Mumbai Sikh protests continue, additional forces sent in (Third Lead)

June 21st, 2008 - 8:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, June 21 (IANS) The Mulund area of Mumbai continued to be on the boil Saturday as special forces were rushed in to quell protests by thousands of Sikhs over the killing of a community member by the bodyguards of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Ram Rahim Singh the previous day. Sikhs blocked railway tracks, damaged a station and observed a shutdown in parts of Mumbai, vowing to continue carry out protests until the culprits were brought to book.

The protesting Sikhs had called for a truce following Deputy Chief minister R.R. Patil’s announcement to convene a high-level meeting in the evening to resolve the issue.

Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has also appealed to the Sikh community to maintain calm and refrain from violence. He has announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs.200,000 to the family of the victim.

But following an altercation with the police, some Sikhs smashed vehicles and vandalised public property in Mulund in northeast Mumbai. The elite Rapid Action Force (RAF) was sent in to assist police to maintain peace.

“We have not called off the agitation. It will continue peacefully on Gandhian principles. We will wait for the state government’s decision this evening,” Charan Singh Sapra, a Sikh legislator of the Congress party from Mulund, told IANS.

“We have demanded that Dera chief Ram Rahim Singh and his men be booked by police. The Sikh community is shocked that despite the murderous attack on innocent youths, the Dera members managed to evade police action,” Sapra said.

Ram Rahim Singh was said to be present near the upmarket Nirmal Lifestyle Mall in Mulund in northeast Mumbai with his bodyguards and supporters when they clashed with members of the local Sikh community. Malkar Singh, a Sikh, died in the clash Friday night.

The Sikhs continued their protests overnight, with over 5,000 of them blocking trains for over two hours Saturday morning and staging a sit-in protest outside the Mulund police station.

The tension caused a virtual shutdown in Mulund and its neighbouring areas in north-east Mumbai Saturday. Local Sikh-managed educational institutions remained closed in protest against the incident.

The shutdown was also observed in Sikh majority pockets in Thane district, towns like Kalyan and Ulhasnagar, and reports of stray incidents of violence came in from different parts of the suburb.

Simultaneously, security was beefed up in Sikh-dominated localities of Mumbai, Thane, and Nanded suburb in north-east Maharashta.

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