9 Killed in Punjab; Controversial Land Transfer Postponed
Suspected Sikh extremists killed nine people and injured 11 others in a string of attacks in Punjab state Friday, as the Indian government ordered the postponement of a controversial land exchange between Punjab and neighboring Haryana state.
A government spokesman in New Delhi said the land transfer, scheduled for today, was postponed at the request of Punjab’s Chief Minister Surjit Singh Barnala and was “tentatively” rescheduled for July 15.
He said Barnala requested the postponement during talks with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to give a commission more time to decide what territory Haryana deserved from Punjab in return for handing over control of Chandigarh, which the neighbors have shared as a state capital for 20 years.
It was the second postponement of the transfer, a major provision of an accord signed by Gandhi with moderate Sikh leaders in July.
In exchange for Chandigarh, a government commission had recommended that Haryana receive 70,000 acres of land from Punjab. The proposal has enraged Sikh militant groups in Punjab, who have threatened to take action to protest the surrender of land to the predominantly Hindu state of Haryana.
In Friday’s violence, two Sikh gunmen burst into an office of the Punjab state electricity board substation in the town of Tarn Taran, 130 miles west of Chandigarh, and began firing killing four clerks and a cashier, all Hindus, before fleeing to the nearby town of Golwal.