New Delhi, India — Unknown assailants shot and killed two people in Punjab as the Sikh dominated northern state braced for violence a month before elections that will end two years of federal rule, the Press Trust of India reported Monday.

The Punjab state government gave formal notice of the elections scheduled for Sept. 25, giving political parties one week to name their candidates.

Three unidentified men fired a dozen bullets from revolvers at two men riding a motor scooter near the Punjab village of Ratoke Sunday night, about 250 miles northwest of New Delhi, according to the news agency report.

The two men, Ashok Kumar and Sohan Lal, died on the spot, said the report, quoting District Police Chief Sudershan Lekhi.

A third person riding a bicycle was also fired upon but escaped injury. The gunmen, in their mid20s, stole the scooter, two watches and a gold ring, the news agency said.

It was not immediately clear why the victims would be chosen as targets of attack.

The shooting occurred as leaders of the Akali Dal, geared up for the polls with the appointment of a successor to their president, Harchand Singh Longowal, gunned down on Aug. 20. Surjit Singh Barnala, a former Cabinet minister and a staunch ally of Longowal, was named acting president. Under the Akali Dal constitution, Barnala’s appointment will have to be ratified by a general party assembly.

In a resolution, the meeting said it “fully supported and endorsed each word” of the pact signed last month between Longowal and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi aimed at ending a three-year battle for Sikh autonomy in Punjab.

However, the Statesman newspaper reported that the meeting failed to eliminate the factional differences in the Akali Dal that erupted after Longowal’s death.

Two senior leaders, former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and G.S. Tohra, head of the Sikhs’ Temple Authority, opposed Barnala’s appointment and rejected the pact, the newspaper reported.

Most opposition parties have condemned the polls, fearing fresh attacks in an effort to disrupt them. Thirteen national parliamentary seats and 117 state assembly seats are at stake in the elections.

In Punjab’s last elections in 1980, the Congress Party won a majority of the state assembly seats and all but one of the parliamentary seats. But the Akali Dal, in a coalition with the Janata Party, ruled the state for 2% years of the previous five-year term.

Sikhism was founded in the 16th century as a mystical, monotheistic alternative to Hinduism and Islam. The industrious Sikh peasantry has made Punjab the richest state in India.

Male Sikhs all take the surname Singh  which mean lion  as a symbol of courage.

Article extracted from this publication >>  August 30, 1985