Crackdown against Amritpal: Sikh protesters block Sohana chowk in Mohali

By, Mohali
Mar 19, 2023 05:02 AM IST

Carrying arms, Sikh protesters lay siege to crucial intersection on Mohali’s Airport Road amid rumours of Punjab Police detaining Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh

Hundreds of Sikh protesters, under the banner of Qaumi Insaaf Morcha, laid siege to Gurdwara Singh Shaheedan Chowk in Sohana soon after reports of Punjab Police detaining Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh and his supporters started making rounds on Saturday.

Armed protesters taking out a march in support of Amritpal Singh in Mohali on Saturday. (Ravi Kumar/HT)
Armed protesters taking out a march in support of Amritpal Singh in Mohali on Saturday. (Ravi Kumar/HT)

Punjab Police later issued a statement clarifying that 78 people were arrested and 500 were detained through a massive state-wide crackdown on the radical organisation, but Amritpal managed to give them the slip.

Enraged by police action, Nihangs, along with others from the Quami Insaaf Morcha, that has been demonstrating at YPS Chowk in Mohali since January 7 for release of Sikh prisoners, marched towards the Sohana gurdwara around 4.15 pm, bringing evening traffic at the major intersection to a grinding halt.

Outnumbered, police stood as mute spectators as the protesters took over all sides of the busy Airport Road intersection, and marched brandishing swords, spears, rods and other heavy and sharp-edged weapons, while raising anti-government slogans.

The few cops that tried to stop the armed protesters got pushed around, forcing them to retreat, while hapless commuters panicked.

Suspecting a major law and order problem, police called in the Rapid Action Force and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP). Ropar Range IG Gurpreet Singh Bhullar, Mohali SSP Sandeep Garg and deputy commission Aashika Jain remained on ground to monitor the situation. Three SP-rank officers, along with DSPs and SHOs, were also deployed at the site.

Senior officials from the administration, including ADC (Urban) Damanjit Singh Maan, Mohali SDM Sarabjit Kaur, Kharar SDM Ravinder Singh and MC joint commissioner Kiran Sharma, also remained at the scene.

Even after senior police officers informed the fuming protesters that Amritpal was not arrested, they refused to budge.

Around 9 pm, Gurcharan Singh, foster father of Jagtar Singh Hawara, one of the assassins of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh and key organiser of the Qaumi Insaaf Morcha, reached the spot and appealed to protesters to lift the blockade, giving police some hope.

Refusing to believe that Amritpal had not been detained, he warned the Punjab government of intensifying the protest if police fail to release Amritpal and his supporters by Sunday or register any FIR against them.

While many protesters agreed to leave on Gurcharan’s appeal, several others refused to move, leaving police and other forces in a fix. The sit-in continued till late night till the time of going to press.

As a preventive measure, police detained some people in Kharar and Majat.

Meanwhile, Chandigarh Police also increased force deployment on Mohali borders. “We have adequate force on Mohali borders and will ensure that law and order is not disturbed. Action will be taken as per the situation,” said a senior police officer.

Traffic thrown out of gear

Protesters marching to the Sohana Chowk amid peak traffic hours majorly hit traffic on the busy Airport Road.

Commuters were stuck in serpentine queues as police scampered to divert traffic. Already delayed by jams, commuters were forced to take longer routes to reach their destinations.

Notably, a plea against the blockade by Sikh protesters at YPS Chowk is already pending before the Punjab and Haryana high court that has sought a status report from police by March 22.

Suspended internet leaves people harried

With internet services snapped across Punjab, residents faced a tough time as they were not able to book cabs.

With more riders than drivers available online for app-based cab services, surge pricing was activated, with prices shooting up by two to three times. But even after agreeing for surge pricing, people could not book any cabs in Mohali.

“I pay 100 to 150 to reach home in Sector 69 from my office in Industrial Area, Phase 8B. But with the internet services suspended, cab prices surged to 450 for the same route. Even then I was not able to find a cab and had to take an auto-rickshaw,” said Shalini, a Mohali resident.

On the other hand, cab drivers were also left without business. Harjot Singh, a cab driver in Mohali, said since he was not able to get any customers in Mohali, he will leave for Chandigarh to get some rides. People not carrying cash were also hit hard, as digital payments were not functioning in the absence of mobile internet.

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