Curfew was imposed in Punjab’s Patiala district on Friday after a clash broke out between different groups of people amid a confrontation surrounding the holding of a foot march in the city against the pro-‘Khalistan’ movement attempt.
Four persons, including two police personnel, were injured in the incident, in which people from different groups hurled stones at one another and brandished swords near the ‘Kali Mata’ temple of the city. The situation was brought under control after police intervention.
A source in the administration told The Hindu that the Shiv Sena (Bal Thakrey) had sought permission to hold a march in the city against the backdrop of the announcement by Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) to mark the foundation day of Khalistan on April 29. The permission was, however, denied by the administration. In reaction to the Shiv Sena’s idea to hold the march, a group of ‘Khalistan’ sympathisers had announced to hold a countermarch.
Later in the day, the police arrested Harish Singla, “working president” of the Shiv Sena (Bal Thackeray) for taking out the procession without permission and instigating violence.
Rumours trigger tension
Superintendent of Police Patiala (city) Harpal Singh said the clash between the group members started after many of them came face to face on the road near the temple. “It all began after different rumours started surrounding the march. The anti-social elements pelted stones at each other, resulting in injuries. Police were, however, quick to control the situation,” he said.
“While Shiv Sena members assembled in one part of the city, there were rumours spread about their starting the march, and as a reaction, the members of the other group, who were at a local gurdwara came out on streets,” Deputy Commissioner Sakshi Sawhney told The Hindu.
Ms. Sawhney said while the situation in Patiala was under control, it had been decided to impose a curfew in the district as a measure of caution under Section 144 of Cr. PC.
“The curfew shall be imposed in the district from 7 p.m. of April 29, 2022 to 6 a.m. of April 30, 2022 for maintenance of peace and law and order,” said the order.
Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mannsaid, “The incident of clashes in Patiala is deeply unfortunate. I spoke with the Director General of Police. Peace has been restored in the area. We are closely monitoring the situation and will not let anyone create disturbance in the State. Punjab’s peace and harmony is of utmost importance.”
The Opposition parties hit out at the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, blaming it for the deteriorating law and order situation in the State.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “Visuals from Patiala are disturbing. I repeat, Peace & Harmony are most imperative in a sensitive border state like Punjab. This is not the place to carry out experiments. Earnestly appeal to the Punjab govt to ensure law and order is maintained.”
Former Chief Minister Captain (retired) Amarinder Singh expressed surprise as to how the administration could allow the situation to escalate to the extent that it ended up in violence. “Even a layman could foresee and make out that the proposed “protest march” by one group of people could lead to violence. It is surprising why the police did not take any preemptive action,” he said.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Daljit Singh Cheema said Mr. Mann should fulfill his responsibilities and immediately tackle the law and order situation which had plummeted to an all time low in the State.
Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson Malwinder Singh Kang alleged that the Opposition parties including the Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal, the BJP and the Shiv Sena are trying to disturb communal harmony in Punjab.