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Punjab

Kartarpur corridor: Foundation stone replaced amid row over credit

A massive political slug-fest was played out on Monday in full public view, shoving protocol to the side in the presence of Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, as political leaders from opposing sides in Punjab bared it at what was meant to be solemn celebration related to the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara corridor project.

 
Naidu lays foundation stone for Dera Baba Nanak-Kartarpur Sahib corridor
A massive political slug-fest was played out on Monday in full public view, shoving protocol to the side in the presence of Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, as political leaders from opposing sides in Punjab bared it at what was meant to be solemn celebration related to the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara corridor project.
 
Naidu and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday laid the digital foundation stone of a road project that will link the Kartarpur corridor (in Pakistan) by pressing a button.
 
The actual foundation stone was removed by the authorities just three hours before the event after Punjab cabinet Minister and local legislator Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa objected to the names of former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Shiromani Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal and Union Minister Harsimrat Badal on the foundation stone.
 
A clearly upset Randhawa announced that he would 'boycott' the foundation stone ceremony and even put black tape on the stone where the names of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Punjab PWD Minister Vijay Singla and his own (Randhawa) were put on the foundation stone along with the names of the Badals.
 
Officials of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), sensing that the situation could get unpleasant in the presence of dignitaries, removed the foundation stone and replaced it with the digital one.
 
The foundation on the screen carried the names of Vice President Naidu, Punjab Governor V. P. Singh Badnore, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari.
 
Though the ceremony was to celebrate the approval of the governments of India and Pakistan to allow the Kartarpur corridor to enable people to pray at the gurdwara in Pakistan, leaders of the Akali Dal and its ally BJP on one side and Punjab's ruling Congress on the other not only indulged in running each other down and claiming credit for getting the project cleared but even raised slogans against each other in the presence of the Vice President.
 
Harsimrat Badal, in her address at the function, took a dig at the Congress leaders over the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. There was immediate sloganeering against her by Congress leaders and activists.
 
When Gurdaspur MP and Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar was giving his vote of thanks, he hit back at the Akali Dal leadership by making Punjab a drugs hub. This led to protests and sloganeering by Akali Dal leaders, including Harsimrat's brother and former Minister Bikram Singh Majithia.
 
Earlier, Randhawa was seen speaking and gesturing angrily to officers while they made arrangements for the high-profile function.
 
The Minister, the Congress legislator from Dera Baba Nanak, was visibly disturbed and shouted at officers. He later told a TV channel: "I will not boycott the function but I will boycott the foundation stone itself. I cannot see my name and those of my ministerial colleagues along with the Badals."
 
"The Badals have no contribution in getting the Kartarpur corridor project cleared. They ruled Punjab from 1997 to 2002 and again for 10 years (2007-17). Did they come here to offer prayers while in power? They are only trying to take credit (for the Kartarpur corridor) just because they (Akali Dal) have an alliance with the BJP," the Minister said.
 
Randhawa blamed the NHAI officers for the foundation stone controversy. He said that he had serious objections to the foundation stone carrying the names of the Badals. 
 
"The sanctity of the function should have been kept. The foundation stone should have carried only the names of the Vice-President and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh," Randhawa said.
 
The Minister was also upset that the Congress leadership in Punjab, including him (as the local minister and legislator), Gurdaspur MP Sunil Jakhar (the Punjab Congress President) and cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu were being deliberately ignored for the function while all attention was being given to the Badal family.
 
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Randhawa's outburst came even as the SAD-BJP and Congress leaders in Punjab were in the midst of a major controversy in claiming credit for getting the Kartarpur corridor project cleared by the governments of India and Pakistan.
 
The NDA government at the Centre, of which the SAD is a part, approved the project in Punjab linked to the Kartarpur corridor on November 22. The date of the foundation stone was hurriedly decided for November 26 to ensure that it was done before Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan laid the foundation stone of the actual Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan on November 28 (Wednesday).
 
The Congress government in Punjab was going to hold its own function here this week but Chief Minister Amarinder Singh decided to be part of the central government function itself.
 
The SAD-BJP combine leadership has also been trying hard to take the credit away from state cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu who in August went to Pakistan for the swearing-in of his cricketing friend Imran Khan and was the first to announce that Pakistan was keen to open the Kartarpur corridor for devotees from India.
 
The Akali Dal leadership, including Harsimrat Badal, branded Sidhu as a 'traitor' for hugging Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the swearing-in function. They questioned his statements regarding Pakistan's move on the Kartarpur corridor.
 
