Tribune News Service
Jalandhar, August 13
Sporadic incidents of violence were witnessed as a complete bandh was observed today in Dalit-dominated Doaba region, following a call given by Sant Samaj groups to protest against the demolition of Guru Ravidas Temple in Delhi.
In Mukerian, four youths were injured during a clash between shopkeepers and Dalit protesters, who were forcing them to down their shutters. Shopkeepers and agitators pelted each other with stones. Bikes of the protesting youths were damaged. As the police reached there, they resorted to firing to disperse the clashing groups.
In another incidence of violence, agitators damaged an SUV passing near Bidhipur railway crossing near Kartarpur. Dozens of tyres were burnt at Guru Ravidas Chowk in Jalandhar.
In Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala, Phagwara and Jalandhar, almost all shops and commercial establishments remained shut. The administration in these districts had already asked schools and colleges to remain closed in view of the bandh call.
All state highways, including those leading to Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Nakodar and Pathankot remained closed from 9 am to 5 pm as protesters, mainly from the BSP, Sant Samaj and Bhim Army, sat on a dharna.
Commercial establishments, including banks and petrol pumps, remained shut in Jalandhar and those who tried to open were forced to close by groups of youngsters roaming in the city markets. In Hoshiarpur, youths were seen wielding swords, while moving around on their bikes to enforce the bandh.
Those commuting by trains were badly affected as their journey got stuck midway. Shatabdi passengers, who were to reach Jalandhar and Amritsar, had to get down at Khanna as protesters sat on tracks to halt trains.
Shan-e-Punjab Express had to halt at Sirhind railway station and Dadar Express at Malerkotla since morning. The Railways had to terminate many Punjab-bounds train at Ambala. Mumbai-bound Dadar Express train was stopped at Jalandhar Cantt.
All schools and colleges in Doaba remained shut.
In Nawanshahr, most markets remained open as the town remained closed on Monday. More than the Dalit community, members of Hindu organisations were protesting on Tuesday as former MLA Shingara Ram Sahungara had allegedly used derogatory words against Hindu deities. Sahungara, who had been earlier a BSP MLA, is now with the Congress.
Various political leaders participated in the protest. Among them were Congress MLAs Sushil Rinku and Pargat Singh and former BJP minister Manoranjan Kalia. Women participated in large numbers in the protest and raised anti-PM slogans. Singer Ginni Mahi too addressed several gatherings.
In Phagwara, the protesters, belonging to the Ravidasia community, blocked traffic at Sugar Mills Chowk amid slogans against the Union Government and burnt its effigies. No buses plied on roads and almost all shops and commercial establishments remained shut.
The bandh evoked lukewarm response in Ropar district. While shops in Ropar remained shut till afternoon, markets in Nangal, Anandpur Sahib and Chamkaur Sahib remained closed partially and only for a few hours. The agitated Dalits staged protest marches and blocked traffic at several palces.
In Ferozepur, heavy downpour and the bandh threw life out of gear in this region. More than two dozen express and passenger trains were affected in this division, causing a huge revenue loss to the Railways. Commuters were hassled due to change of timings, rescheduling and diversion of trains. Normal railway traffic was restored in the evening.
In Fatehgarh Sahib, the bandh call given by the Ravidasia community evoked partial response in Fatehgarh Sahib as most of the shops and commercial establishments downed their shutters as soon as hundreds of protesters led by Laxman Jatti, a leader of the community, marched through the markets.
Earlier, people belonging to various Dalit communities blocked traffic for some time at GT Road, Sirhind, and raised slogans against the Modi government. However, all educational institutes remained open.