Protesting advocates hold Ludhiana to ransom, block roads
Protesting advocates held the city hostage for the second consecutive day on Friday and blocked the crucial Ludhiana-Ferozepur road, passing through the centre of city for more than eight hours even as cops remained mute spectators. The advocates, who are demanding an FIR against special task force (STF) in-charge inspector Harbans Singh for allegedly assaulting a Khanna-based advocate earlier this week, blocked the intersection opposite the mini-secretariat around 10 am.
The protest was lifted only at 6.30 pm after a meeting of the advocates with senior officials of the administration at the circuit house in the evening. The matter, however, remained unresolved with the advocates threatening to continue the strike on Saturday and intensify the strike at state level. (See box)
The advocates first gathered outside deputy commissioner’s office at 10 am and locked the gates of mini-secretariat before blocking the highway and raising slogans against Punjab Police and STF in-charge Harbans Singh. ‘Harbans Singh Murdabad’, ‘Police department Murdabad’ ‘Dismiss Harbans Singh’ were some of the slogans raised by the advocates.
Narinder Aadia, an advocate who was leading the protest, said, “We will not lift the protest until Harbans Singh is suspended and a case is registered against him.”
Throughout the day, the advocates remained on the road and even had food while sitting on carpets they had laid on the road.
Meanwhile, a group of advocates also went to meet police commissioner Rakesh Agrawal at his office. After coming out of the office, advocate Rajinder Pal Singh Babbar, vice-president of the district bar association, said, “The police commissioner has asked us to meet SSP Khanna. We have told him that the protest will only end after the suspension of inspector Harbans Singh.”
From elderly to children to those who just wished to pass through the highway - everyone was hassled as the main point from Bhai Bala Chowk (Park plaza light point ) to Bharat Nagar traffic intersection remained out of bounds for vehicles.
As the advocates blocked the highway outside mini-secretariat at 10am, police started diverting the traffic from various intersections including Bharat Nagar Chowk, Atam Park, Bhai Bala Chowk, Rajguru Nagar, Dugri Road and Fountain Chowk.
Serpentine queues of vehicles were witnessed on Pakhowal Road, at Dholewal-Atam Nagar flyover and other internal roads including Sham Singh Road, Gurdev Nagar Road, Ghumar Mandi.
The commuters coming from Dholewal side were not allowed to go towards bus stand from Atam Nagar crossing (except buses and two wheelers). All vehicles, including cars, auto-rickshaws, carts, and mini-trucks were diverted via Dugri Road. Similarly, the traffic coming from bus stand side towards Bharat Nagar Chowk was diverted from ESIC hospital road towards Kochar Market.
As the roads from where traffic was diverted were narrow, it led to traffic jams, giving a harrowing time to the commuters.
The commuters were not allowed to enter Mall Road from Fountain Chowk and they were diverted via Rani Jhansi Road-Ghumar Mandi, College Road and Cemetary Road.
They residents travelling from Aarti Chowk side towards Bharat Nagar Chowk, were not allowed to go straight from Bhai Bhala Chowk and they had to take detour either from Pakhowal Road or Ghumar Mandi Road.
The highway remained blocked till late evening hours. Many school students, elderly and other residents were seen walking through the blocked area, where advocates were protesting, as no public transport was available due to jams on other roads.
A number of ambulances got stuck in the jams on the internal roads.
Many advocates misbehaved with the commuters and were seen forcefully pushing them when the irked residents tried to pass through the blocked area.
Harman Singh, a resident of Indra Nagar, said that when he was going to KVM School to pick up his daughter, he was not allowed to pass through Bharat Nagar Chowk by the advocates. “Despite informing the advocate that my daughter is waiting for me outside the school, they didn’t allow me to pass and I had to take a detour from Sita Nagar to Government College for Girl Road and drive on the wrong side till Durga Mata Mandir crossing and then take the Club Road to reach the destination. However, when I reached Fountain Chowk, there was huge jam due to the diversion,” he said while adding that it took him one-and-a-half hours to reach the school.
Similarly, another resident, Jugraaj from Karnal, was stuck near Atam Nagar crossing. He was travelling with his family to meet his relatives in Moga. He said that he remained stuck in the jam for over an hour and were asked to take the Dugri road. “We are not regular visitors to this city so finding the route to our destination was difficult,” he said.
Besides commuters, visitors at the mini-secretariat were also hassled could not enter the premises as the gates were locked by the advocates. Hundreds of litigants were inconvenienced as their cases were adjourned to another date.
While the police commissioner remained unavailable for comments over the lawlessness created by the advocates, deputy commissioner Pradeep Kumar Agrawal said, “We have already marked an inquiry against STF in-charge to Payal sub-divisional magistrate. Proper procedures have to be followed before deciding on any further action. We can only appeal to the advocates to not to harass the public.”
ADVOCATES DON’T TURN UP FOR INQUIRY
SDM (Payal) Sagar Setia, who has been entrusted with the inquiry into the alleged assault on advocate Varun Gupta by STF Incharge Harbhans Singh, kept waiting for the advocates to record their statements. As per sources, no one turned up and the inquiry could thus not begin.
MEETING REMAINED INCONCLUSIVE
A meeting between the advocates and senior officials of the police and administration held at circuit house till late in the evening remained inconclusive. Ludhiana deputy commissioner Pradeep Kumar Agrawal, police commissioner Rakesh Kumar Agrawal and SSP Khanna Harpreet Singh were present along with office holders of the district bar association. The administration officials tried their best to negotiate with the advocates and said that action will be taken if the inspector is found guilty after the magisterial-level inquiry. However, the advocates insisted on immediate registration of FIR against the inspector which was not agreed to by the officials. The advocates have now threatened to intensify the strike tomorrow at state level.