Date: 26 May 2009


Indian demonstrators walk past the burning wreckage of a scooter at Jalandhar in Punjab yesterday. Two protesters were killed in India on Monday as mobs went on the rampage after a guru was shot dead in fighting between rival Sikh communities in Austria, police said. Photo: AFP


Two persons have been killed and many others injured on Monday as violence over the killing of a Sikh sect leader in Vienna spreads across Punjab and parts of Haryana.
One person was killed and four others were injured as Army jawans opened fire in Lambra village, 30km from Jalandhar. Another person was killed after the police opened fire on protesters at Jalandhar Cantonment railway station.

A mob set three bogies of the Kanyakumari-Jammu Tavi Express on fire as the train was passing through Phagwara in Punjab. Some vehicles, too, have been torched and roads blocked by protesters in Phagwara. Curfew has been imposed in Phagwara, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Hoshiarpur following the violence in the area. Paramilitary forces have been sent to Phagwara to control violence. Protesters also blocked traffic near Ambala and traffic on National Highway One has been disrupted.

All protests till now have been confined to the Doaba region of the Punjab where Dera Sachh Khand whose leader Sant Ram Nand was killed on Sunday night in a clash with a rival sect in Vienna, Austria. In Patiala, a large group of people took to the streets chanting slogans. Chandigarh is also on high alert with important roads leading to the city have been blocked.

The authorities have already called in six companies of paramilitary forces and eight columns of the Army to control the situation. Violence has also spilled out on national highways blocking roads to Nawanshahr, Hoshiarpur and at other places in the Doaba region. Buses have also been damaged in Amritsar while in Nakodar, thousands came out on streets and pelted stones on the police. Delhi-Lahore bus service has been stopped at Ludhiana as a precautionary measure in the wake of violence in Punjab.

The violence started when six people armed with knives and a hand gun attacked a preacher Sant Niranjan Dass of Dera Sachh Khand inside a gurudwara in Veinna. A dispute over the sermon is said to have triggered the attack. A sect leader, 56-year-old Sant Ram Nand, was killed and Sant Niranjan Dass along with 30 others was injured in the attack. Sant Ram Nand underwent emergency surgery but died during on Sunday night.

The six attackers have been arrested and are believed to be followers of another sect. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was deeply distressed by the outbreak of violence in Punjab. 

"I am deeply distressed by the outbreak of violence in Punjab following certain incidents in Vienna. Whatever the provocation, it is important to maintain peace and harmony among different sections of the people. In areas where curfew has been imposed, it is necessary that people go back to their homes and allow the security forces to restore law and order," the Prime Minister said.

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said the Union Government is in touch with the local authorities and keeping a close watch on the situation. "It is unfortunate that a gurudwara has been made the place to attack and counterattack. It is sad that Sant Ram Nand has lost his life. This is no place for violence and no excuse whatsoever for violation of a sacred place to serve narrow sectarian interests. We are in touch with local authorities," said Krishna.

Condemning the killing of Sant Ram Nand in Vienna, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash also appealed for calm and asked people not to be provoked by elements spreading unrest. "I appeal to the people of Punjab to maintain peace and order. I also request that all the shops be closed for a day. What has happened is bad," said Badal.

While the state government has called for an all-party meet to discuss the issue, the Shiromani Akali Dal has called for a day's silent protest.