On Sunday, the state government announced restrictions on large gatherings as a part of the measure to curb the spread of Coronavirus. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray reportedly asked officials to make preparations for a lockdown as people were not following Covid rules.
A mob of sword-carrying Sikh protesters broke through barricades at a Gurdwara in Maharashtra’s Nanded on Sunday evening and attacked policemen, leaving four injured after the police refused to allow a religious procession because of the rules directed by the Chief Minister’s office.
In a video commonly shared online, a group of Sikhs 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.
Pramod Kumar Shewale, superintendent of Police said, “We informed Gurudwara well in advance that the “Hola Mohalla” procession would not be allowed because of Pandemic rules. We had spoken to the Gurdwara committee members and the priests. After explaining the situation, they agreed that this year, no procession will be held and a low-key celebration will be held within the complex.”
The low-key event was to begin at 4 pm. “But some of the youngsters got impatient. When Babaji explained the situation to them, they moved to 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.
A viral video of the incident showed the mob storming the Gurdwara, breaking barricades and attacking the policemen.
“Permission for the Hola Mohalla procession was not granted to them due to the pandemic. The gurdwara committee was informed and they had assured us that they would abide by our directives, the official said. However, when the Nishan Sahib was brought to the gate around 4 p.m. they started arguing and over 300 youth broke the gate and began attacking policemen,” he said.
Nishan Sahib is a triangular saffron-coloured flag furling outside a Gurdwara on a steel pole covered with a saffron-coloured cloth that is most popularly associated with Guru Hargobind. The flag also has an insignia called Khanda in the middle. The Khanda includes two swords and a chakra.
In connection with violence, the police have arrested 17 people and booked 400 persons so far. Several vehicles were also damaged in the violence, the official said.