The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Clampdown for SGPC polls

Chandigarh, Nov. 9: The Punjab government has clamped prohibitory orders throughout the state, banning the assembly of five or more persons, carrying of arms or moving in groups.

Chief minister Amarinder Singh’s decision is aimed at ensuring there is no violence during the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee polls in Amritsar on Tuesday. The SGPC is entrusted with the task of running gurdwaras and Sikh religious affairs.

“I will not tolerate any violence during the polls. All Akali factions are adopting threatening postures. I have ordered DGP M.S. Bhullar to take any action to ensure that the polls are free, fair and incident-free,” Amarinder said here this evening.

He said before taking the decision he had taken into account the daily threats made by SGPC president Kirpal Singh Badungar, All India Shiromani Akali Dal leader Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Parkash Singh Badal of violence during polling day.

“I will not allow any Akali party to gather its workers in Amritsar for the polls. Nobody with arms will be allowed into Amritsar city. I will also not allow Badal to travel with NSG commandos to the holy city. If he wants to come, we will provide him Punjab Police personnel,” Amarinder said.

The chief minister clarified that he had ordered the arrest of Akali workers before leaving for the Congress conclave at Mount Abu. “The police have arrested only the miscreants and trouble-makers. There have been only 630 arrests so far. No Akali legislator or senior leader has been arrested,” he said.

Orders have also been sent to the police to allow only the 176 eligible voters to enter the Teja Singh Samundari Hall to cast their votes. “Nobody else will be allowed. The police will not enter the Golden Temple complex but will wait on the road…. No Punjab Police personnel will check the antecedents of voters. Devotees will be allowed to enter the Golden Temple,” Amarinder said.

He rubbished allegations that the Congress government was “interfering” in the polls to help Tohra and former Speaker Ravi Inder Singh’s nominee to become president of the gurdwara body. “I don’t care if Tohra wins or Badal. All I want is a peaceful poll. Punjab has gone through terrible times and I don’t want any violence. I have seen how the polls are held. Swords are unsheathed and turbans go flying. There is a lot of bloodshed during polling day,” Amarinder said.

The chief minister said the NDA could send a team to assess law and order. “George Fernandes can send anyone here. I hope the home minister will support us in our endeavour to maintain peace in the state,” he added.

The government today continued with its crackdown, arresting over 100 Akali workers of the Badal faction. Akali leaders claimed they were pulled out from their homes, taken to police stations and charged under Sections 107 and 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Thousands of Akali workers have reportedly gone underground.

Badal today described the massive and unprecedented deployment of police and paramilitary forces in Amritsar and elsewhere as nothing short of Operation Blue Star in a new garb. Amarinder has exposed his reliance on repression as the sole instrument of governance, he said. “In the process, he has also taken his confrontation with Punjabis in general and Sikhs in particular to a pitch never reached before even during the days of Emergency.”

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