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Flashpoint SYL: Punjab seals borders with Haryana ahead of INLD march today

Heavy police deployment in view of INLD call to workers to storm into Punjab and start digging work for the canal

Written by Navjeevan Gopal | Shambhu Barrier | Kapuri |
February 23, 2017 5:39:35 am
Satluj-Yamuna Link, Satluj-Yamuna Link canal. SYL canal, SYL, Punjab, INLD march, Punjab INLD march, Punjab government, punjab police, punjab news, india news At village Kapoori near Shambu Wednesday. (Source: Express photo by Harmeet Sodhi)

A day ahead of Indian National Lok Dal’s march towards Punjab to dig Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, the Punjab Police Wednesday fortified the two main entry points from Haryana, the Shambhu toll barrier and Sarala headworks.
Police personnel were deployed in large numbers at both the places and their presence was still building up at both the spots late evening.

While the Punjab Police were busy making arrangements to stop the entry of protesters from Haryana, matching effort from the Haryana Police was not visible. On the Haryana side of Shambhu toll barrier, no barricading work was in progress till the filing of this report and the number of police personnel there was much less compared to deployment on the Punjab side, where work to install CCTV cameras and welding of barricades was in full swing.

The Punjab Police will also use drones and a state government chopper has been kept at standby to take stock of the situation tomorrow.

Ambala Police Commissioner R C Mishra said, “We have deployed more than 1,000 police personnel on the expected route to be taken by INLD and its followers Thursday morning. Adequate arrangements are being made to avoid any inconvenience to commuters who use the route. Various checkposts at strategic locations have also been set up to maintain law and order situation.”

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The barricading by the Punjab Police is merely two kilometres from new fruits and vegetables mandi in Ambala where INLD would first organise “Jal Yudh Sammelan” before marching towards Punjab. Various INLD leaders led by Abhay Chautala will address the gathering on the spot before commencing their march.

As per a traffic diversion plan prepared by the Punjab Police, a stretch near the epicentre on the national highway which connects Delhi to Amritsar would remain closed to foil the march attempt of INLD leaders and activists. Patiala District Magistrate has already imposed Section 144 of CrPC in the district to deter any unlawful assembly.

From Shambhu toll plaza, if one enters from Punjab, Sarala headworks from where SYL canal enters Haryana is nearly 25 kilometres via Ghanour in Patiala district. It is near Sarala headworks where foundation stone for SYL canal was laid when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ceremonially declared the work open by digging a part of land in nearby Kapuri village.

Sarala, which is almost equidistant from another route from Ambala without having to cross Shambhu barrier, also saw massive deployment of police. In order to take their positions and ensure they remain in Punjab, police parties were seen seeking help from locals to identify the zig-zag Punjab-Haryana border criss-crossing between two parallel canals – the non-functional SYL stretch and the functional Naruana branch of Bhakhra Main Line canal which also enters Haryana and from which Haryana has bifurcated it at a place near Ismailpur connecting it to the SYL canal constructed on Haryana side.

“Crores of rupees were spent on the construction of SYL canal and I think it should be made operational. There is nothing wrong if Haryana is given water. But the matter should be sorted out by the Supreme Court. What INLD is doing is wrong. It is merely a political gimmick. The financial burden of making such huge arrangements for law and order would fall on common people only,” said a Kapuri village resident Baldev Raj.

“If a brother is hungry, the other should feed him,” said 70-year-old Vishwanath, another resident of same village who recollects inauguration by Indira Gandhi in 1982. Ask him about Punjab’s contention that it was already facing water shortage, he says, “Has anyone else ever said he is contended and has no more desires left.”

Jarnail Singh, resident of Sarala, said last time he saw such massive deployment was in 1982 when Indira Gandhi had come. “In fact, deployment was more at that time. Woman officials on duty had to eat onions from nearby fields due to long duty hours and scarcity of eatables.”

Meanwhile, Union Joint Secretary (Home Affairs) Dalip Kumar Wednesday held a meeting with the senior officials of Punjab and Haryana at Punjab Raj Bhawan in Chandigarh, which was attended by Chief Secretaries and DGPs of both states and other top officials. In the meeting, Haryana officials assured Kumar they won’t allow the protesters to take law into their hands.

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