INLD’s SYL-digging plan ends peacefully; activists detained on Punjab border (Third Lead)

Chandigarh, Feb 23 (IANS) Scores of INLD leaders and supporters were on Thursday detained by the Punjab Police at the inter-state Shambhu barrier, 10 km from Ambala in Haryana, as their plan to start digging for the controversial SYL canal ended peacefully.

Among those detained for violating orders prohibiting any gathering of five or more persons on Thursday evening were Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) Secretary General Abhay Chautala, state INLD President Ashok Arora, party legislators and several others.

Some protesters, carrying hand-held agricultural implements, carried out symbolic digging at the Shambhu barrier itself and completed the party plan. The INLD activists originally planned to visit Kapoori village in Patiala district, 18 km from Shambhu, to dig at an SYL canal site.

The INLD activists were not allowed to move through the barrier put up by the Punjab Police at Shambhu, which is the gateway to the state from Haryana in the area.

“We had warned the protesters that if they violate the law, they would be detained,” Patiala Range Deputy Inspector General of Police Ashish Chaudhary said.

The administration had invoked Section 144 of Code of Criminal Procedure and banned any assembly of five or more persons in the border belt of Patiala district.

Heavy security was put in place by authorities in Ambala district of Haryana and Patiala district of Punjab. The border in both districts was sealed by security forces.

“We wanted to hold our protest peacefully. Since the the Bharatiya Janata Party governments at the Centre and Haryana are not doing anything to bring river water through the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal, we had to stand up for the rights of Haryana’s people and launch this fight,” Chautala said as he was detained.

Hundreds of INLD activists earlier managed to go right up to the Shambhu barrier after breaking the barricades set up by the Haryana Police between Ambala city and the Punjab border.

Riding tractor-trolleys, minitrucks and other vehicles, the supporters of the INLD, the opposition party in Haryana, headed towards the Shambhu border.

INLD’s Haryana unit President Ashok Arora drove one of the tractor-trolleys carrying Abhay Chautala, who gave the call for digging the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal, a vital source of water and irrigation of farmlands in haryana

The entire stretch of National Highway No.1 between Ambala in Haryana and Rajpura in Punjab was sealed by security forces in both the states since morning in the wake of the INLD protest.

At the barrier, police personnel of both Punjab and Haryana and paramilitary forces remained on high alert to stop the INLD supporters from moving into Punjab.

Security forces donned anti-riot gear and were equipped with riot-control vehicles and other equipment.

Thousands of people, especially motorists, moving between the two states faced inconvenience on Thursday since the busy highway that links Delhi with Amritsar was sealed. Traffic was diverted via other routes, a Punjab Police officer said.

The NH-1 is taken daily by thousands of motorists to commute between Punjab and Delhi through Haryana and vice versa.

“I have already walked for three km to proceed to Ambala. I don’t know if we will get any transport ahead,” said Surjit Kaur, who works in Ambala and travels from her village near Rajpura town in Punjab.

Border areas in Ambala and Patiala districts, in Haryana and Punjab respectively, were on high alert.

“We had to travel from Karnal to Patiala for some important work. The 2-hour journey took us nearly five hours due to diversions on the NH-1. We had to go via Chandigarh and other places. Why should common people suffer over the politics of certain political parties?” angrily asked businessman Nakul Sharma.

The situation along the border was also monitored from the air by a Punjab government helicopter and several drones.

The INLD activists and leaders earlier gathered at the Subzi Mandi Ground in Ambala before moving towards Punjab.

Following a Presidential Reference, the Supreme Court on November 10, 2016, held as “unconstitutional” the passage of the Punjab Termination of Water Agreements Bill, 2004, by the Punjab assembly.

The legislation terminated all water-sharing agreements between Punjab and its neighbouring states, thereby jeopardising the construction of the SYL canal.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked both states to maintain law and order due to INLD march to “dig” the canal. The apex court also asked Punjab to honour its earlier orders on the construction of the river water channel.

–IANS

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