Harsimrat Badal is now herself headed to Pakistan as the central government's representative for the foundation stone ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor on Wednesday. Sidhu is also going for the same event.
 
It was at the Kartarpur gurdwara, which is located around two to three kilometre from the India-Pakistan border and is situated right opposite the border belt in Dera Baba Nanak in Indian Punjab's Gurdaspur district, that Sikhism founder, Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539), spent 18 years of his life till he died in 1539.
 
The gurdwara, which fell in Pakistan territory following the partition of India in 1947, has major significance in Sikh religion and history.
 
For the past 71 years, ever since partition, Sikhs have been offering prayers near the international border.
 
IANS
 

(Our News Desk can be contacted at desk@netindian.in)

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Three killed, 15 injured in grenade attack near Amritsar

Three people were killed and at least 15 others injured when two motorcycle-borne masked youths threw a grenade at a religious congregation in Rajasansi area in Punjab's Amritsar district on Sunday, police said.

 
3 killed, 20 injured in grenade blast in Amritsar
Three people were killed and at least 15 others injured when two motorcycle-borne masked youths threw a grenade at a religious congregation in Rajasansi area in Punjab's Amritsar district on Sunday, police said.
 
The grenade attack took place on the Nirankari Satsang Bhawan of the Nirankari sect in Adliwala village, about 15 km from Amritsar. The sect campus is located in Amritsar's rural belt.
 
The injured were rushed to hospitals in Amritsar. A few of them were in serious condition, police said. All victims were sect followers from nearby villages who had gathered for the Sunday weekly religious meeting.
 
Witnesses told the police that two youths on a motorcycle, their faces covered, forced entry to the sect campus by pointing a pistol at a woman volunteer at the gate.
 
"Everything happened within a couple of minutes. They got in, threw the grenade and fled," one man told the police.
 
The attack came amid a high alert issued on November 14 by the Punjab Police regarding the movement of 6-7 terrorists in the state. 
 
Punjab Police Inspector General (Border Range) S.P.S. Parmar confirmed to the media that three people were killed in the grenade attack.
 
Asked if it was a terror attack, Parmar said that all angles were being investigated.
 
"The people had gathered for prayers. There were around 200 people. Preliminary reports suggest that the two persons threw one grenade. Three people have been killed and 15 to 20 are injured. No firing took place," Parmar said.
 
"We are investigating the incident from all angles," Parmar said.
 
Senior police officers rushed to the village following the grenade attack.
 
Congress legislator Raj Kumar Verka told the media that no compromise would be made by the Congress government in Punjab on terrorism.
 
"We will deal with it strictly," Verka said, admitting that the incident showed intelligence failure on the part of the Punjab Police.
 
The Punjab Police, along with the Jammu and Kashmir Police, had recently busted two modules of Kashmiri students who were studying in institutions in Punjab and having links to terrorist outfits in troubled Kashmir.
 
Posters of Kashmiri terrorist Zakir Mussa had mysteriously appeared in Punjab's Gurdaspur district on Friday saying that he had been seen in Punjab.
 
The Nirankari sect has millions of followers across the country and abroad. The sect has its headquarters in Delhi.
 
IANS
 

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58 dead, 72 injured as train mows down Dussehra revellers in Amritsar

As many as 58 people were killed and 72 others injured after a speeding train mowed down a large group of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks at Joda Phatak, a level crossing, during Dussehra celebrations here this evening, sources said.

A view of a train crashing through a crowd of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks during Dussehra celebrations at Joda Phatak in Amritsar, Punjab on October 19, 2018. Photo taken from a video posted on Twitter by an eyewitness.
A view of a train crashing through a crowd of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks during Dussehra celebrations at Joda Phatak in Amritsar, Punjab on October 19, 2018. Photo taken from a video posted on Twitter by an eyewitness.
As many as 58 people were killed and 72 others injured after a speeding train mowed down a large group of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks at Joda Phatak, a level crossing, during Dussehra celebrations here this evening, official sources said.
 
There were conflicting reports about what exactly happened but it appeared that, as the effigy of Ravana was set ablaze and fire crackers flew all around in the dark, several people from the crowd unwittingly moved on to the railway tracks, close to the venue of the celebrations, to avoid being singed by the fire crackers.
 
The loud noise and the blinding lights appeared to have prevented the people from noticing that a train was speeding towards them. Before the people, engrossed by the spectacle before them, realised what had happened, the Jalandhar-Amritsar train went by in a flash, running over several of them.
 
