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Normalcy returning to violence-hit Punjab

Candle march in Amritsar

Chandigarh : Punjab was today limping back to normalcy with paramilitary forces keeping a tight vigil in areas rattled by violence over desecration of the holy book even as the state government cleared the decks to charge sheet former Faridkot SSP for alleged negligence and police firing on Sikh activists.

The Sikh protesters have now shifted their dharnas and blockades to inner roads with most of the national highways criss-crossing the state witnessing normal traffic movement, officials said.

However, at Panjgrain village in Faridkot from where the two alleged prime accused in Bargari village incident belong protests continued as locals alleged that the brothers were innocent.

Traffic movement on Harike Pattan bridge at Tarn Taran and Beas in Amritsar has been restored, police said.

Ten companies of paramilitary forces and Punjab police personnel are keeping a tight vigil in the wake of protests by Sikh organisations, including hardliners in parts of the state, including Tarn Taran, Amritsar, Jalandhar and Fardikot, police said.

Initiating proceedings against former Faridkot Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Charanjit Sharma, the Punjab government has cleared the decks to charge sheet him for alleged negligence and police firing on Sikh activists, who had been protesting sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib at Bargari in Faridkot district, official sources said.

Sharma, who was SSP Faridkot when the holy book was first reported stolen from a gurdwara there, is facing suspension for lapses in the line of duty.

Meanwhile, the hardliners among Sikh politicians and religious preachers feel that the two youths arrested by police in connection with the alleged act of sacrilege in Bargari village are innocent.

Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann said until the ‘bir’ (scriptures) stolen from Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village was recovered and subjected to forensic tests to confirm that the pages found in Bargari were from it, it was hard to believe the police theory.

“The police story has gaps,” Mann charged.  Hardliners alleged that all arrested accused were either baptised Sikhs or gurdwara priests and “none of whom could have done it”. They also demanded a CBI probe.

Residents of Panjgrain Khurd village are not ready to buy the police theory that Jaswinder Singh and Rupinder Singh, both brothers, were involved in the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib at Bargari village in Faridkot district and were getting instructions and funding from handlers abroad.

“The family is involved in community welfares. They help the sick, hold turban tying competitions and motivate village children and others to get baptised. We still do not believe that they are involved in the desecration incident,” said Kuldeep Singh, a resident of the village.

“The family has a clean past. We stand by them and hope they will come clean. It is unfortunate if they are really involved in the sacrilege incident,” said village sarpanch Baldev Singh.

Meanwhile, at many villages in Punjab posters have come up seeking ban on entry of Akali leaders in their villages following the incidents of sacrilege.

In view of the incidents of desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib at various places, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has asked all district presidents to organise ‘akhand path’ (recitation of hymns) in their areas.

Punjab is under turmoil after series of desecration of ‘birs’ at seven Sikh shrines across the state and killing of two youths in police firing at Behbal Kalan in Faridkot district of the state.

Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have been demanding imposition of President’s Rule in the state even as ADGP I P S Sahota said “investigations are under process.”

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