Monday, November 12, 2001, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S



Controversy over shrine ‘sacrilege’ thickens
SC-ST panel intervenes; accused presented siropas
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 11
The controversy over an alleged act of sacrilege at Guru Ravi Dass Mandir, Basti Jodhewal, continues to intensify with each passing day as the city police and the administration have failed to end the deadlock between the warring parties.

In a significant development, the SC-ST Commission of India has intervened in the matter and directed Deputy Commissioner S.K. Sandhu and SSP H.S. Sidhu to send a report immediately about the incident to the commission.

The situation, in fact, seemed to have taken a turn for the worse today, as on the one hand the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), led by Member Parliament Simranjit Singh Mann, honoured six persons accused of the sacrilegious act and on the other hand, angry activists of the mandir committee burnt effigies of one of the accused persons and blocked traffic on the busy Jalandhar bypass road for about an hour today morning.

The police which is on the receiving end from both parties swung into action last night and arrested three more accused in the case. With the fresh arrests, the total number of persons arrested for the sacrilegious act has become six. All six persons were arrested under Section 295 (maliciously insulting the religious beliefs of any class ). They have, however, been released on bail.

In an interview with Ludhiana Tribune, Mr Harinder Singh Khalsa, Member SC-ST Commission, said the Commission was concerned over the issue and has directed the DC and the SSP to immediately send him a report about what actually happened and what the present scenario was. He said if the commission deems it fit, the officials can be summoned to office.

Mr Khalsa said the commission has intervened as the incident involves attack on a place of worship of the SC-ST community. He said after going through the report, the commission would decide whether it can be covered under the Atrocities Act. Mr Khalsa said a delegation of the Vishwa Guru Ravi Dass Mission, led by its chairman, Mr Jaswant Kataria, and president, Mr Shiv Ram Sarao, had submitted a representation to him, demanding the commission’s intervention, action against the accused and direction to the police and district administration to safeguard the religious practices of minority communities.

Mr Khalsa, however, appealed to the warring parties to maintain peace and communal harmony at any cost. He appealed to both parties to give in a little to resolve the matter. He warned the warring parties to stay away from political leaders who, in the garb of religious sentiments, may exploit the situation to their own interest.

Taking everyone by surprise, Mr Simranjit Mann today honoured all six accused persons for the sacrilegious act. At a function at Subash Nagar today afternoon, the persons were presented siropas and slogans were raised in their praise for striving to protect the Sikh religion. While Mr Mann could not be contacted, Mr Charanjit Singh Channi and Mr Balwinder Singh Bains, spokespersons of a group supporting the accused persons, said the persons deserved to be honoured as they were doing their duty.

Mr Jaswant Kataria and Mr Shiv Ram Sarao of the Vishwa Guru Ravi Dass Mission said the presenting of siropas to the accused would add fuel to the fire. They have, however, appealed to the warring parties to remain calm. The mission has condemned the alleged sacrilegious act as it was an attack on the mode of worship of the followers of Guru Ravi Dass. The leaders said the interference was unwarranted as the religious practice was going on since time immemorial.

The controversy surrounds the worshipping of an idol of Guru Ravi Dass along with Guru Granth Sahib at Guru Ravi Dass Mandir near Basti Jodhewal main chowk. A group of activists of the Amrit Sanchar Jatha had gone to the temple on Thursday night in order to stop the worshipping of the idol along with Guru Granth Sahib.

The jatha opposed the teachings of a priest in the temple who was allegedly telling people not to get baptised. The Mandir Committee had opposed the intervention and caught three persons who were handed over to the police.

The deadlock between both parties continues as despite a number of meetings between them with the mediation of the District Administration and the police failed to resolve the issue. The matter has not been resolved as members of the Mandir Committee demanded registration of case under stringent sections against the accused, while the opposite party demands withdrawal of cases against the six persons.


