Mob sets fire to factory and two houses; curfew imposed

Indefinite curfew was imposed in the remote Joga town of Mansa district in Punjab on Sunday when angry villagers attacked, set afire and razed a factory, after reports spread that the premises was used for cow slaughter. Two houses of factory owners were also destroyed. No loss of life has been reported.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal ordered the suspension of district police chief S.S. Chahal for dereliction of duty.

Tension had been brewing in the area since Saturday after carcasses of about 25 cows were found near the factory located on the road connecting the headquarters of Mansa and Barnala districts. Residents had protested cow slaughter in the past too.

Led by activists of the Vishaw Hindu Parishad and the Gowshala Sangh, villagers gathered in the morning and broke into the premises of the factory, where carcasses of cows were lying and some animals were alive. The mob went on the rampage damaging the factory and setting ablaze the houses of at least two of those running the unit, Ajaib Singh and Mewa Singh.

The police had a tough time controlling the mob. At least four persons were reported to have been injured after the police resorted to cane charge and firing in the air. The violence was controlled only after extra forces were deployed and curfew imposed. Three persons have been arrested so far.

The factory, which ran on a leased premises, was originally used to crush bones of dead animals for supply to drug manufacturers. The protesting activists told journalists that the owners of the factory resorted to cow slaughter after the demand for crushed bones increased.

The Chief Minister, while ordering the probe, appealed to people to maintain communal harmony. Promising that those involved in the heinous crime would be dealt with severely, Mr. Badal said the government would not tolerate any attempt by anti-social elements to disturb peace.