Tuesday, November 12, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Unprecedented security for SGPC poll
Entry, exit points of nearby villages being manned
Tribune News Service and agencies

Police personnel check the luggage of the devotees at the main entrance of Golden Temple in Amritsar on the eve of the SGPC election on Monday.
Police personnel check the luggage of the devotees at the main entrance of Golden Temple in Amritsar on the eve of the SGPC election on Monday. — PTI photo

Amritsar, November 11
Wrapped in a heavy security cover amidst apprehension of violence, the stage is set for tomorrow’s elections here to the top Sikh religious body, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), over which the Akali Dal led by former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal hopes to retain control.

The city has virtually turned into a police garrison with nakas and barricades at every nook and corner. Security in and around the SGPC periphery has been braced up in a manner as it was at the time of launching of Operation Bluestar in 1984 to flush out militants.

Tight security arrangements have been made in view of tension following threats and counter-threats by Akali Dal factions led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal and former SGPC chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra to clinch supremacy in the highest decision-making body of the Sikhs.

About 1,200 “miscreants” of various Akali Dal factions have been arrested by the police, besides erection of nakas and deployment of police personnel in strength in and around the Golden Temple complex, which also has the Teja Singh Samundari Hall where elections will take place in the afternoon.

The effective electoral college for the election of President, Senior Vice-President, Junior Vice-President, General Secretary and 10 executive committee members is 176, out of which 120 are claimed to be Badal loyalists, 58 are stated to be Tohra supporters and four are aligned with the Mann faction.

Police intelligence is working round the clock to gather any information on the movement of Akali activists. According to authoritative sources, state intelligence sleuths in mufti are mixing with the devotees to keep a tab on Akali leaders and their activists.

The SGPC complex, which was earlier under the control of the SGPC Task Force, has been completely fortified by the police, reducing the task force to a naught.

The police network has been designed in a manner to keep the state government apprised of even the minutest development, so that necessary instructions are issued right away.

Umpteen police parties, each working under the command of IPS or PPS officer, are reporting moment-to-moment developments to their respective S.P.s, who in turn are reportedly passing it on to the I.G.

To further strengthen the police apparatus, the District Magistrate has requisitioned Tehsildars from the Revenue Department and attached them to each S.P. in their capacity as Executive Magistrate so that necessary orders can be issued in case of exigency.

The mounted police is patrolling the area around the Golden Temple complex to counter any unruliness among the Akali workers.

The police has also requisitioned a special cell of women force from neighbouring districts, as a number of women activists have thronged the city.

Entry and exit points of all villages are being manned by the police to prevent the outflow of villagers in large numbers to the city. District police and civil administration officers today held a high level closed-door meeting in the Circuit House here.

As per highly placed sources, the police has received strict instructions not to allow Akali Dal supporters within the area of 500 metres around the SGPC complex. Only SGPC voters are to be allowed entry and that too without security guards.

All buses are being intercepted at entry points of the city.

The Akali Dal, meanwhile, is learnt to have instructed its supporters to avoid sporting blue turbans. Akali workers are thronging the city in disguise by avoiding main entry points. Capt Kanwaljit Singh reached here in disguise, giving the slip to the police.

District Magistrate Iqbal Singh Sidhu has issued orders for the closure of shops and commercial establishments falling in areas around and near the Golden Temple.

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