Police Raid Sikh Strongholds in Punjab After Terrorists Kill 43
Thousands of paramilitary troops and police fanned out across Punjab state Friday and raided Sikh strongholds after reports that militant Sikhs killed 43 people in seven separate overnight incidents.
Police said a security alert was issued in Punjab, where Sikhs have allegedly killed 195 people since May 9, when a government siege on militants in the Golden Temple, the Sikhs’ holiest shrine, began.
The siege ended Wednesday with the surrender of the last of the militants barricaded inside. At least 42 people, mainly Sikh militants, were killed during the 10-day standoff.
Since then, the temple has been sealed and silent but the violence has continued elsewhere.
“We fear Sikh terrorists will start a new wave of violence; in fact, they are already on a killing spree,” the director general of Punjab police, K.P.S. Gill, told reporters Friday in Amritsar.
“The time has come to hit the terrorists with an iron fist, and this is what we are going to do.”
At least 9,000 police and paramilitary troops took part in the raids on suspected strongholds of Sikh radicals in Amritsar, Gurdashpur and Jalandhar districts, a police source said. It was not immediately clear how many suspects were arrested in the sweep.
The districts are considered strongholds of Sikh militants, who have been fighting since 1982 for an independent homeland in Punjab. Sikhs, who charge that they are discriminated against by Hindus, are a minority in India but the majority in Punjab.
Gill said about 100 policemen finished a search of the inner courtyard of the Golden Temple on Friday and recovered a large quantity of weapons, including 19 Chinese-made AK-47 rifles, 16 Soviet-made anti-tank rockets, one rocket launcher, light machine guns, grenades and 4,900 rounds of ammunition. He said police also found $340,000 in Indian currency.
Amritsar city workers scrubbed the temple’s marble floors and cleared debris in preparation for restoration of religious rituals, disrupted by the siege. The temple is scheduled to reopen today.
In the worst of the incidents overnight, five Hindu migrant workers from Bihar state were lined up against a wall and shot by Sikh terrorists, news agencies said.
It was the second attack on migrants this week, suggesting that the Sikhs are trying to undercut the mainstay of Punjab’s economy, which is agriculture.