New Delhi, India — Police arrested and jailed at least 600 Sikhs in a bid to prevent boycott of elections set for Sept. 25 in the northern state of Punjab, officials said Friday.
In New Delhi, a Sikh jailed in connection with the murder of a politician committed suicide in his cell by swallowing poison, authorities said. The suspect, identified as Raghuvir Singh, 25, was arrested with four other Sikhs for “acting suspiciously,” Delhi Deputy Police Commissioner U.K. Katna said.
A motor scooter recovered during the arrest of the five suspects was being examined to determine whether it was the one used by three gunmen to escape after the assassination of Delhi City Councilman Arjun Das last Wednesday.
Das, a friend of Prime Minister Kajiv Gandhi’s family, was killed with his bodyguard in a hail of automatic gunfire at his New Delhi office. Witnesses to the killing have identified the mysterious Lal Singh as the triggerman in the attack.
Lal Singh, who received two weeks of training at a weapons school in Alabama, is being sought by the FBI for allegedly plotting to assassinate Gandhi during his visit to the United States in June.
Police in Punjab said at least 600 Sikhs had been arrested in the northern state and they expect the number to rise. Sikhs waging a campaign for the independence of Punjab state have decided to boycott Sept. 25 elections.
An official spokesman said those Sikhs arrested Friday were “antisocial elements” who might disrupt campaigning for the Sept. 25 elections, which will return the state to local rule after two years of central government control. He said police did not target. Any particular group or party.
However, a Punjab newspaper, the Tribune, quoted official sources as saying those detained included members of the radical Sikh political party, the United Akali Dal, and the once banned All India Sikh Students Federation.
Despite a string of murders, Gandhi has pushed ahead with the elections. Those opposed to elections are believed to have killed at least five people and injured nine in the last three days as part of their campaign to disrupt the elections.
Sikhs, a religious minority on the largely Hindu Indian subcontinent, form a narrow majority in Punjab. The state is India’s richest and the only one in the nation where Sikhs are a majority.
Article extracted from this publication >> September 13, 1985