AMRITSAR, Punjab, India May 17, and Reuter: Sikh gunmen fighting for an independent homeland have launched a blitz of killings in the north Indian State of Punjab in retaliation for the siege of diehard allies in the Golden Temple, police said on Tuesday.

Police in Chandigarh, the state capital, said 44 people were killed in attacks over a wide area of Western Punjab on Monday as an estimated 70 freedom fighters remained barricaded in the Golden Temple, the Sikhs’ holiest shrine, spurning police calls to surrender.

Chandigarh police said the random killings on Monday produced the highest one day death total since the violence flared in 1982.

The victims included 18 people mown down in a hail of automatic gunfire at Samana, a town near Patiala.

Police intelligence sources told Reuters a wave of killings had been expected in retaliation for the Golden Temple siege which began on May 9.

But the scale of Monday’s violence had exceeded the worst police expectations, one source said.

In Mukerian Dr. Kewal Krishna, a senior Congress (I) leader and former Minister was seriously wounded when attacked his clinic. A child was killed in the hail of bullets.

The source said police feared the gunmen would carry their attacks to New Delhi, which they have done before,

Since the siege began with the wounding by militants of a senior police officer, more than 30 people have been killed at the Golden Temple.

On Sunday, about 150 people surrendered and most of them were charged with sedition and other crimes. But groups of freedom fighters still barricaded inside appear to be upholding their promise of death before surrender.

Paramilitary police have been making repeated attempts to get at gunmen fighting from two towers on the edge of the huge complex.

A third group of an estimated 30 men have taken refuge in the Harmandir Sahib, the most sacred part of the temple.

Police leading the 3,000 man besieging force say they do not want to enter the sacred inner precincts of the Temple Complex, which makes those in the Harmandir Sahib housing the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, safe from direct fire.

But police say they are determined to end the Golden Temple’s Role as a fortress for the freedom fighters waging a campaign for an independent Sikh state they call Khalistan —— Land of the Pure.

Police said they had succeeded in forcing the gunmen to leave positions high on the towers and take refuge in the basements.

Article extracted from this publication >> May 20, 1988