Sikhs in Mumbai hold anti-Dera protests, halt trains

June 21st, 2008 - 2:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, June 21 (IANS) A large number of Sikhs blocked railway tracks here and a shutdown was observed in areas dominated by the community Saturday, a day after clashes between Suikh protesters and bodyguards of Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief left one person dead and two injured. Members of the community squatted on railway tracks near Mulund station and stopped suburban and long distance train services from 11.30 a.m., causing hardship to thousands of office-goers and college students.

A Central Railway spokesman said the agitators blocked all the four lines and damaged the Mulund railway station. He added that two suburban lines were later cleared with police help and the other two would be cleared soon.

Mulund and neighbouring suburbs of northeast Mumbai remained tense Saturday with a shutdown observed since morning. Groups of Sikhs were seen walking the streets, brandishing swords.

All schools and colleges run by the Sikh community remained closed and a shutdown was in place in Sikh majority areas in Thane district like Kalyan and Ulhasnagar.

On Friday night, one person was killed and at least two were injured when clashes erupted between Sikhs and members of the Dera Saccha Sauda sect at a mall in Mulund. A bodyguard of Dera chief Ram Rahim Singh opened fire during the clash at the upmarket Nirmal Lifestyle Mall and agitating Sikhs immediately took to the streets and blocked traffic.

The victim who was killed in the firing was identified as Malkar Singh, while two passers-by suffered injuries. The Dera chief was said to be present near the mall when the violent incident took place.

Stray incidents of violence and stone pelting were reported from different parts of Mulund Saturday morning but there were no reports of casualties, a police official told IANS.

After Friday night’s violence, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal called his Maharashtra counterpart Vilasrao Deshmukh and demanded that those responsible for the firing be arrested.

Moving swiftly, Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil ordered an inquiry into the incident.

Meanwhile, security has been beefed up in Sikh-dominated localities of Mumbai, Thane, and Nanded in northeast Maharashta.

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