Sikh Gunmen Kill 13 Hindus in 3 Attacks : Soldiers on Alert in Punjab State; Curfews in 2 Cities

From Times Wire Services

Sikh extremists dressed as police sprayed automatic weapons fire at Hindus in the city of Ludhiana today, killing at least 13 people and wounding 18 others in three separate attacks, officials said.

Hours after the attacks, soldiers were placed on alert throughout Punjab, a Sikh-dominated state of 18 million people. The Punjab state government clamped a curfew on Ludhiana in hopes of preventing retaliatory violence.

K. R. Lakhanpal, the Ludhiana district’s top civilian official, said authorities rushed paramilitary reinforcements to the Hindu-dominated industrial city about 75 miles southeast of Amritsar.


Surjan Singh, a Ludhiana leader of the governing Akali Dal party of Sikh moderates, said the violence was an “attack on humanity, not only on any community. The killers must be dealt with severely.”

On Motorcycle and Scooter

Police said four to six gunmen, riding a yellow motorcycle--the color of police motorcycles--and a scooter opened fire with British Sten automatic guns at Hindu activists doing morning calisthenics at Ludhiana’s Daresi grounds, a public field often used for political meetings and rallies.

It was the first major attack on activists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps) organization, which preaches that Sikhism is part of the Hindu religion rather than a separate faith. The group claims a membership of more than 1 million.

The assailants kept firing as they fled, mowing down people on morning strolls, exercising or worshiping at a Hindu temple, killing and wounding several.

The gunmen continued pumping out rounds as they roared through a nearby vegetable market, across a bridge and down a series of roads before they disappeared, officials said.

It was not clear how many people were killed in each attack. Most of the casualties occurred at the Daresi grounds.


Curfew in Another City

Meanwhile, a curfew was placed on the city of Kapurthala, east of Amritsar, after police shot and wounded two people during a violent Hindu protest prompted by the Ludhiana slayings, police said.

And in Nakodar, at least one youth activist of the militant Hindu Shiv Sena organization was killed and two others were wounded when police fired on 1,000 rioting Hindus who defied a week-old curfew to stage a demonstration to protest the Ludhiana shootings, a police spokesman said.

Before authorities clamped a curfew on Ludhiana, Hindu residents angry at police for not chasing the gunmen hurled stones at police and beat up some law enforcement officials, the United News of India reported.

In Amritsar, Hindus shuttered their stores in response to a call by the right-wing Indian People’s party for a general strike protesting the slayings.