A day after two Sikhs were killed in police firing at Behbal Kalan village in Faridkot during protests against the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib, members of the community, mostly youths, took to the streets following a call for bandh given by various Sikh groups on Thursday.
The entire Malwa region — Bathinda, Faridkot, Muktsar, Mansa, Mullanpur, Jagraon, Moga and Jaiton — witnessed a complete shutdown. All national highways and link roads leading to these districts were blocked.
Kotkapura, a small town in Faridkot where clashes between protesters and police were witnessed Wednesday, remained inaccessible for the second consecutive day today. Protesters sat in groups every few kilometres and raised slogans of “Jo Bole So Nihaal.”
On the Ludhiana-Ferozepur National Highway, protesters sat on roads preventing vehicles from passing through. A water tank and a tea langar sewa were put up at every stop. From Jagraon to Ajitwal, youths in orange turbans and carrying swords told vehicles to either go back or take a different route.
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“Police cannot touch us, they have no guts because they know they have committed a sin. Our two brothers have been martyred. Now it is awakening time for youths of Punjab,” said Simarjeet at Jagraon Chowk.
“With folded hands, we are asking people to move back. If they resist, the second option, you can see, is in my hands,” said Amarjit Singh (18), as he sat at Ajitwal chowk.
At the Bugghipura chowk, a little before Moga, Sikhs rush to a vehicle and ask people sitting inside if they wanted roti and dal. “Langar chakk lavo (please have langar), you must be hungry. But you cannot go further till the police arrest those responsible for tearing our Holy Book,” sid Mohinder, 45, also distributing langar to policemen.
The policemen did not make any effort to clear the roads. “We have no orders to take action against any protesters,” one of them told The Indian Express.
As vehicles entered Moga-Kotakapura highway through diversions, another group of protesters stopped them. The driver said they needed to reach Faridkot as a family member was unwell. “Go through the villages but you will face protesters there as well. It is better you go back today,” said an elderly man who tried to persuade the protesters to let the family pass.
Behbal Kalan village, too, where two persons died in police firing, was inaccessible through roads.
Meanwhile, SSP, Faridkot, Sukhminder Singh Mann claimed normalcy was restored.
“We tried clearing the roads so that commuters were not harassed. Routes were diverted through the villages. It was completely peaceful and no violence was witnessed,” he said.