Punjab shutdown over Sikh-Dera row hits rail, road traffic

July 23rd, 2008 - 4:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, July 23 (IANS) Rail and road traffic in Punjab was severely hit by a daylong state-wide shutdown called Wednesday by Sikh activists demanding the arrest of Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Officials said activists of various Sikh organisations - including Sant Samaj, Damdami Taksal, Buddha Dal and Guru Nanak Dal - blockaded railway tracks in Amritsar district.

The protesters disrupted rail services between Delhi and Punjab. The trains that were delayed included Delhi-Amritsar Intercity Express, Amritsar-Delhi Express, Amritsar-Pathankot Express, Abohar-Haridwar Express, Sachkhand Express, Jan Shatabdi Express and Amritsar-Saharsa Garib Rath Express.

Protesters also disrupted road traffic in Fatehgarh, Phagwara, Bathinda and Moga towns, officials said.

The Sikh activists are demanding the arrest of the Dera chief along with his bodyguard for allegedly killing three Sikhs - one in Mumbai, one in Dabwali (Haryana) and one in Sonam (Punjab).

Damdami Taksal spokesperson Baba Harnam Singh appealed to protesters to remain calm. However, many sword brandishing Sikhs were seen forcibly closing down shops in Bathinda.

In Mohali and Ropar, most shops and educational institutions remained closed. Few people were seen on the roads and only state transport buses were plying.

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