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Amritsar train mishap: Situation tense as protesters clash with police, pelt stones

The police were able to clear a section of the railway track which was blocked by the agitators protesting against the accident.

Amritsar train mishap: Situation tense as protesters clash with police, pelt stones

Protesters clashed with security personnel and pelted them with stones on Sunday at Amritsar's train accident site in Joda Patak area after they were removed from the railway tracks, police officials said.

The police were able to clear a section of the railway track which was blocked by the agitators protesting against the accident that had claimed 59 lives and injured 57 during the Dusshera celebrations on Friday evening.

A Punjab police commando and a photojournalist were injured as the protesters, who were staging a sit-in at the site, started pelting stones and indulged in brick-batting, they said. Head Constable Amritpal Singh said, "They were pelting stones. He received injuries in his eyes.'' 

A large number of police officials pushed the protesters to another side of the tracks where the accident took place on Friday evening. The situation is tense at and around the site and a huge police deployment has been made to maintain law and order, they said.

The Punjab police have deployed its personnel, including commandoes, to manage the crowd. The Rapid Action Force is also present in the Joda Patak area, officials said.

The clash started minutes after the security forces removed the protesters, numbering in hundreds, from the track to clear it for traffic, the officials said. 

Local residents have been protesting at the site and blocking the railway track since Friday evening. Police are also making an announcement on loudspeakers asking people to remain inside their houses. 

The railway tracks were cleared off the protesters who were raising slogans against the state government and demanding resignation of Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu.

Local residents started the protest Saturday, raising slogans against the state government and demanding action against the train driver.

The district administration has said that out of 59 people who were mowed down by the speeding Jalandhar-Amritsar train Friday, 40 have been identified.

The locals had started protesting on Saturday, raising slogans against the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government and demanding action against the train's driver, a day after the unfortunate incident here.

The Punjab government had on Saturday ordered a magisterial probe into the accident, while railways have ruled out any inquiry on its part. 

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said that a magisterial inquiry into the train accident will be conducted and the report will be submitted in four weeks. "We are announcing a magisterial probe into the incident," Singh told reporters.

The Railways, while ruling out an inquiry into the mishap, has said it was not informed by the organisers or the local administration that a Dussehra event was being organised close to railway tracks. 

Railway officials said no permission was sought from them either and ruled out an inquiry by the department into what they said was the worst accident due to 'trespass' on railway tracks.

The Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) will not probe the Amritsar tragedy, Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani said while maintaining that it was not a railway accident but a case of ''trespassing'' on rail tracks.

The Commission of Railway Safety works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and conducts a mandatory inquiry into all railway accidents - at unmanned level crossings, derailments or after a bridge collapse.

The railways has maintained that it was not at fault because it had no information about the Dussehra event. Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha ruled out any punitive action by his department.

Meanwhile, opposition parties in Punjab, including BJP, AAP and SAD have called for stringent against those responsible for the event and dismissal of Sidhu from the state government. SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal has said that an independent agency should conduct an inquiry into Amritsar train tragedy that claimed lives of 59 people.

He further attacked Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh-led Punjab government for taking the incident “lightly”. 

The SAD leader also asked the Chief Minister to take action against those responsible for the accident.

Badal also demanded compensation of Rs 1 crore per person and government jobs for the families of those killed in the tragic train accident.

Badal demanded immediate dismissal of Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu from the cabinet beside registration of a fresh FIR against his family based on statements of the victims.

He alleged that Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur was solely answerable for the accident as she was the chief guest at the Dussehra function and responsible for holding such a big event sans security and safety measures.

The former deputy chief minister also demanded action against organisers of the function, saying they were responsible for making the people stand on the railway track.

The unfortunate accident took place in Choura Bazar near Jhoda Phatak area of Amritsar after a train ran over the crowd, standing along train tracks, to watch an effigy of Ravan being burnt.