Article 370: Protesters in Chandigarh raise their voice but police foil the agitation

Members of PSU (Lalkaar) detained near Dusshera Ground in Phase 8, Mohali, during the protest on Sunday. (Express photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

Dharabi fauj pa Janjeer, Jabri Dabya Hai Kashmir (Invaders occupied Kashmir with force). This was the slogan raised repeatedly by a group of Punjab Student Union s (Lalkar) members here on Sunday during the protest against the scrapping of Articles 370 and 35-A in Jammu and Kashmir. The group managed to sneak into the city which was turned into a fortress to foil the protest planned by the farmer, employee and student bodies.

The protesters could not reach the city as all the entry points were blocked by the district police on Saturday night. However, a group of PU students and some employee unions managed to enter the city. The PU students held a protest briefly in Phase VIII near Gurdwara Amb Sahib while some members of the employee unions held the protest inside the railway station under the banner of Solidarity Committee for Kashmiri National Struggle .

The group of the protesting students was detained by the police and taken out of the district. Similarly, the members of the employee unions too were detained and they were taken out of the district in buses which were arranged by the police.

The students raised the slogans against the union government terming it fascist and demanded immediate restoration of communication and health services in Kashmir. The protesting group of the students also raised slogans against the Narendra Modi government.

The student leader, Amandeep Kaur, led the protest. She was detained by the police along with other students. Democracy is in danger today. We need to speak for those who can t, she said.

The students managed to reach Gurdwara Amb Sahib which was the designated place where the protesters had to gather and then march towards Chandigarh. Manav, who works with the Naujawan Bharat Sabha and was part of the protest, said, A committee was formed recently consisting of 11 organisations such as farmer bodies, employee organisation, PSU Lalkar and Naujawan Bharat Sabha. We were part of the protest because Article 370 was removed without discussion. We also demand right to self-determination for Kashmiri people.

Aman, a student of Urdu department, said, We were roughly 50 students. We believe it is our success as despite facing pressure not to protest, we still came out and protested. We initially wanted to gather in front of the library this morning. Chandigarh Police tried to detain us within the university too. Yesterday I got a call from Sector 11 police station. They were trying to convince me that students should not be part of the protest.

Heavy police force was deployed in Phase VIII which did not allow the students to carry out the protest for a long time and they were put into a bus and taken away. The police, however, did not register a case against any of the protesters.

The employee unions at the railway station raised slogans like Asi Khade Kashmirian Naal, 370 Karo Bahal (We are with Kashmiris, reinstate Article 370) .

People are without medicines. They are deprived of health facilities. Families cannot meet. Children are dying and here in Punjab the government too is crushing the voices which are demanding justice, said Ashwini Kumar, member of an employee union who was part of the protest at the railway station.

Jagdesh Singh, another protester, said that their unions would again plan a massive protest in the state in the coming days. We must raise the voice. It is only Punjab where the protest was held. Our organisations will again plan and carry out the protest, he added.

The organisers, however, alleged that the district police used force to foil the protest by detaining the members of the unions and conducting raids at their residences.

Jhanda Singh Jethuke, senior vice-president of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ughrahan), the main farmers body to organise the protest, said that they tried to put up a tent in Phase VIII on Saturday evening but the police did not allow them to and also detained the owner of the catering facility who gave the tent to them.

We were told not to hold any protest. Our people were detained at all the entry points of the district. It was highhandedness, Jethuke alleged.

Mohali Senior Superintendent of Police Kuldeep Singh Chahal said that they could not allow anyone to organise the rally after it was cancelled by the Deputy Commissioner. Some protesters reached the railway station but they were taken away.

There was no untoward incident. The detainees were released later in the evening, SSP Chahal said.

City turned into fortress

The city was turned into a fortress on Saturday night after Deputy Commissioner Girish Dayalan cancelled the permission for holding the rally. As many as 2,000 police personnel were deputed in the city along with teams of Rapid Action Force. Police barricaded the entire Dussehra Ground in Phase VIII which was the meeting point of the protesters before marching towards Chandigarh. It was the first time the barricades were put around the ground to thwart a protest.

All entry points sealed in district

The district police sealed all the entry points of the district. Police were deputed at Kurali, Mullanpur, Derabassi, Zirakpur and on Chunni border to stop the protesters from entering the city.