Autorickshaw driver challaned for not wearing helmet
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 11
Does an autorickshaw driver need a helmet to drive the vehicle? The answer seems to be in the affirmative if the experience of an autorickshaw driver is any indication.

In a surprising incident, a seemingly overzealous traffic cop has issued a challan against a three-wheeler driver for driving without wearing a helmet.

According to Mr Rakesh Bitta, his friend who drives a three-wheeler (PB-10K-79O7) under various sections for violation of traffic rules. Mr Rakesh said his friend, who does not wish to be named, said he was stopped by a traffic cop on a city road and harassed unnecessarily. The cop handed over a challan to him and when he went to a court to pay it, he was shocked to learn from a court employee that he was challaned for not wearing a helmet.

There is no provision for challaning an autorickshaw driver for not wearing a helmet in the traffic rules. When contacted for comments, Mr Arun Pal Singh, SP (Traffic), also expressed surprise at the incident. He said the autorickshaw driver might be travelling on a scooter but when told that he was driving his three-wheeler, the SP said he would check up the matter and got the mistake rectified if the complaint was found true.


NCP slams govt for no to CBI probe
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 11
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has slammed the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, for turning down the request of the board of management of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) for a CBI probe into the multi-crore land scandal in which the university lost over four acres of prime land near Kitchlu Nagar to an industrialist of the city.

The NCP’s reaction has come in the wake of Mr Badal’s refusal to accord government’s assent to an inquiry by the CBI on the plea that the investigating agency was already pre-occupied with some serious cases.

Dr Balwant Singh, Convener of the Kisan Cell of the NCP has alleged in a signed statement that Mr Badal’s decision clearly manifests that he was trying to protect some politically influential persons who have defrauded the PAU of its valuable land. “There is a plenty of documentary evidence to prove that a former VC of the PAU had entered into a conspiracy with some officials of the Punjab Wakf Board to give away prime land of the university to a well connected industrialist in March 1995,” he said.

He further said that a high-level probe conducted by a senior IAS official, Mr R.N. Gupta, who was then holding the charge of Financial Commissioner (Development), Punjab, had established the land scandal and recommended that the matter be handed over to the CBI which alone could determine the criminal liability of the officials involved in the scam.


Avtar Singh murder case transferred
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, November 11
The murder case of Avtar Singh, Golla, involving former CIA in charge, Ludhiana Inspector, Gurmeet Singh ‘Pinki’, as prime accused along with eight others, has been transferred from Ludhiana to the court of District and Sessions Judge, Chandigarh, by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The High Court has ordered the transfer while disposing of the writ petition filed by Gurmeet Singh ‘Pinki’. The order says, “The photographs placed on file show that there was demonstration against the petitioner (Pinki), in front of the court room when he was produced in the court during the proceedings of the case. The allegation of the petitioner is that it is not safe if he appears in the court to attend day-to-day proceedings. He has prayed for transfer of the case to some court.” The order further says, “The learned state counsel, Mr R.P.S. Atwal, Deputy Advocate General, Punjab, says that he has no objection if the case is transferred to Chandigarh. The accused consequently stands transferred to Central Jail, Burail.”

Avtar Singh, a youth of New Prem Nagar, was gunned down on January 7 allegedly by Pinki by firing a shot on his forehead in the Maya Nagar area in front of the accused’s newly purchased house. Subsequently, Gurmeet Singh, alias Pinki, Ravinder Singh, alias Bittu Gill, Pawan Kumar, Simarjit Singh, Punna, Paramjit Singh Pammi and Satbir Singh were booked under various Sections of the IPC at police station division number 5, on the statement of the father of deceased.

All accused except Pinki were today produced in the court of Mr B.S. Mehndiretta, Additional Sessions Judge, Ludhiana, as trial was fixed for recording the statements of prosecution witnesses.


Bitta becoming hard nut to crack for Cong
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 11
In the face of strong criticism from the Opposition and reservations expressed by its own allies, the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) at the centre may not be feeling too comfortable over the introduction of Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO). So the support for POTO from the All-India Anti Terrorist Front chief, Mr Maninderjit Singh Bitta, a former president of the Indian Youth Congress and a member of the party, must be too heartening for the BJP to ignore.

