In a flip-flop, the Valmiki community enforced a day-long bandh Saturday against the telecast of a TV serial they say distorted “historical facts”, hours after they announced to withdraw the call for the stir after Punjab government suspended the telecast of the serial ‘Ram Siya Ke Luv-Kush’.
The bandh threw life out of gear in parts of state as markets remained largely shut while several incidents of violence, including a shopkeeper allegedly shooting at a protester, was reported.
The Valmiki Action Committee claims the serial – ‘Ram Siya Ke Luv Kush’, airing on Colors TV – contained derogatory remarks against the Bhagwan valmiki , presented him in poor light and distorted historical facts, thereby hurting their religious sentiment.
Group often gets wider support
This is not the first time the Valmiki community is up in arms against a perceived slight. At 38 per cent, Punjab has the highest concentration of Dalits in India, which explains the alacrity with which the Punjab government imposed a ban on the TV show. Although Valmikis form a small proportion of the community, their protests often garner support of other Dalits, including the majority Ravidasiyas, which makes them a formidable force that successive governments have been loath to upset.
The organisation has demanded the serial’s telecast be banned countrywide and its director and cast arrested for deliberately intending to outrage religious feelings.
Commercial establishments remained closed in Jalandhar, Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala, Phagwara and Ferozepur. At some of these places, they were forced shut, officials said here. Ludhiana was partially affected by the bandh. Medicine shops, clinics and ambulance services were allowed to run.
In Jalandhar’s Nakodar, a shopkeeper opened fire after some protesters tried to enforce the bandh. Police said, two youth entered in heated arguments with shopkeeper brothers Nirvail Singh and Kulwinder Singh, who own a shop of generators. As they refused to pull down the shutters, saying the bandh call has been withdrawn, the protesters started pelting stones at their shop following which Nirvail opened fire from his licenced revolver. He fired seven rounds, and one bullet hit a youth Gurpreet Singh (22) in his stomach. He was rushed to a private hospital where the bullet was removed and he is now out of danger, said SSP Jalandhar (Rural) Navjot Singh Mahal said, adding Nirvail and Kulwinder have been arrested. Later the protesters ransacked the shop.
The protesters also damaged several closed shops in Sabji Mandi near Jyoti Chowk. The vendors alleged that their mobiles phones and cash were snatched by protesters.
In Fazilka, a clash occurred between Balmiki protestors and shopkeepers in Nauhria Bazar. Ashok Gulbhadar, president of Fazilka Beopar Mandal said, “Protestors looted one shop and damaged several others. We went to SSP office to lodge a complaint. However, when we came out after meeting the SSP, protestors started pelting stones in which one shopkeeper. Late in the evening, we got an FIR lodged against unknown persons on charges of creating law and order problem and rioting”.
Gulbhadar warned that if culprits were not arrested soon they will launch an indefinite bandh from Wednesday onwards.
SDM Fazilka Subash Khatak assured to complete the inquiry in the case within two days and arrest the culprits.
All markets and some schools remained shut in Amritsar. A number of young men on motorcycles brandished swords, baseball bats and sticks to enforce the bandh. Police vehicles followed them.
Led by Action Committee chairman Kishan Lal Hero and president Dharamvir Sethi, protesters assembled at Valmiki temple on Banga road in Phagwara, marched through the city and converged before the statue of BR Ambedkar in Hargobindnagar area. They were joined by other Dalit and Muslim groups, led by Punjab Haj Committee member Gulam Sarvar Sabba.
In Ferozepur, protestors were seen roaming in the markets brandishing swords and rods. Sources in the police said that protesters clashed with some shopkeepers while getting their shops forcibly closed. Ferozepur SSP Vivek Soni, however, said that there were “few minor issues, which were handled at the spot”.
In Ludhiana, the Akhil Bhartiya Balmiki Dharam Samaj handed to the DC a memorandum addressed to the information and broadcasting minister. Vijay Danav, national president of Dharam Samaj said,”The Colors channel is distorting history and is presenting wrong. Already FIRs have been lodged at four places – Jalandhar, Amritsar, Delhi and Saharanpur – against the serial, but despite that it is still being aired the channel during prime time”.
He said that though the Punjab government has ordered to suspend telecast of serial in the state, “but the order is applicable only on cable TV connections”. He said the serial was being telecast on Dish TVs and the content was available online too. “Hence information and broadcasting minister needs to step in. We will be hold a meeting on Monday in Amritsar where we will decide our future course of action”.
Because of the protest, 10 trains in Ferozepur railway division were delayed.
Meanwhile, Badish Jindal, president of federation of small industrialists association, said the protests were not justified as it hurt the common man. “They should protest outside the channel’s office or the director’s house, rather than harassing public for no fault of theirs,” he added.
On Friday Subhash Sondhi, a leader of Valmiki Samaj, in the presence of the Jalandhar Deputy Commissioner Varinder Sharma, and Commissioner Gurpreet Singh Bhullar had issued a statement that they will not observe the bandh.
An order issued by the Punjab home department Friday said that in apprehension and possible “repercussion on public order, peace, and communal harmony, it would be appropriate if the screening of the serial is banned”.