NEW DELHI: Baton-yielding Police today [Oct 28] dispersed rioting crowds at the funeral of Sikh leader Darshan Singh Pheruman, who died yesterday after a 74-day fast for inclusion of Chandigarh into Punjab.

Reports from the Sikh’s home village of Phe­ruman, near Amritsar, said many of the crowd of 25,000 attending the cremation ceremony there, booed the Punjab Chief Minister Gurnam Singh, as he placed a wreath on the dead leader’s body. They then stoned the Chief Minister’s car and Police had to escort him to safety.

The demonstrators claimed the Minister had not supported Pheruman’s demand for the inclusion of Chandigarh town within the Punjab. The town has been under Federal control since the state was partitioned three years ago.

Several towns throughout the Punjab observed a general strike today to press the demand for which the Sikh leader had been fasting. In the town of Ludhiana, Police dispersed demonstrators who ransacked a post office and burnt effigies of Premier Mrs Indira Gandhi.

The Punjab state Government — fearing possible violence by militant Sikhs if Mr. Pheruman became a martyr to the Punjabi cause — has alerted the Army and closed colleges in the state’s big cities. — Agencies

Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2019