Amritsar Police Commissioner S. S. Srivastava told reporters that 58 people had died and 72 had suffered injuries in the incident.
 
The injured, many of them in a critical condition, were rushed to the Civil Hospital, the Medical College Hospital and other hospitals in the city.
 
Hundreds of people gathered at the scene. While many of them were grieving for their near and dear ones, others were angry with the authorities for failing to ensure the safety of people participating in the celebrations. Similar crowds also gathered outside the hospitals.
 
Senior officials from the district administration, the police and the Northern Railway had reached the spot and were supervising the rescue and relief efforts.
 
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on micro-blogging site Twitter that he was rushing to Amritsar to personally oversee the relief effort. He was due to leave on a visit to Israel later tonight but the trip has now been called off.
 
Capt. Amarinder Singh also announced that the Punjab government would give Rs. 5 lakh to the next-of-kin of those who were killed in the incident and free treatment for the injured.
 
"Rushing to Amritsar to personally supervise relief & rescue in tragic rail accident on Dussehra in Amritsar. My govt will give Rs 5 lakh to kin of each deceased & free treatment to injured in govt & pvt hospitals. District authorities have been mobilised on war footing," he said.
 
"We will do everything possible to assist the injured. Have directed the district administration to leave no stone unturned to ensure the best possible treatment for them," he said, adding that a Crisis Management Group had been set up to monitor the relief and rehabilitation efforts.
 
"The state will remain in mourning tomorrow in view of #Amritsar train mishap. All offices & educational institutions will remain closed," he added.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in the accident.
 
"Extremely saddened by the train accident in Amritsar. The tragedy is heart-wrenching. My deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones and I pray that the injured recover quickly. Have asked officials to provide immediate assistance that is required," he said.
 
Congress President Rahul Gandhi said, "The train accident in Punjab in which over 50 people have died is shocking. I urge the state government & Congress workers to provide immediate relief at the accident site. My condolences to the families of those who have died. I pray that the injured make a speedy recovery."
 
Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, who was on an official visit to the United States, is flying back to India after cancelling his remaining engagements.
 
IANS adds:
 
A large number of some 700 people were watching the huge Ravan effigy in flames amid exploding crackers while on the tracks at Joda Phatak near Dhobi Ghat within the city when the Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU passenger train coming to Amritsar from Hoshiarpur came hurtling down around 7 p.m.
 
It took just about 10-15 seconds for the train to pass -- and leave behind a heap of crushed and dismembered bodies.
 
Amritsar Police Commissioner S.S. Srivastava told reporters that 58 people have died and 72 have been rushed to hospitals in the city. The toll could go up, Srivastava said. 
 
Video clips posted on social media showed some people who had apparently seen the approaching train trying to run away from the site. A few of them were also mowed down.
 
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Wails and cries filled the air as people frantically looked for their near and dear ones. Severed bodies, including those of children, were lying at the accident site hours after the incident with angry people not allowing authorities to remove them.
 
"I have lost my child. I want him back," an inconsolable mother was wailing at the disaster spot.
 
Most people reportedly could not hear the hooting of the train due to the exploding crackers.
 
"Out of nowhere came the train," said a man, while speaking to journalists. "Before anyone could realise what was happening, it ran over scores of people."
 
"When the effigy started to burn in full flow, people began running away from it fearing it may fall over them," said another man. "They did not realise that a speeding train was coming and the train did not sound its hooter."
 
Another man felt that the tragedy would have claimed at least 100 lives. The dead included several children, another witness said.
 
Ironically, moments before the tragedy, another train passed the area but there were no casualties, a railway official said.
 
A local resident, Nirmal Jit Sindhu, alleged that the Dussehra celebrations were organised by forcing the local administration to grant permission near the railway tracks.
 
He said last year the administration had not granted permission for the use of this venue for Dussehra celebrations owing to its proximity to the tracks.
 
Some people blamed Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur, who was the Chief Guest at the celebrations, saying her late arrival delayed the burning of the effigy by more than half an hour.
 
Sidhu told a news channel on telephone from Bengaluru that the death toll was alarmingly high.
 
BJP leader and former local bodies minister Anil Joshi blamed Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur for running away from the Dussehra celebrations site soon after the train accident.
 
"The Dussehra celebrations were organised without the local administration permission. She (Navjot Kaur) disappeared midway during the ceremony when she was apprised about the disaster," Joshi told reporters.
 
"The driver didn't slow down the train and was watching towards the burning Ravana," said one of the witnesseses.
 
