Monday, June 9, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Cops descend on Talhan
Tension mounts after fresh violence
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Police personnel stop a vehicle of Baba Mohkam Singh of Damdami Taksal during the curfew at Talhan village on Sunday. — PTI photo 

Jalandhar, June 8
While life in most parts of this violence-torn city is limping back to normalcy, the situation in the Dalit-dominated Talhan village, 12 km from here, continues to be tense after a fresh incidence of caste violence there this morning. There has been no relaxation in curfew in the Buta Mandi area ever since its imposition there on June 6. 

Though various political parties and other non-government organisations have appealed to the people for restraint, there has been no let-up in worked-up emotions and tension in Talhan village where shortly before the relaxation in curfew for a few hours, a “Jat” was allegedly attacked with both blunt and sharp-edged weapons outside his house, located near a “Dalit abadi”. The victim, identified as Paramjit Singh, has been admitted to a private hospital here where he is stated to be recovering from the wounds. 

(According to PTI five persons were injured this morning when Jats and Dalits carrying batons, stones and sharp-edged weapons clashed in Talhan village, the police said.) 

During the curfew relaxation in Talhan, only women were allowed to procure fresh supplies of daily-use items, including, milk and fodder for their cattle. Since the tension started mounting after the morning’s attack, a strong contingent of the police descended on the village, fortifying it from all sides thus preventing the devout from the adjoining areas from attending the weekly congregation. Today was the bhog ceremony of the 50 akhand paths started on Friday last. 

“We are not feeling secure here,” complained Mr Jang Bahadur Singh, a member of the committee of “Gurdwara Shaheedan,” alleging that the district administration in general and the police in particular were siding with the Dalits. Go to the village and you will see for yourself. While the Dalits armed with lathis and swords are moving around freely, there is a complete restriction on our movement. See what happened to Paramjit Singh. He was attacked and no action has been taken against the culprits. 

“Had the administration acted in time after the June 5 incident, the situation would have been different. If there is any tension and rift between the two communities here, it is all because of inaction on the part of the authorities,” he said.

Mr Bhupinder Singh, who along with Mr Kewal Singh, was recommended for externment from the village by the probe mission of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, said he was not bothered about the recommendations of the Commission which was acting at the behest of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The only member of the probe mission who came to the village, stayed with Mr Vijay Sampla, Vice-President of the BJP, and an activist of the Dalit Action Committee. 

Both Mr Jang Bahadur Singh and Mr Bhupinder Singh maintained that it was wrong to attribute the entire episode as a divide between “Sikhs” and “Dalits”. They said “anyone who follows maryada as approved by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee is free to become a member of this 200-year-old gurdwara. But no one who is a ‘patit’ Sikh or consumes tobacco can be allowed to become a member of this shrine.” 

“No politician has come to us to express his or her sympathy with us. It was only on June 6 that we approached the Jathedar of Akal Takht and apprised him of the whole situation. He has convened a meeting of various Sikh religious organisations and others at Guru Teg Bahadur Gurdwara in Jalandhar on June 10. We will go by the directive of the Akal Takht,” they said revealing that Bhai Mohkam Singh of Damdami Taksal and others have been camping in the gurdwara. 

Mr Joginder Singh Mann, Punjab Cabinet Minister, visited the gurdwara this morning. “He came as a Sikh and not as a Congress leader,” said Mr Jang Bahadur Singh holding that the gurdwara had enough stocks of ration to last a few weeks.

“We were expecting a big gathering today. But the police did not allow the devout to come here because of the tension,” said Mr Bhupinder Singh. The Tribune team found a few villagers along with workers and followers of Damdami Takal inside the gurdwara precincts.

When The Tribune team arrived at the gurdwara, Bhai Mohkam Singh had gone to meet the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Jalandhar Range, Mr Rohit Chaudhary. Also in the village was the Senior Superintendent of Police, Mr Virender Kumar. 

“The situation is tense but under control here,” said Mr Virender Kumar, revealing that so far 10 to 12 criminal cases relating to the present caste-based violence had been registered. “We have made about 20 arrests so far. Mr Vijay Sampla was detained yesterday and released later”, he said.

Mr Virender Kumar said though no action had been initiated so far to disarm the villagers. “In case need be, we will ask them to surrender all their lethal weapons, including swords and spears. We may also confiscate all licensed firearms till the situation becomes normal,” he said.

The village was virtually deserted when The Tribune team went around. 


Cong’s ‘healing touch’ to woo Dalits
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, June 8
In an apparent move to save further draining out of its support base among Dalits to the Bahujan Samaj Party in the aftermath of the Talhan and Buta Mandi developments, the Congress today launched “Operation Healing Touch” in certain violence-ravaged areas of Jalandhar city.

 The “Operation Healing Touch” was launched in Chuggitti and Model House areas by the District Congress Committee (Urban) where the DCC chief, Mr Tejinder Bittu, held open discussions and interaction with Dalits, who were agitated after yesterday’s police firing in Chuggitti area and Thursday’s firing in Buta Mandi, where one Vijay Kumar Kala had succumbed to his injuries, resulting in violent clashes between Dalits and the police. The unusual effort was made by the DCC in accordance with the directions of the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Mr H.S. Hanspal.

During the interaction at Chuggitti locality, in which about 1000 Dalits led by Mr. Tarlok Singh Pappa, the Dalit Action Committee’s locality president, gave vent to their annoyance against the police and the administration, but in the same breath, maintained that they wanted peace. “We are daily wage earners and we dont want curfews and clashes. We just want that action should be taken against all those responsible for vitiating the atmosphere of the city,” said Nanak Dass, a resident. Residents also paraded Varinder Kumar, a 22-year-old youth, who had received bullet injuries in his abdomen as police fired in the air to disperse a group of dalit youths in Chuggitti area yesterday. Mintu and Phula, two other residents, had received minor injuries while Gurbachan Kaur, another resident, was admitted to the Rama Mandi-based Johl Hospital after she allegedly received bullet injuries in yesterday’s police firing in the locality.

The “Operation Healing Touch” was also organised at Sri Guru Ravidass Gurdwara in Model House locality, where about 500 residents narrated problems which they faced during the two-day curfew in the area.


Rinwa wants Central team to visit Jalandhar
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, June 8
Punjab BJP chief Brij Lal Rinwa, in a letter to the party chief, Mr Venkaiah Naidu, has urged him to send a team of Union Ministers to Jalandhar for an on-the-spot study of the handling of the situation by the Punjab Government. “We do not want Dalits or any other community to suffer because of the apathy of the administration”.

The Punjab BJP has constituted a seven-member committee with Dr Manoranjan Kalia, Mr Chuni Lal, Mr Suresh Sood, Mr Vijay Sampla, Mr Swarna Ram, Mr Anil Kumar and Mr Vinod Sharma as members to go into the whole issue. Mr Rinwa said this incident would have widespread ramifications. 

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