AMRITSAR, INDIA, JUNE 7, REUTER — Hundreds of protesters chanting from the Sikh holy scriptures prevented the Indian government starting demolition work on Tuesday for a security zone around the Golden Temple, +he Sikh faith’s holiest shrine.

Demonstrators demanding new housing before moving out of buildings scheduled for demolition forced the government to call an indefinite halt to a project aimed at preventing Sikhs from using the temple for political puree

Saab Singh, administrator of the northern city of Amritsar in Punjar state, promised the crowd arrangements could be made for alternative housing.

“Until we make such arrangements, we will not do any demolition.” he said.

The government had been in a hurry to start on the security zone, officially known as the “Golden Temple area beautification plan,” three weeks after the end of a 10day siege of Sikh militants barricaded inside the temple complex.

In a first phase of the operation, the government aims to clear all but historical buildings within 30 meters (100 feet) of the Temple perimeter in six months.

It moved quickly after the end of the siege on May 18, determined to Keep the complex out of bounds for the militants waging a campaign for an independent homeland they call Khalistan (land of the pure).

For people due to be moved out of their homes, however, the government offer of temporary accommodations or rent money until permanent housing became available was not enough.

Well before the scheduled start of the demolition, several hundred people gathered at the site waving black flags. There were a few minor scuffles with (SAN AAS SRST

A meeting with a senior Pun Jab government official failed tc end the protest and the crowd swelled to about 1,000, police said.

The protesters stood between bulldozers and the houses they were due to demolish, holding the Sikh holy scriptures from which they chanted.

Police, having failed to persuade the demonstrators to disperse, kept watch but took no action.

Article extracted from this publication >> June 10, 1988