Three protest marches banned, crackdown against Panthic bodies



Chandigarh: In a major crackdown against radical Sikhs and their organisations, Punjab police tonight detained several leaders and activists and banned three protest marches to be held tomorrow in support of Balwant Singh Rajoana, convict in the Beant Singh assassination case.

Punjab Police sources said tonight that those taken into custody include SAD (A) president Simranjit Singh Mann, SAD Panthic secretary general Harpal Singh Cheema, president SAD (Independent) Parmjit Saholi and president Youth Akali Dal (Delhi) Gurdip Gosha.

Among the others are former secretary general of SAD (A) Gurinder Pal Dhanola, chairman of Panthic Seva Lehar Baljit Singh Daduwal, president SAD (Panthic) Daljit Singh Bittu, president SAD (Delhi) Jaswinder Singh Balia and State General Secretary of SAD (A) Guru Savar Singh.

The total number of persons apprehended so far as a preventive measure was not yet known, the sources said adding that the detention of the leaders and activists of these organisations have been made under Sections 107/151 (apprehension of breach of peace).

The detentions were made from various districts, including Bathinda, Gurdaspur, Ludhiana and Amritsar.

The sources said that the state has also banned three protest marches which the radical Sikhs and various Panthic organisations were scheduled to take out from three different Takhts located at Anandpur Sahab (Takht Keshgarh Sahab), Takht Damdama Sahab (Talwandi Sabo, Muktsar) and Amritsar (Akal Takht) tomorrow.

The protest marches were to culminate outside the Central Jail at Patiala where Rajoana is lodged.

The preventive detentions in the state were continuing till late in the night, the sources said adding that police personnel in the state have been directed to keep a strict vigil on the supporters of the Panthic bodies to ensure that peace prevails in the state.

Normal life was disrupted in Punjab today due to the protest bandh called by various Sikh organisations to express solidarity with Rajoana whose hanging slated for March 31 was today stayed by the Centre in view of a mercy petition to President Pratibha Patil by SGPC.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had also met the President in New Delhi this evening seeking clemency for Rajoana.

The special CBI court had awarded death sentence to Rajoana and Jagtar Singh Hawara in the Beant Singh case on August 1, 2007.Three others -- Lakhwinder Singh, Gurmeet Singh and Shamsher Singh -- were sentenced to life imprisonment for hatching the conspiracy to kill Beant Singh.

The Chandigarh court had issued the death warrant to the Patiala jail authorities earlier this month, asking them to hang Rajoana on March 31.

Rajoana did not appeal against the judgment. The death penalty of Hawara, who filed an appeal against it, was commuted to life term.

On August 31, 1995 as Beant Singh stepped out of his office at the high-security Punjab civil secretariat in Chandigarh, a suicide bomber blew himself up, killing the then chief minister and 17 others. Rajoana was the second human bomb to be used in case Dilawar had failed in his mission.

PTI