‘Desecration of holy book’: Protests rock Punjab, Sec 144 in Faridkothttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/sikh-protestors-clash-with-police-in-faridkot-82-injured/

‘Desecration of holy book’: Protests rock Punjab, Sec 144 in Faridkot

The Sikh protesters were sitting on a dharna since October 12 when few pages of a torn Guru Granth Sahib were found near a gurdwara.

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Police vehicles set on fire during clashes at Behbal Kalan in Faridkot Wednesday. Gurmeet Singh

Two people were killed and 82 injured Wednesday as protests over the alleged desecration of a copy of the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, turned violent and spread to several villages of Faridkot.

As police opened fire to disperse protesters at Behbal Kalan village, two men — Gurjit Singh and Krishan Singh — were killed.

Earlier, protesters torched three police vehicles, three Punjab Roadways buses and some private vehicles. Twelve police personnel were among those injured in the clashes.

Apart from dharnas in various villages — Behbal Kalan, Panjgrain, Bajakhana and Bargadi at Faridkot — protests were also held in Ferozepur, Sangrur, Muktsar, Malaut, Bathinda and Ludhiana.

While normalcy was restored in Faridkot town by the evening, the villages continued to remain tense. The district saw heavy police deployment with protesters refusing to back down till the culprits were nabbed.

Meanwhile, a Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by the DIG, Ferozepur range, A S Chahal, was formed to probe the alleged desecration of the Sikh holy book. According to sources, ADGP Law & Order, S Rohit Chaudhary, was camping in Faridkot to monitor the investigation. Still looking for a breakthrough, the police also announced a reward of Rs 2 lakh to anyone providing useful information in the case. The trouble began after torn pages from the Sikh holy book were found in Bargadi village on October 12.

Sikh protesters brandishing swords and rods had started gathering at the Kotakpura chowk since October 12, blocking all roads leading to Faridkot, Bathinda and Moga. On Tuesday, too, protesters who had spent night on dharna at the chowk were dispersed by force, but they returned, leading to Wednesday morning’s clash with the police. Later, the police booked 44 persons for rioting.

As police claimed that its personnel opened fire in self-defence, DIG A.S Chahal said a team led by SSP Moga, Charanjeet Sharma, was attacked with stones by protesters. “Not only this, one of them even used 12 bore pistol and fired at police team,” he added.

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Police booked 44 people for rioting. Of these, 28 were booked at Kotakpura city police station for the Kotakpura chowk incident while another 16 were booked at Kotakpura Sadar police station for Behbal Kalan incident. Section 144 has been imposed in the entire district.