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Akhilesh safety pledge to Akalis

Lucknow, July 28: Akhilesh Yadav today told an Akali Dal team from Punjab his government would ensure the safety of Sikhs in riot-hit Saharanpur and punish any police officer who failed to take steps to prevent the violence.

Communal clashes in Saharanpur left three dead and 27 injured on Saturday after some people began construction on a disputed plot near a gurdwara over which two communities had laid claim.

Sources said the Uttar Pradesh chief minister told the three-member Akali team he would take “personal initiative” to find out why the administration had failed to act to ease the tensions arising from the months-old dispute.

He is believed to have ruled out any recurrence of the clashes and assured “full protection to members of the Sikh community in Saharanpur”.

Punjab Assembly speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal, MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and former Union minister Balwant Singh Ramuwalia met Akhilesh at his residence for over an hour.

The visit followed Sikh protests in Jammu yesterday against the Saharanpur violence. The Akali leaders were smiling when they stepped out of the meeting but did not speak to the media.

Sources said Atwal told Akhilesh about a recent court on the land dispute, accusing the police and district administration of failing to enable it to be implemented peacefully.

“The chief minister has assured the Punjab Speaker that no offender involved in the Saharanpur riots will go scot-free,” said a media release from Akhilesh’s office, promising relief and compensation for the riot victims.

“He also told him the Uttar Pradesh government would respect the court order on the disputed land in Saharanpur and act accordingly.”

Curfew was relaxed for four hours in Saharanpur today, leading to brisk shopping under tight security a day ahead of Id.

Additional director-general of police (law and order) Mukul Goel said 38 people had been arrested and would be charged under the National Security Act, which makes early bail difficult.