90 protesting Akali, BJP leaders detained, let off

CHANDIGARH: Top leaders of the SAD and Punjab unit of the BJP, including party presidents Sukhbir Singh Badal and Vijay Sampla, were detained after their protest march towards the Vidhan Sabha turned violent on Tuesday afternoon.

90 protesting Akali, BJP leaders detained, let off

Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal being taken into custody during a protest in Chandigarh on Tuesday. Tribune Photo: Pradeep Tewari

editorial@tribune.com

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 20

Top leaders of the SAD and Punjab unit of the BJP, including party presidents Sukhbir Singh Badal and Vijay Sampla, were detained after their protest march towards the Vidhan Sabha turned violent on Tuesday afternoon. These leaders and their supporters braved water cannons and lathis as they tried to march towards the Assembly.

All Akali-BJP MLAs surrendered before the police after almost an hour of violent protest. In spite of the leaders exhorting workers at their rally to maintain discipline and not indulge in any violence, the protesters turned violent during the march, after which the police and Rapid Action Force (specially requisitioned from Jalandhar) stopped them from breaching the second line of defence set up in Sector 25 here. Turbans of senior leaders were tossed and many of them, including Gulzar Singh Ranike and Veer Singh Lopoke, were thrown off the barricades when water cannons were fired. As other protesters climbed on the barricades, they were physically pushed away and water cannons were fired at them. Some protesters hurled bricks at the policemen, following which the police resorted to lathi-charge.

As the police and RAF rained lathis on the protesters, the top leaders of the two parties offered to court arrest. As many as 90 persons were detained by the police and taken to the Sector 17 police station, from where they were let off.

The intelligence agencies claimed that almost 15,000 people had gathered at the ground. The coalition partners were protesting and making a bid to gherao the Vidhan Sabha on the first day of the Budget session against the alleged failure of the Congress government to honour its commitment of a complete loan waiver for farmers.

Earlier, while addressing the workers, Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal said Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh was scared of the wrath of the farmers as he had failed to keep the promises made to them. He said all social security pensions, besides the insurance scheme for farmers have been stopped and now efforts are on to start charging them for power consumed in the agricultural sector. “Eh CM taan kisse nu milda hi nahin,” he said, accusing Capt Amarinder of being inaccessible and succumbing to his coterie.

He also took a dig at Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal saying that he would have been in jail had he not tendered an apology to Bikram Majithia for levelling false charges against him. “The Chief Minister and Finance Minister keep crying about the state treasury being empty. Instead they should do something to rev up the revenues,” he said.

Former CM Parkash Singh Badal, who was present at the rally, asked the farmers not to repay their debt. “Capt Amarinder has given you affidavits saying he will waive your loans. Now, let him fulfil his promise,” he said. Vijay Sampla said the Congress government had exploited both the farmers as well as the Dalit community.

Cannon Blooper

The newly commissioned Varun water cannons missed their target. Instead of firing at the protesters, the inexperienced operator turned the hose towards cops, sending them scurrying for cover. Even the mounted cops and the mediapersons were forced to beat a hasty retreat.

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