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Sikhs soften agitation

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OUTRAGE: Sikh protesters stage a rasta roko on Mumbai’s Eastern Express highway on Saturday to protest the killing of a Sikh, allegedly by bodyguards of Dera chief Ram Rahim Singh on Friday.
OUTRAGE: Sikh protesters stage a rasta roko on Mumbai’s Eastern Express highway on Saturday to protest the killing of a Sikh, allegedly by bodyguards of Dera chief Ram Rahim Singh on Friday.

Special Correspondent

MUMBAI: Sikhs in Mumbai, who staged a violent protest on Saturday against the killing on Friday of their community member Balkar Singh allegedly by Dera Sacha Sauda chief’s bodyguards, decided to soften their agitation following an appeal by Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

“We have not called off the agitation and will continue to protest in a Gandhian manner while waiting for the government’s decision on our demand for stringent action against the culprits,” said a Sikh leader and Congress MLC, Charan Singh Sapra.

A mob of sword-brandishing Sikhs had blocked the Eastern Express Highway — the principal road linking Mumbai with north, southern, northern and eastern parts of the country — to demand the immediate arrest of Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, chief of the Dera Sacha Sauda, and his bodyguards.

The police and the Rapid Action Force personnel burst teargas shells and lathi-charged the mob. The protesters had also squatted on the railway track at Mulund station and some of them had forced closure of shops in the suburb.

On Friday evening, the Sikhs gathered at Mulund’s Nirmal Lifestyle mall on learning that Baba Ram Rahim Singh had come there. When they protested against him for posing like the revered Guru Gobind Singh in an advertisement, the Baba’s bodyguards allegedly fired at them. Balkar Singh was killed and Bhupinder Singh injured in the incident.

Mr. Sapra said the Sikhs were agitated because the culprits could flee the mall after the killing. Hundreds of Sikhs, including women and children, took to the streets in Mulund.

The protesters also blocked the Mumbai-Pune expressway at the Talegaon toll plaza near Pune. Forty sword-wielding youth and were held and released later.

The three bodyguards, who had allegedly fired and killed the Sikh, were arrested.

A metropolitan magistrate remanded the trio, Jaidev Singh, Satnam Arora and Rajguru Taneja, to police custody till July 2.

The Chief Minister announced an ex gratia of Rs.2 lakh to the next of kin of the dead and Rs.25,000 for the injured.


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