MALERKOTLA: A mob allegedly attacked the house of local Akali Dal MLA Farzana Nissara Khatoon while protesting alleged sacrilege of a religious book forcing police to open fire, police said today.
Six policemen including a DSP was injured as protesters who numbered around 300-400 indulged in stone pelting, torched a car and a room meant for security men outside the MLA's house. The legislator who was in the house was safe, DSP Randhir Singh said on the incident that occured in Malerkotla town in Sangrur district last night.
Farzana is the wife of former Punjab Police DGP Mohammad Izhar Alam. As tension prevailed in the area, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today urged the people to maintain peace and communal harmony while the opposition Congress and Aam Aadmi Party alleged it was a conspiracy to destabilise the state ahead of Assembly elections next year and demanded a judicial probe.
Congress leader Amarinder Singh claimed that the people wanted to meet the MLA in connection with the incident when her security personnel "fired indiscriminately" at them. The trouble started when some people allegedly found torn pages of a religious book near Jarag Chowk here. Protesting over the incident, a group of 300-400 people first blocked the Sangrur-Ludhiana highway.
"They damaged three vehicles of the MLA including setting a car on fire. Then they also burnt down the room meant for security men outside the house of the legislator," said the DSP. Police and security men of Khatoon fired in the air to disperse the crowd. The mob pelted stones at police personnel injuring to six policemen including a DSP, said police.
Heavy police force has been deployed in the wake of the incident. DIG (Patiala Range) B S Sidhu said, "Situation (in Malerkotla) is peaceful now." A case has been registered in this regard, police said, adding that no arrest has been made so far. DGP (Law and Order) Hardeep Singh Dhillon along with IG (Patiala Zone) Paramjit Singh Umra Nangal today visited the area and reviewed the situation.
Strongly condemning the incident, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today urged the people to remain calm and said that nobody would be allowed to disturb the hard earned peace and communal harmony in the state. He appealed the people in general and especially the Muslim brethren to maintain peace, amity and communal harmony at all cost. Expressing deep anguish over the incident, Badal said it was time to display the ethos of religious tolerance, unity and brotherhood.
He also warned the anti-social elements saying strict action will be taken against them. Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh expressed apprehension that the incident in Malerkotla was "conspiracy at the behest of the ruling party to disturb peace and destabilise Punjab" ahead of elections.
Amarinder said that there appeared to be a pattern in these incidents. In Fatehgarh Sahib, less than a year ago a holy book was desecrated leading to protests and firing on people in which two protesters were killed, he said. "Now again, the pages of a holy book were torn out in a clear act of provocation and when the people wanted to meet the local MLA, whose husband Izhar Alam is an ex-DGP, his security personnel fired indiscriminately at them injuring so many," he alleged.
Demanding a time-bound independent probe, the PCC president said an "atmosphere of instability and uncertainty" will suit the Chief Minister since he has realised that he had "lost the trust" of the people. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) termed the incident extremely unfortunate.
Sangrur MP and senior leader AAP, Bhagwant Mann while demanding a judicial probe into all such incidents which have occurred in recent times in Punjab, said those responsible for attempting to create a communal wedge between various communities by resorting to desecration must be brought to book. Mann said prior to Malerkotla incident, alleged desecration of holy book was also engineered by certain anti-social elements to divide and create communal divisions between Punjabis on caste and religious lines.
Mann said Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who also controls Punjab police, has "completely failed" in putting an end to such incidents of alleged sacrilege which have been occurring at regular intervals for the past many months.