Chandigarh: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed for calm on Monday as riots spread to several cities to protest a deadly shooting at a Sikh temple in Austria.
Hundreds defied a curfew and army patrols, attacking police stations and torching the car of a senior officer and several trains. In two places, police opened fire on mobs, wounding at least four people, said senior police officer Khubi Ram. One person was killed as troops opened fire on an angry mob that attacked a police station, said Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
The violence centred on Jalandhar, a stronghold of the Dera Sach Khand, a Sikh sect comprising Dalits. The death in the firing occurred in Lambran village near Jalandhar.
Furious: Angry protesters taking out a rally in Amritsar. Munish Sharma / Reuters
A leader of the sect was killed and another preacher was wounded on Sunday when Sikhs wielding knives and a handgun attacked the two in Vienna.
At least 15 other people were wounded, Austrian police said.
Witnesses said the perpetrators were fundamentalist Sikhs from a higher caste, who accused one or both of the preachers of being disrespectful of the holy book.
The Prime Minister, also a Sikh, said he was “deeply distressed” by the attack and subsequent violence.
“Whatever the provocation, it is important to maintain peace and harmony among different sections of the people,” Singh said, adding that “Sikhism preaches tolerance and harmony.”
Minister of foreign affairs S.M. Krishna said India was working with Austrian authorities to “ensure that the perpetrators of this completely mindless and wanton attack are brought to justice”.
In New Delhi, Union home minister P. Chidambaram said the Centre had asked the Punjab state government to enforce curfew strictly in all areas where violence broke.
The situation in the state, he said, “was not quite normal” as the violence in the state had spread from Jalandhar to other districts such as Phagwara, Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahar.
The Centre has so far provided 14 companies of paramilitary forces while 11 more are being sent to the state.
Late on Sunday after news of the attack in Vienna, hundreds of Dera Sach Khand followers, supported by other local Dalit organizations, took to the streets of Jalandhar, burning several vehicles and a bank, stoning buses and blocking railway lines and roads, police said.
(Mint’s K.P. Narayana Kumar contributed to this story.)