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Migrant workers’ protest turns violent,curfew in Ludhiana

Punjab government asks Centre for two companies of paramilitary forces...

Written by Amrita Chaudhry | Ludhiana |
December 5, 2009 4:14:45 am

Curfew was imposed in parts of Ludhiana Friday after protests by migrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihari turned violent.

Protests — against police’s alleged failure to act against a “motorcycle gang which has been methodically attacking and looting outsiders” for the past few months — began Thursday night after police shooed away the workers when they went to “report another incident of looting”. Infuriated,workers blocked Delhi-Ludhiana-Jalandhar highway and set a car on fire. But with police still “reluctant to act”,the protests turned violent after daybreak.

The protesters continued to block the highway,set ablaze ten more vehicles and threw stones at policemen,forcing them to run for cover.

Desperate to contain the rioting,police encouraged youth in Dhandari Kalan to combat the migrant protesters,most of whom live in Dhandhari Khurd village. As a result,what began as a clash between migrant labourers and police,quickly turned into a clash between Punjabi’s and migrants.

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Police claimed the locals came out on their own after protesters torched their vehicles but they did nothing to stop them. Instead the cops were seen encouraging the attackers,armed with swords,gandasas and baseball bats,and used them as shields to launch baton charges against the protesters.

When all efforts to contain the protests failed,the district administration imposed curfew in five worst affected parts — police divisions 6,7,Simla Puri,focal point and Sahnewal— of the city. Police also flag marched in Sahnewal and Kanganwal to discourage other migrant communities from joining the protests.

Police claimed fifteen of its men and officers were injured in the protests but there was no word on the number of injured protesters,though police were seen bundling and taking away the injured protestors in their vehicles.”I have no count of migrants injured but we have been able to control the situation for now. Rail traffic has been normalized and even the national highway cleared. We have to see that the law and order is maintained during the night too,” IG Sanjeev Kalra said.

Meanwhile,Punjab government has sought two companies of paramilitary forces from the Centre to help maintain calm in the city. “The Union Home Ministry has been requested to send two battalions of paramilitary forces for deployment in Ludhiana,” DGP P S Gill told reporters at a press conference in the evening. Sources in police said they were “pursuing the matter with the Union Home Ministry so that the forces arrive at the earliest”.

With PTI inputs

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