Another woman was inconsolable as she said her son was missing.
 
"The administration and the Dussehra committee are at fault as they should have informed the railways authorities about the celebrations", said another eyewitness.
 
Eyewitnesses said there were no barricading near the railway tracks and the people were forced to see the Dussehra ceremony by standing on tracks.
 
The effigy of Ravana was being burnt around 200 feet away from the railway track.
 
A railway official said in New Delhi that the drop gates at the spot were down but people still massed on the tracks in violation of railway rules.
 
Several senior railway officials were set to fly by an Indian Air Force plane to Amritsar to help oversee the relief and rescue effort.
 
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Congress wrests Gurdaspur in Punjab from BJP, its ally IUML retains Vengara in Kerala

In a morale booster for the party ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has wrested the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat from the BJP by a huge margin and its ally, the IUML, retained the Vengara Assembly seat in Kerala in bye-elections held on October 11.

 
Congress' Sunil Jakhar wins Gurdaspur LS bye-election
In a morale booster ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has wrested the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha  seat from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by a huge margin and its ally, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), retained the Vengara Assembly seat in Kerala in bye-elections held on October 11.
 
Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar drubbed Mr. Swaran Singh Salaria of the BJP by a record margin of 1,93,219 votes in Gurdaspur.
 
In Vengara, Mr. K. N. A. Khader, the candidate of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), who is a member of the IUML, won from Vengara, defeating his nearest rival, P. P. Basheer of the Left Democratic Front (LDF), by a margin of 23,310 votes in the October 11 bye-election.
 
Counting of votes was taken up in both constituencies this morning, and the results were out by noon.
 
Gurdaspur had fallen vacant following the death on April 27 of well-known Hindi film actor Vinod Khanna, who represented the constituency in the Lok Sabha as a candidate of the ruling BJP.
 
Mr. Jakhar polled 4,99,752 votes against the 3,06,553 votes secured by Mr. Salaria. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Suresh Khajuria got just 23,579 votes.
 
Considering the fact that Mr. Khanna had won the seat by an impressive margin of 1.35 lakh votes in 2014, the bye-election ended up being a cakewalk for Mr. Jakhar, 63, the Congress Punjab unit chief and son of late Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakhar.
 
In between, in March this year, the Congress won a resounding victory in the elections to the Punjab Legislative Assembly and its leader Amarinder Singh returned as Chief Minister of the state. The bye-election had turned into a battle of prestige for both sides.
 
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress had ended up on the losing side in all the nine Assembly segments in Gurdaspur. Mr. Jakhar has managed to turn this around, winning from all the nine segments this time.
 
Gurdaspur was considered a Congress stronghold for long years, with its candidate Sukhbuns Kaur Bhinder winning the seat five times in a row from 1980 to 1996 before the BJP brought in Khanna, a top Bollywood actor, as its candidate in 1998. The actor-turned politician was re-elected from the seat in 1999, 2004 and then in 2014. In 2009, former Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa by a thin margin of 8,359 votes.
 
Mr. Jakhar described the bye-election result as a "referendum" on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance's government at the Centre and said the people of the constituency had sent a "strong message of resentment" over its policies.
 
"Congratulations to @sunilkjakhar ji for his impressive win in #Gurdaspur bypoll, it's a victory for @INCPunjab policies & development agenda," Mr. Amarinder Singh on microblogging site Twitter.
 
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"Assure people of #Gurdaspur that every single promise made by @sunilkjakhar will be fulfilled and all development works will be fast-tracked," he added.
 
Congress leader and Punjab minister Navjot Sidhu said, "This is a beautiful Diwali gift, packed with a red ribbon, for our would-be party president Rahul Gandhi."
 
In Vengara, Mr. Khader polled 65,227 votes against 41,917 secured by Mr. Basheer, a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the main constituent of the ruling LDF in the state.
 
Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) candidadte K. C. Naseer ended up third with 8,648 votes while Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nominee K. Janachandran  Master, finished fourth with 5,728 votes in the results announced today.
 
The bye-election in Vengara was necessitated by the resignation of IUML leader P. K. Kunhalikutty, who was elected to the Lok Sabha on April 12 from the Malappuram seat that fell vacant following the death of former Union Minister E. Ahamed.
 
While the UDF celebrated the victory, the LDF drew satisfaction from the fact that they had reduced the IUML candidate's victory margin from 38,057 votes in the 2016 Assembly elections, when Mr. Kunhalikutty had won, to 23,310 votes in this bye-election.
 
