New Delhi, India — Unknown assailants wielding submachine guns indiscriminately opened fire on shoppers Tuesday in a village in Punjab state, killing a shop owner and customer and wounding two other people, the Press Trust of India reported.
The domestic news agency said the attack took place in the village of Mundan in Punjab’s Amritsar district, about 230 miles northwest of New Delhi.
According to the Press Trust, two gunmen suddenly appeared in the main shopping area of the village shortly after 6 p.m. and started firing at random.
A middle-aged shopkeeper identified only by the last name of Hans raj died instantly in the barrage of gunfire. A customer, Shamlal, who was standing inside the store, died en route to a hospital, the Press Trust said.
Wounded in the attack were the shop owner’s son and another patron.
The news agency, quoting police reports, said the assailants “calmly walked out of the village after the incident.”
Police gave no motive for the attack, but said they suspected Sikhs who are fighting for homeland in Punjab, independent from Hindu dominated India. Victims apparently included both Hindus and Sikhs.
The attack came as violence plagued Punjab was preparing for state and national parliamentary elections scheduled for Sept. 25. The polls will be the first in the state since 1980 and end two years of federal rule.
Opposition leaders have implored Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to delay the elections, fearing Sikhs will use the polls to step up their struggle and unsettle a recent peace accord between the government and Sikh moderates.
Gandhi told Parliament the elections would be “the People’s answer to brute force.”
The renewed bloodshed in the state followed the Aug. 20 assassination of Harchand Singh Longowal, President of the Akali Dal.
The Akali Dal and the ruling Congress (I) Party are expected to run a close race for control of the 117seat state assembly in Punjab. More than 2,000 candidates have filed candidacy papers.
Article extracted from this publication >> September 6, 1985