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Punjab burns over Vienna shootout
Published on 26 May. 2009 1:34 AM IST
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Two persons were killed and several were injured as police fired at two places in Punjab during six hours of widespread violence by tens of thousands of followers of a Sikh sect after their leader was slain in faraway Austria. Calm returned to the state only in the evening after the authorities summoned the military to assist the civilian administration as protestors indulged in widespread arson that saw the burning of an empty stationary train and three coaches as well as several private and public vehicles. The violence was serious enough for Prime Minister to make a special appeal to the people of Punjab to stay calm.Starting at around 9.30 a.m., mass protests and violence raged for some six hours in many parts of Punjab including Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Bathinda, Hoshiarpur, Patiala and Ferozepur and parts of nearby Haryana. The authorities halted the Delhi-Lahore bus carrying Indians and Pakistanis at Ludhiana as a safety precaution. The Delhi-Amritsar highway and several state highways were blocked by mobs armed with sticks, swords and bricks. The protestors included a large number of women, many armed with bamboos. They were protesting the murder of Sant Rama Nand, 57, the second-in-command of Dera Sach Khand, who died Monday in a hospital in Vienna of gunshot injuries sustained the previous evening when a man opened fire in a gurdwara in the Austrian capital. Austrian officials said the body of Sant Rama Nand would be flown to India at the earliest.Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, flanked by Deputy Chief Minister and Akali Dal president Sukhbir Badal who is also the home minister, said: "We all are very hurt with the developments but it is a religious issue and it is very difficult to control emotions. But at some places the protestors turned very violent." Protests also spread to Haryana where sect followers felled trees and blocked the Chandigarh-Delhi highway for some time at Ambala, 45 km from Chandigarh. "I am deeply distressed by the outbreak of violence in Punjab following certain incidents in Vienna. Whatever the provocation, it is important to maintain peace and harmony among different sections of the people," the prime minister said in New Delhi.

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