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Holy book desecration: Shutdown impacts several areas in Punjab

Several areas in Punjab were on Thursday largely or partially shut following a bandh called by Sant Samaj, a Sikh organisation, to protest the alleged desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib.

punjab Updated: Oct 15, 2015 16:50 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Holy book desecration,Punjab,bandh
Members of the Sikh community staging a protest on the Ludhiana Ferozepur Road on Thursday(JS Grewal/HT Photo)

Several areas in Punjab were on Thursday largely or partially shut following a bandh called by Sant Samaj, a Sikh organisation, to protest the alleged desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib.

Heavy police force has been deployed at sensitive areas to maintain law and order as commercial and private educational institution at many places like Faridkot, Moga, Muktsar and parts of Tarn Taran remained shut.

While private bus operators kept off the roads, banks and pharmacies were kept out of the shutdown’s purview.

The bandh was called in Faridkot, Moga, Fazilka, Ferozepur, Muktsar, Bathinda and Barnala over the desecration and its fallout.

The protesters, led by fringe radical outfits, have been demanding the arrest of those responsible for tearing off more than 100 pages of the Guru Granth Sahib at Bargari village, 15 km from Kotkapura in Faridkot district, on Monday. These pages were torn allegedly from a ‘bir’ that was stolen from a nearby village, Burj Jawahar Singh Wala, in June.

Kotkapura and surrounding villages continued to remain tense with announcements being made from gurdwaras to protest the death of the two men killed in police firing on Wednesday.

Protests in Moga

In Moga district, the shutdown call got a huge response as protesters marched at various places and raised slogans against the government.

Thousands of people, including women, with swords and sticks in their hands marched on roads at places like Main Chowk in Moga, Bagha Purana, Ajitwal, Bughi Pura Chowk, Lohara Chowk and Fatehgarh road. Sikh organisations also blocked Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Barnala and Sri Ganganagar highways.

In Moga city, the protest march started from Gurudwara Bibi Kann Kaur and agitators held a dharna at Main Chowk on Ludhiana-Ferozepur road.

“We appeal to all communities for cooperation because the Guru Granth Sahib is a vanguard of humanity. The bani (holy poetry) of various sects is included in the Guru Granth Sahib. We appeal to other communities that they should oppose the sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib and the killing of Sikhs,” Manjit Singh Mallha, SAD (Amritsar), said.

Mallha also added that shopkeepers gave a huge response and closed their shops.

“We are protesting against the sacrilege of Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the police have stopped Sikhs from protesting. When other organisations agitated, the state allowed them but Sikhs have been stopped,” Harinder Singh Khalsa, a protester, said.

Tarn Taran district also witnessed a complete shutdown. Protestors blocked the Tarn Taran-Harike road and also burnt the effigy of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and demanded the arrest of those behind the incident that took place in Bargari.

Blockades were laid on various routes and the protests continued peacefully till the afternoon.

Mixed response

While the bandh had no response in Bathinda, Mansa was partially affected in the morning and there was a mixed response till the afternoon in Amritsar.

Earlier in the day, at least 40 people, who had planned to block the road at Bibi Wala Chowk as a part of bandh call, were arrested in Bathinda.

In Amritsar, about 10 to 12 protesters were seen asking shopkeepers between Hall Gate to Golden Temple to close down. While the market was was closed down, police acted swiftly and detained the protesters and took them to the local police station.

“Cops are on a high alert and forcible closure is not being allowed. Few protestors did go to the area near Hall Gate but were immediately detained by the cops. City is peacefully moving and normalcy is going on,” Amritsar Police commissioner Jatinder Aulakh said.

On Wednesday, two men were killed and 62 persons, including 35 policemen, injured in bloody clashes between police and Sikh protesters in Kotkapura. Kishan Singh, 45, of Niami Wala village and Gurjit Singh, 20, of Sarawan village were killed after police opened fire at protesters at Behbal Kalan village, 10 km from Faridkot.

Police used lathis and water cannons to disperse protesters, even as the latter attacked cops with kirpans and torched police vehicles. The police were able to control the situation after the two-hour-long clash in which Bathinda inspector general of police (IGP) Jitendra Jain was also injured.

The protests spread to Kotkapura, Moga and Faridkot from Bargari on Monday following mobilisation through audio and video messages on the social media and announcements in village gurdwaras.

The protests have come amid the uproar over the recent pardon granted by the Akal Takht to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, with former Takht Damdama Sahib jathedar Balwant Singh Nandgarh suggesting the alleged involvement of dera followers in the desecration.

The dera, however, has categorically denied any role in the incident and also condemned it.

First Published: Oct 15, 2015 16:50 IST