New Deli, India — Police and paramilitary forces Sunday stepped up already heavy security in Punjab on the eve of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s election tour of the tense northern state.
Punjab governor Arjun Singh directed state law enforcement agencies to use “maximum force” against potential troubleshooters “caught in the act of violence itself,’ according a Press Trust of India report.
Singh said the government was not prepared to tolerate forces intent on subverting democracy by force of arms, the domestic news agency said.
Some 80,000 police and paramilitary troops have already been called up from the central government and neighboring states to provide security in the state during tour days of campaigning by the Prime Minister.
The first leg of the tour by helicopter begins Monday with Gandhi speaking to a meeting in Amritsar district, the center of the Sikh religion and the home of the Golden Temple.
Gandhi’s mother, the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, outraged Sikhs when she ordered troops into the temple to suppress a peaceful agitation in June 1984. More than 6,000 people, most of them Sikhs, were killed in the ensuing battle. On Oct. 31, two policemen killed her in revenge.
Rajiv Gandhi was scheduled to address two other meetings before flying back to the capital Monday night. Similar tours were slated for Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Gandhi’s Congress (I) Party and the moderate Sikh Akali Dal are the leading political parties in the race for 115 state assembly seats and 13 seats in the national Parliament.
The Press Trust quoted Barnala as saying that Punjab has been free of tension between the Sikh and Hindu communities during the campaign in spite of the efforts of some Congress politicians to undermine the agreement.
The agency also reported that Punjab police and paramilitary forces last week smashed a number of potential hideouts in the Amritsar, Kapurthala and Ferozepur districts of Punjab.
More than 800 people have been arrested for “preventive detention” during the election campaign. Most of the detainees are militant Sikh youths opposed to the elections and the government’s efforts to return the state to normalcy.
Sikhs demanding a separate Sikh state of Punjab, where they form 65 percent of the population.
Article extracted from this publication >> September 20, 1985