Punjab shutdown peaceful, evokes mixed response


Chandigarh:The Punjab shutdown call given by radical Sikh organisations to protest against Saturday’s violence in Ludhiana passed off peacefully and evoked a mixed response in the state Monday.

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Shops in most cities and towns across the state remained closed Monday. Educational institutions at most places also remained shut or saw low attendance.

However, movement of vehicles on roads in cities and towns and highways remained normal. Railway traffic on the busy Amritsar-Ludhiana-Ambala section was also not affected.

Radical Sikh organisations led by Damdami Taksal and Sant Samaj, among others, had called for a Punjab shutdown Monday.

In a joint statement, Damdami Taksal chief Harnaam Singh Khalsa, All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) president Karnail Singh Peer Mohammad and Khalsa Action Committee chief Mohkam Singh said that they are satisfied with the shutdown.

The statement said: “Eighty percent of Punjab was closed. Most of the big cities like Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Patiala, Moga, Faridkot and Bathinda were closed today (Monday). It was a peaceful bandh and there has been no (untoward) incident.”

The Sikh organisations, which clashed with the police Saturday while trying to disrupt a religious conference of controversial sect leader Ashutosh Maharaj of the Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan, said that they will not let any self-styled spiritual leader hold programmes in Punjab.

They sought the arrest of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Harish Bedi, who organised the function of Ashutosh Maharaj.

Punjab Police and paramilitary forces remained on high alert, especially in the industrial city of Ludhiana, 110 km from here.

Ludhiana continued to be under curfew for the third day Monday with heavy presence of security forces.

This followed violent incidents in Ludhiana on Friday and Saturday which left one person dead and several injured.

Panjab University also postponed its examinations scheduled Monday at Ludhiana, Hoshiarpur and Chandigarh centres in view of the shutdown and curfew in Ludhiana. Punjabi University, Patiala also postponed its examinations scheduled Monday.

Educational institutions, including the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), in Ludhiana were ordered closed by the local administration.

Trains left from Amritsar station normally Monday morning and passed through Ludhiana, the centre-point of trouble over the last three days.

Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal earlier announced a grant of Rs.500,000 for the family of Darshan Singh, an auto-rickshaw driver who was killed in police firing Saturday.