protesters started gathering in some areas in the morning. The largest group sat on a dharna at the Mohali railway station post noon.
They raised slogans against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government for imposing curbs in the Valley. However, police bundled them in school buses and dropped them near Sirhind.
Meanwhile, a group of around 100 members of Punjab Students Union (Lalkaar) gathered outside Gurdwara Amb Sahib and began marching towards the Dussehra Ground.
When police tried to round them up and make them sit in buses to ferry them away, three youngsters resisted, leading to an altercation.
Meanwhile, farmers who come to the Dussehra Ground to sell their produce every Sunday were forced to return. Many were seen stranded near the old bus stand in Phase 8.
“Everything went off peacefully as we did allow any organisation to enter the city,” said Dayalan. “We had sealed the city and there were 20 nakas set up with special executive magistrates on duty at most places. Some people reached the railway station, but were sent back. Even some student activists from Punjab reached the venue, but they were taken to Handesra in Dera Bassi.”
Addressing the media, a group of organisers in a joint statement said: “The government has killed democracy by not allowing people to exercise their basic right to protest. What the central government has done in Kashmir is wrong. It is an example of using brute force of the state to kill people’s rights. The Congress government in Punjab is also crushing the sounds of intellectuals, labourers and farmers.”