Today's results have come just three days after the Congress swept the municipal elections in Nanded-Waghala in Maharashtra, considered a stronghold of the party. The party won 67 of the 81 seats, while the BJP won four and its ally Shiv Sena got just one.
 
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29 killed, 250 injured in violence after Panchkula court convicts Dera Sacha Sauda chief in rape case

At least 29 people were killed and more than 250 others suffered injuries as thousands of followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh went on the rampage after he was convicted in a rape case by a special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana on Friday.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh
At least 29 people were killed and more than 250 others suffered injuries as thousands of followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh went on the rampage after he was convicted in a rape case by a special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana today.
 
The quantum of punishment for the 50-year-old self-styled godman will be pronounced on August 28. Meanwhile, he was taken into judicial custody and flown in a helicopter from Panchkula to Rohtak, where he was lodged in a special jail.
 
Police officials said 28 people had died in Panchkula, which bore the brunt of today's violence, several of them in police firing. There were clashes between Ram Rahim's supporters and the police in Sirsa, where the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters are located.
 
One person died and four people suffered injuries in police firing in Sirsa, where the situation remained tense, with large numbers of Ram Rahim's followers gathered inside the Dera headquarters.
 
The officials said the police had been able to clear the mobs off the streets in all other towns in Haryana.
 
About 60 policemen also suffered injuries in today's incidents, including two senior superintendents of police and one deputy superintendent of police, they said.
 
In Delhi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who returned during the day from a visit to Kyrgyz Republic, spoke to Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and discussed the situation with them. Mr. Rajnath Singh assured them of all necessary assistance from the Centre.
 
Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said he had talked to the Chief Secretary of Haryana who had told him that the situation was being brought under control. "The situation is tense but under control," he said, adding that the Centre was monitoring the situation continuously.
 
Thousands of Singh's supporters had gathered at different points in Panchkula and other parts of Haryana and Punjab and violence erupted shortly after news of his conviction came.
 
 
29 dead as Dera followers bring Panchkula to its knees
In Panchkula, scores of vehicles, including fire tenders, outdoor broadcast vans of television news channels and two-wheelers were set ablaze. The mobs also attacked some government property. Police used teargas, lathi-charges, pellet guns and finally resorted to firing to disperse the mobs.
 
A former follower of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh had accused him of repeatedly raping her inside the Dera campus near Sirsa in Haryana in 1999. The first information report in the case had been filed in 2002.
 
The mobs targetted media vehicles and attacked some journalists reporting from the scene.
 
Incidents of violence were also reported from various other places in Haryana as well as Punjab, Rajasthan and Delhi.
 
In Delhi, some buses in Jahangirpuri and other localities and two coaches of a train parked in the railway yard at Anand Vihar were partially burnt after they were set on fire by miscreants. Police said reinforcements had been rushed to all affected and patrolling had been stepped up all across the city. The situation was under control, they added.
 
Though thousands of policemen had been deployed in Panchkula and elsewhere in Haryana to prevent any untoward incident, they were unable cope with the wave of violence that started after the verdict was pronounced. Police used teargas shells to try and disperse the mobs. Curfew was imposed in some towns of Punjab.
 
Television pictures showed ambulances bringing scores of injured persons to the government hospital there.
 
The Railways had, as a precautionary measure, cancelled some 300 mail, express and passenger trains passing through  Haryana in the past few days.
 
The Centre had sent several companies of central armed police forces to Haryana at the request of the state government and the Army's assistance had been sought at some places.
 
Mr. Khattar urged people to stay calm and maintain peace. He said strict action would be taken against those who disturb the peace and took law into their own hands.
 
In Gurgaon, near here, the police staged a flag march which passed through Kherki Daula, IMT Manesar, Bilaspur, sohna, Bhondsi and Badshapur as a precautionary measure.
 
"A close watch is being kept on the anti-social elements and miscreants who try to take advantages of such situation," a press release from Gurgaon Police said.
 
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the "instances of violences" were "deeply distressing". He said he strongly condemned the violence and urged everyone to maintain peace.
 
"The instances of violence today are deeply distressing. I strongly condemn the violence & urge everyone to maintain peace," he said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
"The law & order situation is being closely monitored. I reviewed the situation with the NSA & Home Secretary," he said.
 
"Urged officials to work round the clock to restore normalcy and provide all possible assistance that is required," he added.
 
In Delhi, the police has imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, banning the assembly of five or more persons, as a precautionary measure in 11 districts, including New Delhi.
 
