Punjab tense after night of violence, Army called in
Towns in Punjab remained tense on Monday morning after a night of violence on Sunday by members of a Dalit Sikh sect protesting a clash in a gurudwara in Austria's capital Vienna.
District authorities in Jalandhar, which saw the maximum violence, requisitioned the army and the Border Security Force (BSF) late Sunday night even as the Punjab Police was out on the streets in full force to control the rampaging mobs belonging to the Sachh Khand sect, followers of Guru Ravi Dass Sabha.
The entire Doaba belt (the area between rivers Sutlej and Beas) comprising Jalandhar, Phagwara, Nawanshahr and Hoshiarpur towns were tense throughout the night. Jalandhar and Phagwara were the worst hit areas. Unrest was also reported from the industrial city of Ludhiana, 60 km from Jalandhar.
Although no one was injured in the clashes, scores of public and private vehicles were set ablaze by the protestors in Jalandhar and Phagwara. A State Bank of India ATM was also set ablaze in Jalandhar.
Many people were stranded on the roads after the violence broke out.
On Sunday, at least 11 people were injured in a fight between two rival factions of the Sikh community at a Gurudwara in the Austrian capital. Some of the injured were in a critical condition, the Austrian police said.
The incident took place during a sermon by two guest gurus from India.
According to reports, several bearded and turbaned men equipped with at least one firearm stormed the shrine during sermon. In the melee, members of the congregation pounced upon the attackers and overpowered them, beating some severely.
Meanwhile, the security has been beefed up in several parts of Punjab after the protestors went on a rampage.
Curfew has been imposed in Jalandhar, which continued Monday morning, even though the police claimed the situation was brought under control.
"The situation turned bad and we have requisitioned the army, BSF and the Punjab Armed Police units to control the situation," said Sanjiv Kalra, inspector general of police (IG), Jalandhar range.
The protestors also clashed with the police at some places in Jalandhar. The protestors blocked roads and highways around Jalandhar and in the nearby industrial town of Phagwara.
"It is a very serious situation. Curfew has been imposed in Jalandhar City following the violence. Road and rail traffic has been affected," Kalra told IANS.
Railway traffic through Jalandhar, including the New Delhi-Amritsar Shatabdi train, was affected as protestors blocked rail tracks.
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal condemned the Vienna incident and urged people in Punjab to remain peaceful. He urged the central government to take up the matter with the Austrian government so that the guilty were punished.
The government blacked out the television news channels in the state to ensure that the violence did not spread to other parts after seeing the images on TV.
Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) president Avtar Singh Makkar also condemned the Vienna attack and urged people to maintain peace in Punjab.