CANDIGARH, India, Jan. 4, Reuter: A senior Punjab political fiercely critical of violence sweeping his native state was shot and killed on Monday, capping a bloody start to 1988. Police said Jagat Ram, a former State Minister and senior figure in Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress (I) Party, was shot outside his home by two gunmen. A friend with him was also hit and died on the spot.

The attack happened at Phagwara in the Centre of the Punjab where Sikh militants are fighting for an independent Sikh homeland More than 18 people have been killed since the tum of the year.

Jagat Ram lost his seat in the Punjab Assembly in 1984, but the 60yearold remained a popular leader of Punjab’s Harijans or untouchables and was opposed to violence.

In other killings in the State, three members of one family were shot on Sunday night while they slept in their farmhouse about 20 km (12 miles) south of Amritsar.

Two policemen were among another eight people who died ‘over the weekend and the bodies of two freedom fighters were found last Friday outside Sikhdom’s holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Police said gunmen shot dead three people in Beas village on Friday.

The year began as it ended when nine members of one family were massacred on New Year’s Eve in their home near Amritsar.

Police in the Punjab capital Chandigarh said their deaths took the overall toll during 1987 to more than 1,230, almost twice as many as the 640 killings they recorded in 1986.

Article extracted from this publication >> January 8, 1988