Bharat bandh: Life hit in Punjab as protesters resort to vandalism, blockades
Protesters blocked trains and resorted to vandalism in different parts of Punjab on Monday during the nationwide bandh by Dalit organisations against the alleged dilution of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The stray incidents of violence, which took place despite heavy security deployment, left four persons injured. Normal life was paralysed at many places in the state as roadways bus services and trading activities came to a halt.
The protesters, several of them carrying sticks and baseball bats, took out precessions in Kapurthala, Ferozepur, Patiala, Jalandhar, Bathinda, Phagwara, Ludhiana and Sangrur districts. As per official information, protests were held at about 500 points in the state.
Protesters, shopkeepers clash in Bathinda
Three persons were injured in a clash between the protesters and shopkeepers near Mehna Chowk in Rajputana Wali Gali in Bathinda. The police used mild force to disperse the protesters in Bathinda. A pick-up van was damaged near the inter-state bus terminus (ISBT) while the glass of a shop was damaged in the AC market. A scooter was also damaged.
The police said a man was arrested while five protesters were taken into preventive custody. They were released later. Situation became tense at Maur after a shop was pelted with stones after its owner refused to down the shutter, but police controlled the situation.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s Bathinda (rural) MLA Rupinder Kaur Ruby joined the protest at Kotshamir.
Vandals on rampage in Ferozepur
Railway property was damaged in Ferozepur where the protesters attacked the divisional railway manager’s office and damaged the windowpanes of a train. A woman railway employee also sustained injuries. A minor clash was also reported from the local excise and taxation office in Ferozepur, but the situation was brought under control.
Six trains plying on the Ludhiana-Amritsar and Jalandhar cantonment–Pathankot routes were cancelled while five were short-terminated.
A dozen two-wheelers damaged in Kapurthala
In Kapurthala, the protesters damaged about a dozen two-wheelers and smashed windowpanes of a lawyer’s car, besides vandalising a medical store and an eatery. The vandals also looted medicines from the chemist shop, it was alleged.
While the movement of several trains, including the Jammu-Tawi-Ahemdabad and the Swarna Shatabdi Express, was hit, many national and state highways were blocked for most part of the day. A shop and a petrol pump were vandalised in Phagwara.
The Punjab government, which put the police on a maximum alert and the army on the standby in case of any eventuality, had also suspended mobile internet and bus services and declared holiday in schools and colleges.
Ludhiana traders peg losses at crores
In Ludhiana, the business community pegged the losses to the tune of crores of rupees as trading activities were hampered due to the bandh call. The day-long bandh affected exports of auto-parts, bicycle parts, hosiery and food products.
The shutdown of mobile internet also affected online transactions. Being the first working day of the new financial year, the traders were also affected as most of the banking and mobile transactions were shut down.
Train passengers stranded
Hundreds of passengers travelling aboard the Swarna Shatabdi Express had a harrowing time after the train was abruptly terminated at Ludhiana on Monday after the protesters blocked the rail line on Jalandhar-Amritsar route. The train, which left New Delhi at 7.20am and reached the Ludhiana railway station at 12.20pm, was already 50 minutes behind its schedule.
It took nearly five hours to restore the rail traffic. The fact that there were no taxis, autos or other transport services available added to the passengers’ woes.
Faridkot, Moga, Fazilka peaceful
However, no incident of violence was reported in Faridkot, Moga and Fazilka, where thousands of Dalits took to the streets. Protests were also held at Nihal Singh Wala, Dharamkot and Baghapurana towns in Moga.
CM congratulates security forces
Meanwhile, Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh congratulated the state security forces and civil authorities for ensuring peace and showing exceptional restraint in dealing with the charged protesters. He also thanked people for showing restraint and expressed regret for inconvenience caused due to rail and road blockades.