While the BJP, more so the Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, has been strongly defending the introduction of POTO, Mr Bitta has already launched a campaign mobilising support for the ordinance. He has addressed several press conferences in different parts of the region, seeking support for the new anti-terrorist ordinance. In fact, Mr Bitta has gone one step ahead, demanding that the law should be more stringent than proposed by the government. Mr Bitta is organising a gherao of the Parliament on November 19, when the winter session begins, to press for more stringent provisions in the law.

Not just that. Much to the delight of the BJP leaders, Mr Bitta is also charging the Congress and its leaders of “appeasing Muslims” with an eye on the forthcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. He went on record while criticising two senior party leaders, Mr Gulam Nabi Azad and Mr Salman Khursheed, of playing “communal politics” and “sacrificing the national interests for partisan and communal interests”. While the BJP leaders exercised restraint in their criticism against the Congress on its opposition to the POTO, Mr Bitta minced no words in taking his party’s leadership to the task.

The former Youth Congress president has, however, been seeking to clarify that he is not doing it for the BJP. In fact he was irked to the extent of losing his temper, recently at a press conference in Ludhiana, when he was asked to comment about the reports that he was thinking of joining the BJP. He claimed that certain “vested interests within the party” were trying to defame him and align him with the BJP. He asserted that his commitment to the Congress was unfailing and undisputed. “If I leave the Congress, it would amount to betraying the great sacrifices of Mrs Indira Gandhi, Mr Rajiv Gandhi and Mr Beant Singh”, he committed. Elaborating further, he added, “I can stand by anyone, including the BJP, when it comes to defending and safeguarding the integrity of the country for which our leaders have laid down great sacrifices”.

Several Congress leaders have already sought action against Mr Bitta for his outburst against the party leadership.


UK police officials visit Khanna
Our Correspondent

Khanna, November 11
A team of police officials from West Midlands Police (UK) visited Khanna police district today, to discuss issues like crime, traffic problems, drug de-addiction and setting marital disputes with the help of people and NGO.

The team, which included Mr Micheal Layton, Chief Superintendent; Mr Steve Brows, Superintendent; Mr Harwinder Singh Rai Training Officer; Mr MoikHowk, Sargent; and Mr Ramesh Kumar, Sargent; first visited SSP Office, Khanna, where they discussed issues with the SSP Mr Ishwar Singh and former SSP, Mr R.N. Dhoke. Later they visited police station Khanna city where Mr Ram Singh, SP (operations), described the work of each functionary posted at a police station like role of SHO, duty officer, munshi, beat constable and investigators, etc. The team was also apprised of students contact programme undertaken and other projects wherein the college students are taken to police stations and briefed about the functioning of police. The team also saw the police communication system, record keeping and finger print section, etc.

The team also visited the women and child helpline, which was established last year. The team was visibly impressed by the performance in settling marital disputes by solving more than 390 cases.

The Superintendent of Police (D), the Deputy Superintendent of Police, and the Station House Officer, City, also accompanied the team during the visit.

A demonstration on saving accident victims was also given by cops of the first aid post, Bulepur.


Curbs on crackers favoured
Kamal Kishore Shankar

Ludhiana, November 11
The Supreme Court directive on restricting bursting of crackers on Divali has found favour among local residents. They believe that use of crackers on Divali or any other festival should be prohibited as festivals have become only a show-off of money.

Says Dr D.V. Jindal, a retired professor, “This country is too polluted to get any more pollution by way of celebrations. There are several other ways of celebrating festivals.”

Ms Pushpinder Kwatra, a school teacher, supports the idea of prohibiting the use of fireworks on festivals. She states that our traditions and values have never allowed the use of fireworks to pollute the environment. She asserts that it is our duty to educate children about the ill-effects of crackers.

