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Army out to restore peace
lThree killed in day-long violence n l4 cities under curfew
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 25
Punjab plunged into angry protests, violence and vandalism today before recovering by evening. The violence followed reports that Sant Ramanand ( 57), shot in Vienna on Sunday, had succumbed to his injuries. Angry followers of Guru Ravidas, mostly Dalits, hit the streets, torched trains, set vehicles on fire and set up road blockades, throwing normal life completely out of gear. They defied the curfew imposed on entire districts of Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, in Patiala and in Ludhiana, abducted a policeman and tried to lynch another.

Sant Ramanand, tipped to take over from Sant Niranjan Dass (68) the task of heading ‘Dera Sach Khand’, died in a hospital in the Austrian capital on Monday. The condition of Sant Niranjan Dass, head of the sect who was also injured in the attack, was, however, said to be stable after an emergency surgery.

Protests also spread to neighbouring Haryana, where sect followers felled trees and blocked National Highway No. 1. Security forces had to open fire to bring the situation under control. According to reports received till evening, two persons are said to have died in the day-long violence, two of them in the firing.

The state government is also learn to have informed the Election Commission its inability to conduct the Nurmahal Assembly by-election slated for Tuesday. There was confusion about examinations in the state. The Chief Secretary said in the capital that Deputy Commissioners and Vice Chancellors respectively will assess the situation and take appropriate decision on relaxing curfew, allowing educational institutions to open and holding examinations.

Road and railway movement was crippled in Jalandhar and adjoining areas as protesters blocked the National Highway between Jalandhar and Pagwara, between Ludhiana and Panipat and also between Ambala and Delhi. Railway traffic between Delhi and Jammu was also crippled as the mob set fire to a train in Jalandhar Cantt Railway Station and vandalised railway property. At Jammu railway station, Railways ran out of cash for refunding fare to passengersand a large number of them were stranded on Monday evening.

The bus between Delhi and Lahore was stopped at Ludhiana as a precautionary measure. But the Lahore-Delhi bus was escorted from Amritsar to Delhi via Moga because of a Pakistani child with a hole in his heart and travelling to Delhi for surgery.

Deployment of the Army and the police brought the situation somewhat under control and by evening the situation appeared to be improving despite reports of sporadic violence in some parts of the state. The Shiromani Akali Dal called for a state-wide bandh to condemn the act of violence in Austria and parties called for restrain.

At a number of places in Ludhiana, Phagwara, Jalandhar, Nakodar, Nawan Shahr, Amritsar, Ambala, and Yamunanagar, angry demonstrators not only torched trains, government buses and private vehicles but also resorted to widespread violence damaging both private and public property. The normal life throughout the region remained disrupted as the security forces had a tough time in preventing arsonists from wreaking havoc.

The Doab, specially Jalandhar, Nakodar, Phagwara and parts of Nawan Shahr are the strongholds of followers of Guru Ravi Das sect.

To condemn the Vienna incident and the death of Sant Rama Nand, the SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, appealed to people of Punjab for a peaceful bandh today.All business establishments remained closed.The entire state was fortified with deployment of security forces.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and other leaders, while condemning the Vienna incident, hoped that stringent punishment would be given to the perpetrators of the crime in Austria who not only disturbed a religious congregation but also used firearms and lethal weapons.

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