Violent protests in India’s Punjab

Sikh protesters run away from police as they tried to enforce a shutdown of a market area in Amritsar on Monday.

Sikh protesters run away from police as they tried to enforce a shutdown of a market area in Amritsar on Monday.

The top official in the north Indian state of Punjab convened an emergency meeting on Tuesday to try to defuse days of violent protests set off by the desecration of a Sikh holy book.

Hundreds of Sikh protesters again blocked the state’s main roads and highways on Tuesday, demanding action be taken against whoever tore 20 pages from a copy of the book, the Guru Granth Sahib, at a Sikh temple.

Police have arrested three people in connection with the desecration and said investigations were continuing.

Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal told reporters that “certain forces” were out to sow trouble but declined to provide details.

“Certain forces are behind all this. Some agencies are responsible for what is happening. They want to disturb the peace in the state,” said Badal, after calling together the state’s top leaders to look for a way to calm the situation.

The state administration deployed paramilitary soldiers in four districts to maintain calm. Police received another complaint of a Sikh holy book that was desecrated in Bathinda district of the state on Tuesday. Meanwhile, administrators of Sikh gurudwaras, or temples, have tightened security in the chambers where the holy texts are kept.

An opposition lawmaker resigned from the state assembly and three leaders resigned from the state’s ruling party, saying not enough was being done to investigate the Oct. 11 desecration.

Anger spiked after police fired into a crowd of protesters, killing two men.

Amar Singh Chahal, a top police official, said police opened fire after protesters had pelted the police with stones and set two police jeeps ablaze in Faridkot district. An investigation has been launched, he said. The opposition Congress party has demanded that the state government be placed under direct federal control.

“We have demanded that the Punjab state government be dismissed and President’s rule be imposed. They are no longer capable of ruling,” said Sunil Jakhar, leader of the Congress party in Punjab.

Punjab is one of India’s top agricultural states, and the highway blockades have stranded hundreds of trucks carrying fruit, vegetables, and other produce.

Religious tensions have been brewing in several northern Indian states over the enforcement of a ban on cow slaughter by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Hard-liners have been demanding a ban on beef sales. Most beef sold across India is buffalo meat.

A 50-year-old Muslim was beaten to death by a mob last month over rumors that his family had eaten beef for dinner. Last week, a village mob beat to death a Muslim accused of smuggling cows to be slaughtered for beef, and on Sunday, a 20-year-old Muslim trucker died after he was set ablaze over rumors that he had been transporting cows for slaughter.


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