Police used water cannons to prevent workers of the Punjab Youth Congress from marching to the state assembly from the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee office in Sector 15 to hold a demonstration against drug smuggling and power cuts on Wednesday.
Police had put up barricades on the Madhya Marg to prevent Youth Congress workers from moving towards the assembly. Shouting anti-government slogans, the Youth Congress men tried to cross the barricades.
When some of them tried to physically remove the barricades, police turned on the water cannons. As it failed to disperse the demonstrators, police rounded them up, put them in waiting buses and took them to Sector 36 and 39 police stations.
Punjab Youth Congress president Vikramjit Singh Chaudhary criticised the police for stopping their peaceful protest. “We wanted to gherao the Punjab Vidhan Sabha to demand immediate suspension of minister Bikram Majithia who had been named by druglord Jagdish Bhola,” he said.
Besides, the frequent and unannounced power cuts contradict the tall claims made by Deputy Prime Minister Sukhbir Badal regarding Punjab being a power surplus state. “The helpless farmers are facing drought-like conditions,” he said.
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DSP Ashish Kapoor said, “We had told them that protests outside Vidhan Sabha were not allowed. They did not stop and started breaking the barricades. So, in the presence of the District Magistrate, water cannons were used by the police stop the protesters.” He said that 73 people were arrested as preventive measures, and later all were released on bail.
The diversion of traffic from the Madhya Marg because of the demonstration led to chaotic conditions on the roads inside Sectors 15 and 16. In the afternoon, around the time when schools close and students return home, traffic jams were seen on these roads.
A long line of school buses and auto-rickshaws occupied the road from Sector 16 to Sector 15 and on to Panjab University. Many people were stuck in the traffic coming from PGI on the road between Sector 15 and the university.
Sumedh Singh, a resident of Mohali said, “I had taken the underpass between Sector 15 and 11 thinking that it will save time, but I am stuck here for the last 15 minutes”.
Retired Professor J P Sharma called the police control room and complained about the traffic jam. He told Newsline, “If the traffic on Madhya Marg was blocked, some traffic policemen should have been deputed here when the officials knew that the entire traffic will pass through Sector 15.”