Mr Subhash Rajasthani, a businessman, does not favour use of fireworks for celebrating any festival or occasion. He says we have not learnt any lesson though a large number of persons get injured or killed due to burn injuries caused by use of fireworks.

Ms Salivia, a student, says lack of awareness among the people about the ill-effects of fireworks on our environment is the main reason for use of crackers. According to our traditions and rituals, there is no mention of bursting of crackers to celebrate Divali or any other festival.

Mr Harish Rai Dhanda, an advocate, favours passing of a legislation to save the environment. He opines that use of fireworks is nothing but waste of time and money, besides a major cause of environment pollution. 


Creating magic out of clay
Asha Ahuja

Ludhiana, November 11
A person is astounded by the sheer beauty of artefacts made of clay in a plot of wasteland . There are dozens of Ganesh idols, each more beautiful than the other. The variety of decorative and utility pots is mind boggling.

A family of potters, through 20 years of experience is creating masterpieces out of clay. Kamla, the martiach, had taught the art of moulding clay into beautiful objects of desire to her husband Rohtas, her two sons, and her daughter. The entire family is busy throughout the day in various processes required for making clay objects. The men get raw material from fields at Sahnewal and from brick-kilns. They get some clay from Badhowal and as far as Rajasthan.

First they sieve all mixed clay of different kinds with hands and soak it. Next day the menfolk knead the wet clay with their feet and once it becomes pliable, it is kneaded with hands. Next it goes to the potter’s wheel where Naresh, a skilled artisan , creates magic with the clay fashioning details like making leaves, earthen lamps, Ganeshas of different kinds and sizes. The whole family shows amazing skills in making huge ornamental pots of different sizes and designs. Some pots have abstract and geometrical designs whereas others have intricate designs of trees and birds.

During the festival season they are busy making ‘hattaris’ for Divali Poojan’ of uncommon designs. There is a large variety of earthen lamps. The lamps are carved in beautiful designs by hand on wet clay. The wet lamps and other ornamental objects are dried in shade and then under the sun. After this they go into clay oven.

When asked why did not they learn some technique that would stop breakage, Kamla said,” No one can help us. It is a “vardaan” that has been bestowed on us.

This year the business has been very bad. We have suffered quite a loss. We get many artefacts specially, from Kolkata and these sell like hot cakes, but this Divali season we have been very disappointed as our sales have reduced by 50 per cent”.

The women of the family are busy painting the baked objects, first with black enamel colour and later with silver, copper and bronze paints to give it a beautiful sheen and finish. From mud to finished products is quite a back-breaking task.


Rs 3.5 lakh grant for community centre
Our Correspondent

Amloh, November 11
“Special attention is being given towards the rural development by the Punjab Government under the leadership of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, including the sports competitions in the rural areas by providing special guests to the clubs to organise sports and cultural melas”, said Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Finance and Planning Minister, Punjab, while addressing a prize distribution function of three-day sports tournament at Kumbh village, 3 km from here yesterday. He announced Rs 3.5 lakh for the construction of a community centre in the village, Rs 50,000 for the club besides the construction of boundary wall of the primary school. He also laid the foundation stone of the community centre.

The victorious team in Kabaddi was given Rs 15,000 cash and the Ludhiana district was given Rs 10,000 in cash besides mementoes. 


Case against Win Cable director
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, November 11
The cable operators controversy has taken a new turn as the city police has registered a case against the director of Win Cable, Mr A.S. Dhaba, for the alleged attack on the some cable operators outside his office last week. The case has been registered under Sections 323, 353, 382, 506,148 and 149 of the Indian Penal Code. The case has been registered on the complaint of the New Ludhiana Cable Operators Association (NLCOA).

The president of the NLCOA, Mr Raman Maini, said in a press release here today that the association had to opt for such a step because for the past few days Mr Dhaba was leveling the allegation of blackmailing. He had disclosed that it was purely a propaganda of the multinational companies against the small cable operators.

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