JALANDHAR: Agitators taking to the streets to register their protests will be forced to think twice before letting their anger spill into the open. In a pathbreaking decision that is likely to change the course of protestations in a state often left paralyzed with traffic blockades, Punjab police invoked Section 8 B of National Highways Act, 1956 – a stringent, non-bailable provision – in a recent case. This, according to officials, is the first time as far as they remember that the statute has been slapped against protesters, who earlier used to be booked under mild clauses of law.
The development came around when Sri Guru Ravidass Dharam Yudh Morcha activists took out a procession in Kartarpur on September 1 to demand the arrest of SAD councillor Balbir Singh Bittu, booked for allegedly killing Dalit youth Vijay Kumar in Dhilwan village during post-Vienna violence. While Bittu said he fired because a mob had attacked his house, angry agitators claimed the act was unprovoked.
“Morcha convener Satish Bharti, eight identified people and a horde of others have been booked under the said section that can lead to a sentence of up to five years in prison along with fine,” said SSP RK Jaiswal, adding, “such a case is non-bailable and in future, too, police will act tough against any group resorting to blocking of NHs. Other sections said to be added to the FIR were 160, 189 and 283 of IPC.
Meanwhile, a delegation of Morcha leaders reportedly met DGP PS Gill to press for the arrest of Bittu and also protest the registration of a case against agitators. “We also met Punjab State Human Rights Commission and state SC/ST Commission to highlight the Dhilwan case. Police registered a false case against us as the procession only passed through GT Road and it did not block traffic on NH,” said Bharti, adding, “even as supporters of Bittu had blocked NH for an hour on August 7, police did not book them.”
To buttress the charge brought upon agitators, Kartarpur SHO Surinder Pal said, “We have videographic evidence to prove that a dharna had blocked traffic in Kartarpur despite police warning against it.”
IP Singh, TNN 6 September 2009,