AMRITSAR, Punjab, India: Security forces in Punjab have stepped up their campaign against the Sikhs and killed more than 21 Sikh young men in what is called “indiscriminate __killing” during the last three days. Security forces, the political sources say, have resorted to the ruthless course of killings to give the impression that they have again gained upper hand over the freedom fighters. It is also aimed at restoring the sagging morale of the police and the administration. The killings are being projected as “pitched encounters”. According to the police version six freedom fighters were killed on Monday in a “gun battle” with the police.

Police said 150 policemen were thrown into the midafternoon battle near a village 30 km South West of the Sikh Holy City of Amritsar.

A spokesman said at least 400 shots were fired as police surrounded the freedom fighters in open. Ground close to a farmhouse in the afternoon.

Among the dead were two area commanders of the Bhindranwale Tiger Force of Khalistan, one of several Sikh groups fighting for a separate Sikh homeland in the north Indian State.

It was the second major “encounter” between police and the freedom fighters in three days and coincided with a shakeup of police in the state.

Forty four senior administrators and policemen were transferred to new jobs and new police districts created in what Punjab Governor S.S. Ray described as a new attempt to “meet the challenge of terrorism in the State”.

On Saturday 10 people were killed when police attacked Sikh militants at a farmhouse near Amritsar.

Police said five other men were killed on Sunday night as they tried to cross the border with Pakistan, while unknown gunmen killed a doctor and a villager in separate incidents.

The latest deaths take the death toll in Punjab violence this month to about 130 and for the year to more than 660.

Article extracted from this publication >> April 22, 1988