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Punjab holds emergency meeting to defuse Sikh violence

Courtesy : The Guardian 

Oct 20, 2015

An emergency meeting has been held in the north Indian state of Punjab following days of violent protests set off by the desecration of a Sikh holy book.

Hundreds of Sikh protesters again blocked the state’s main roads and highways on Tuesday to demanding action after 20 pages were torn from the Guru Granth Sahib at a Sikh temple.

Police have arrested three people and said investigations were continuing.

Punjab’s chief minister, Parkash Singh Badal, told reporters “certain forces” were out to cause trouble but did not say who.

“Certain forces are behind all this. Some agencies are responsible for what is happening. They want to disturb the peace in the state,” said Badal, after calling together the state’s top leaders to look for a way to calm the situation.

The state administration deployed paramilitary forces in four districts to maintain calm. Police received another complaint of a Sikh holy book that was desecrated in the state’s Bathinda district on Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, administrators of Sikh gurdwaras, or temples, have tightened security in the chambers where the holy texts are kept.

An opposition politician resigned from the state assembly and three leaders resigned from the state’s ruling party, saying not enough was being done to investigate the 11 October desecration.

Hackles were raised after police fired into a crowd of protesters, killing two men.

Amar Singh Chahal, a top police official, said officers opened fire after protesters had pelted the police with stones and set two police vehicles ablaze in Faridkot district. An investigation has been launched, he said.

The opposition Congress party called for the state government to be placed under direct federal control. “We have demanded that the Punjab state government be dismissed and president’s rule be imposed. They are no longer capable of ruling,” said Sunil Jakhar, leader of the Congress party in Punjab.

Punjab is one of India’s top agricultural states, and the highway blockades have stranded hundreds of lorries carrying fruit, vegetables and other produce.

Religious tensions have been brewing in several northern Indian states over the enforcement of a ban on the slaughter of cows by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party of the prime minister, Narendra Modi. Hardliners have been demanding a ban on all beef sales. Most beef sold across India is buffalo meat.

A 50-year-old Muslim was beaten to death last month over claims his family had eaten beef. Last week, a village mob beat to death a Muslim accused of smuggling cows to be slaughtered for beef, and on Sunday, a 20-year-old Muslim lorry driver died after he was set on fire over rumours he had been transporting cows for slaughter.

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