A DAY after a clash between protesting Valmiki groups and shopkeepers of Fazilka, Valimki leaders warned shopkeepers of dire consequences if any FIR by name was lodged against their members. The Beopar Mandal, meanwhile, stated that shopkeepers cannot be on the receiving end always and that justice must prevail this time. The Mandal also accused the police of looking the other way as the protest turned violent.
On Saturday, Fazilka Beopar Mandal had alleged that Valimiki groups had forced shopkeepers of Nauhria bazar to close their shops and even damaged shop of one Prem Kumar. In their police complaint, it has been alleged that one shop was even looted by protesters and later when members reached SSP office to complain, stone pelting was done on Beopar Mandal members by Valimiki groups in which one Sunil Pranami was injured.
Reacting to the allegation, Ashok Nagvanshi, president of Bhartiya Valmiki Samaj, said, “We had asked shopkeepers to close shops and had already conveyed this to Beopar Mandal president Ashok Gulbhadar. Despite that few shops were open and when we went there to get them closed, one shopkeeper used a caste slur against our members. Also, they started stone pelting on us first and later our members retaliated.”
He added: “If any FIR will be lodged against us by name, we will again give Punjab Bandh call and that will be indefinite. Shopkeepers as well as police will be responsible for the consequences.”
Ashok Gulbhadar hit back saying,”This is highly unjustified that every now and then, shopkeepers are told to close shops. Everyone can see the video footage when protestors came to get shops closed forcibly and their members were hurling abuses. They were manhandling shopkeepers and even they attacked us with stones and that too outside SSP office. Everything happened in front of police, which shows police and political patronage to these groups. If they can dare to do stone pelting outside SSP office, what else one can expect from them.”
About Nagvanshi’s claim that he had intimated talks with Gulbhadar about proposed bandh a day before, Gulbadhar said,”No one spoke to me. In fact, we got information that bandh call has been withdrawn.”
Fazilka SSP Bhupinder Singh said, “We have not lodged any FIR as yet and are verifying the complaint of Beopar Mandal. So far, we have not got any complaint from Valmiki groups’ side, so I am not aware of any of their allegations. We are checking the video footage so as to identify the culprits.”
Beopar Mandal, meanwhile, has asked police to take action against culprits by Tuesday or they will decide on their next course of action.