A mob of sword-carrying Sikh protesters broke through barricades at a Gurdwara in Maharashtra’s Nanded last evening and attacked policemen, leaving four injured, after the police refused to allow a religious procession because of the Covid surge in the state. A case has been registered over the violence and the violation of the state’s Covid safety rules, the police said. Nearly 18 people have been detained.
In a video widely shared online, a large group of people armed with swords is seen rushing out of a gate of the Gurdwara complex, breaking through barricades put up by the police and attacking policemen standing guard. According to a police officer, four personnel were injured and police cars were damaged.
Superintendent of Police Pramod Kumar Shewale said the gurdwara had been informed that the “Hola Mohalla” procession would not be allowed because of virus restrictions.
“We had spoken to the gurdwara authorities and the priests and explained the situation to them. So they agreed that this year, no procession will be held and a low-key celebration will be held within the complex,” Mr Shewale said.
The low-key event was to begin at 4 pm. “But some of the youngsters got impatient. When Baba-ji explained the situation to them, they moved to the Gate number 1 and started moving on the traditional route of the procession,” he added.
The “Hola Mohalla” procession traditionally includes a display of Sikh martial skills.
Despite the ban on gatherings in the state, the locals had planned to go ahead with the procession. The police had put up barricades near the gurdwara. The trouble reportedly started when the Nishan Sahib, or the Sikh religious flag, was brought to a Gurdwara gate and participants in the event started arguing. A large group then stormed out of the gate.
Maharashtra is witnessing the worst surge of the virus over the last week and the state government has announced a series of restrictions to control the infection.
On Sunday, the state government announced restrictions on large gatherings as a part of the measure to curb the spread of the infection. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray reportedly asked officials to make preparations for a lockdown as people were not following Covid protocols.
Over the last 24 hours, Maharashtra has logged 31,643 fresh Covid infections and 102 deaths in the last 24 hours. The figure was below the previous day’s 40,414 infections – the city’s highest-ever spike. It is likely that the dip reflects the fewer tests that are held on a Sunday.