THE MUCH-HYPED call given by the Indian National Lok Dal for digging the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) on Thursday resulted in over eight hours of traffic disruption on more than a 25-kilometre stretch of National Highway-1 from Ambala district in Haryana to Patiala district in Punjab. Apprehending law and order problems, police forces of both states had already diverted traffic to alternate routes. Traffic was restored on the highway late in the evening.
A call that INLD gave three months ago finally led to the arrest of over 90 of its leaders and their supporters, including the party’s senior leader, Abhay Chautala, and president Ashok Arora besides several MLAs. After a daylong protest, Punjab police arrested them on charges of violating district magistrate’s prohibitory orders issued under Section 144 CrPC.
Two INLD members of Parliament, Sirsa Lok Sabha MP Charanjit Singh Rori and Rajya Sabha MP Ram Prakash and at least 14 INLD MLAs and six former MLAs were among the 90 arrested. Punjab police issued repeated warnings to the protesters to leave the place, declaring their assembly as “unlawful”.
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Hundreds of protesters marched the two-km stretch from the new grain and vegetable market in Ambala to Shambhu barrier to enter Punjab. On their way, they were first stopped by Haryana police barricades. Without facing much resistance there, protesters continued the march to Shambhu barrier.
Armed with spades and shouting slogans for nearly two hours, the INLD protesters reached the border where Punjab police had made elaborate arrangements. Ten-foot-high iron barricades were welded together, creating a wall to bar protesters from crossing over from Haryana. Aerial surveillance, drones, riot-control vehicles and paramilitary forces were deployed at the police barricades on Punjab’s side to prevent intrusion. As the protesters reached Shambhu barrier. An ultimatum of 10 minutes was given to the protesters to either disperse or face stern action.
INLD leaders did not make any attempt to cross the barricade and Punjab police took them into custody.