Chandigarh/Phagwara: Members of two Hindu groups and a Dalit outfit clashed in Punjab's Phagwara district, injuring four persons, with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today appealing for peace and ordering suspension of mobile Internet and text services in four districts.
The groups clashed last night, on the eve of Dalit icon Dr B R Ambedkar's birth anniversary, over the installation of a board and renaming of a "chowk" (intersection) in Phagwara, police said.
The chief minister, who is personally monitoring the situation after the incident, has ordered suspension of mobile Internet services in Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and SBS Nagar districts to check rumour-mongering on social media, according to an official release.
The services were suspended with immediate effect for 24 hours, an order issued by Secretary, Home Affairs, Punjab, said.
"There is a likelihood of tension, annoyance, obstruction, injury to persons, danger to human life and property, disturbance of public peace and tranquillity in Punjab by miscreants, anti-national and anti-social elements in view of the rapidly deteriorating law and order situation in Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and SBS Nagar after the clash," it said.
"The order of suspension of mobile internet services (2G/3G/4G/CDMA), all SMS and all dongle services provided by mobile networks, except voice calls shall be in force for the next 24 hours with immediate effect," the order said.
The chief minister also directed the police to maintain tight vigil and crackdown on disruptive elements to ensure that the situation does not escalate, the release said.
He has also asked the police to thoroughly investigate the clash between some Dalit workers and "so-called Hindu organisations".
The clashes were between "Hindu workers (Shiv Sena Bal Thakeray and Hindu Suraksha Samiti) and Dalit workers (Ambedkar Sena) in Phagwara (Kapurthala district)", the order said.
Several vehicles were damaged during the clashes as members of both the groups threw stones at each other, police said.
The incident took place when members of a group allegedly installed a board carrying a picture of Ambedkar at Gol Chowk here on National Highway (NH)-1. They also tried to rename it Savidhan Chowk, they said.
However, members of another group objected to it and that led to a clash between them, police said.
The police said around 150 people, including 32 by name, were booked under relevant section of the IPC, including attempt to murder, and provisions of the Arms Act and National Highways Act.
Jimmy, the son of Inderjit Karwal, vice president Shiv Sena Bal Thackeray, were among those who were injured. Punjab Shiv Sena vice president Rajesh Palta was also allegedly thrashed by members of the opposite group, they said.
Some shots were also fired during the clash, police said.
The chief minister has announced that the state government would bear the entire expenses for the medical treatment of those injured in the clashes.
Amarinder has also directed the Ludhiana district administration to ensure the best treatment for Yashwant Kumar Bobby, reported to be seriously injured.
Tension prevailed in Phagwara following yesterday's clash as several shops and commercial establishments remained closed and around 1,500 security men took out a flag march this morning and evening to instill confidence in the public. The situation is being monitored by an IG rank officer.
Deputy Commissioner (DC), Kapurthala, Mohammad Tayyab and Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Sandeep Sharma were part of the flag march.
They also visited the Hanumangarhi and the Chak Hakeem Ravidas temples to meet the activists of the groups.
Members of one of the groups demanded transfer of the local sub-divisional magistrate and the superintendent of police.
Meanwhile, Rajya Sabha member and Punjab BJP chief Shwait Malik cancelled his Phagwara visit in view of the tension prevailing there.
Phagwara Municipal Corporation Mayor Arun Khosla had yesterday invited all party workers to the corporation hall today for a meeting.
The meeting was to be addressed by Malik during his maiden visit to Phagwara after his elevation to the post of state party president.
In the wake of the clash, authorities this afternoon diverted traffic, passing through the city's NH-1 stretch, to Phagwara bypass.
Traffic from Ludhiana was diverted via the Hargobindnagar locality and those coming from Jalandhar were diverted via the Mehtan and Sugarmill-Hoshiarpur road.
Urging people to exercise restraint, the chief minister sought their cooperation to maintain peace and communal harmony, and thwart the nefarious designs of anti-national and anti-social elements.