Amritsar — Police fired rifles to break up fighting between Hindus and Sikhs in one city in Sikh dominated Punjab state Friday and imposed a curfew in the state’s largest city.
The reports of fighting came as the Sikhs, a religious minority of 13 million among India’s Hindu dominated population of 730 million, ended their anniversary observance of the army assault on their Golden Temple in Amritsar with ritual bathing and prayers.
The Golden Temple is the Sikh’s holiest shrine. The army attacked the temple last year to suppress peaceful struggle launched by Sikhs to end injustice.
The government said almost 600 people died in the attack, but reliable sources have put the figure at more than 6,000.
The Central Reserve Police Force in Amritsar reported Hindu Sikh clashes, arson and looting early today in Hoshiarpur, a Hindu dominated city 57 miles east of Amritsar.
Police fired several rounds to break up the fights, the police said.
There was no report of casualties. Two people were wounded in gun battles Thursday night, prompting police to impose a 24hour curfew.
Hindus in Hoshiarpur have been protesting the slaying of a Hindu leader May 10, allegedly by Sikhs. They also have been demanding the release of an unspecified number of Hindus jailed for anti-Sikh riots and arson.
A Hindu leader has been fasting for 12 days to demand their release. Police tried to arrest him Thurs day night but a Hindu mob prevented it, the police control room said.
Most of the attacks in Hoshiarpur have been against Sikhs, who represent about 15 percent of the city’s population. The Sikhs have retaliated with knife and sword attacks on Hindus.
In Ludhiana, Punjab’s largest city located 66 miles southeast of Amritsar, a night curfew was ordered today to prevent violence between Hindus and Sikhs. Late last month fights broke out after a procession of Sikhs who shouted: “Sikhs will, rule India.”
Paramilitary soldiers were withdrawn from around the Golden Temple today following Thursday’s noisy but nonviolent antigovernment rally.
Several thousand paramilitary soldiers and armed police still were deployed throughout the city.
To guard against trouble during the anniversary celebrations, more than 100,000 armed security officers were deployed throughout Punjab state, where Sikhs form a comfortable majority being 65% off compared to Hindus.
“Long live Sikh rule,” shouted several thousand young Sikhs who arrived in Amritsar by the truckload from the Punjab countryside. They entered the temple for ritual bathing and prayers, but no meetings were held in the shrine today.
They wore long swords and daggers, traditional Sikh weapons, and chanted slogans in praise of Sikh preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who was slain.
Article extracted from this publication >> June 14, 1985