As Badals pray, Punjab returns to normalcy (Roundup)

May 27th, 2009 - 10:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Jalandhar, May 27 (IANS) Punjab, reeling under violence since Sunday, returned to normalcy Wednesday, on a day Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son, Deputy Chief Minister and Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal prayed at the Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines.
Road and rail traffic in the state was back to normal with no violence being reported.

But security forces continued to keep a close watch on the central region, which was most affected by the violence triggered by the killing of a Sikh religious leader in a clash in a gurdwara in Vienna.

“The situation is getting better with every hour. No incident has been reported today,” Inspector General of Police (Jalandhar Range) Sanjiv Kalra told IANS.

“We plan to relax curfew in Jalandhar from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday). Only night curfew will continue,” Kalra added.

Badal and his son prayed at Harmandar Sahib, popularly known as Golden Temple, in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar, 90 km from here.

The chief minister told mediapersons later: “We prayed for peace in Punjab. The killing of sect leader Sant Rama Nand was very unfortunate.”

District authorities in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Phagwara and Malout (in Muktsar district of southwest Punjab) relaxed curfew for two to four hours in the morning and evening.

The state had witnessed widespread violence Sunday and Monday with followers of the Dera Sachh Khand sect damaging public and private property to protest the attack on their leaders in the Austrian capital Sunday.

While sect head Niranjan Dass was recovering in a Vienna hospital, his second-in-command Rama Nand Dass was killed in the attack.

Thousands of stranded railway passengers heaved a sigh of relief Wednesday as railway authorities restarted most trains passing through Punjab after two days of disruption.

“We began restarting train services through Punjab, especially from Jammu and Amritsar sides, Tuesday evening. Trains will also run from the Delhi-Ambala side today,” a railway official said here.

Nearly 15,000 passengers, most of them coming back from the Hindu shrine of Vaishno Devi in neighbouring Jammu and Kashmir, were severely affected due to disruption in train services.

Passengers coming from Pakistan on the Samjhauta Express ‘peace train’ were taken to New Delhi Wednesday after being stranded at Attari railway station, 30 km from Amritsar.

Railway authorities had Tuesday cancelled or terminated nearly 40 trains passing through Punjab.

Hundreds of goods trucks, which were also stranded due to the violence, started leaving for their destinations. Road traffic on most highways, including the strategic National Highway No. 1, which passes through Ludhiana and Jalandhar cities, was near normal.

But most people ventured out only to get essential items.

“Though things seem normal now, we don’t want to take chances. It is better to be safe than repent later,” said homemaker Vandana Sharma in Jalandhar.

Army, paramilitary and Punjab police personnel continued to patrol the areas worst affected by violence.

Three people were killed and dozens injured in the violence.

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