"Adequate police arrangements in place & Law & Order situation under control. Officers with reserve force on rounds to maintain peace," the Commissioner of Police said on Twitter.
 
"Appeal to all to maintain peace & order. #DelhiPolice on full alert. Strict legal action will be taken against miscreants for any violation," he added.
 
Meanwhile, the Congress has demanded the resignation of Mr. Khattar and urged the Prime Minister to put the interests and safety of Indians before his party's interests.
 
Congress President Sonia Gandhi expressed grave concern and shock at the violence.
 
Ms. Gandhi spoke to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh about the situation. She urged the Governments of Punjab and Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh to ensure the safety and security of citizens. She also appealed to the people to maintain peace and harmony.
 
"Violence & brutality have no place in our society. Condemn the rampage and lawlessness in Haryana & appeal to restore peace and tranquility," Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi said on Twitter.
 
Mr. Amarinder Singh appealed to the people of Punjab to maintain peace and harmony. "We won't allow anyone to disturb the peace and tranquility of our state," he added.
 
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Assembly elections: Counting of votes to be taken up on Saturday

Counting of votes will begin on Saturday morning in the crucial elections to the State Legislative Assemblies of five States -- Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa -- and most of the results are expected to be out within a few hours after that.

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Counting of votes will begin tomorrow morning in the crucial elections to the State Legislative Assemblies of five States -- Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa -- and the keenly-awaited results are expected to have far-reaching implications for national politics.
 
The elections in five States have taken place mid-way through the five-year term of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and just weeks after the sudden decision of the government on November 8 to demonetise Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 banknotes.
 
Polling in Uttar Pradesh -- India's most populous state -- was held in seven phases between February 11 and March 8, while Manipur had polling in two phases on March 4 and 8. Punjab and Goa had single-phase polling on February 4 and Uttarakhand had single-phase voting on February 15.
 
The terms of the Goa, Manipur and Punjab assemblies are due to normally expire on March 18, Uttarakhand on March 26 and Uttar Pradesh on May 27.
 
The Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly has 403 seats, including 84 reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) and two for Scheduled Tribes. Punjab Assembly has 117 seats (34 SC), Goa 40 (1 SC), Uttarakhand 70 (13 SC, 2 ST) and Manipur 60 (1 SC, 19 ST).
 
The Election Commission will give out counting trends and results of the elections through its website from 8 am tomorrow.
 
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Among other things, the website will give details such as the number of votes secured by the candidates round-wise and constituency-wise and political party-wise and candidate-wise trends.
 
The website can also be accessed through the main website of the Election Commission of India.
 
For the first time, the Commission will also provide analytics through interactive dashboard in the form of clickable infographics. Users can download data, crosstab, PDF and images for analysing the elections further at their end. It will include comparative analytics between 2012 and 2017. 
 
An official press release said users will get constituency analysis with respect to participation of electors (constituencies with more female electors, constituencies by slabs of voter turnout, turnout by poll days) and candidates (gender wise participants, winners and major competitors). To assess performance of political parties, analysis on seats won by them, the percentage vote-share in the State and the profile (age and social category)of candidates fielded by them have been included. Candidates have been mapped to their constituencies and the votes polled in their favour, it said.
 
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Punjab, Goa go to the polls to elect new legislative assemblies

Punjab and Goa went to the polls on Saturday to elect new state legislative assemblies -- the first two of five states holding crucial elections midway through the five-year term of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and two months after the November 8 demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 bank notes.

 
Voters queue to cast their votes amidst tight security
Punjab and Goa went to the polls today to elect new state legislative assemblies -- the first two of five states holding crucial elections midway through the five-year term of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and two months after the November 8 demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 bank notes.
 
Voters began queueing outside polling stations in both states from early morning and their numbers were steadily increasing as the day progressed. 
 
Voting, which began at 7 am in Goa and at 8 am in Punjab, will end at 5 pm in both states.
 
Polling also took place today for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, which fell vacant after the resignation of Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh.
 
The Punjab Assembly has 117 seats and the Goa Assembly 40 seats and both states have single-phase polling today.
 
Uttarakhand will have single-phase polling on February 15, Manipur will have polling in two phases on March 4 and 8 and Uttar Pradesh, the country's most populous state, will have polling in seven phases between February 11 and March 8.
 
Counting of votes in all the five states will be taken up on March 11 and all the results are expected by late evening that day.
 
The terms of the Goa and Punjab assemblies are due to expire on March 18.
 
The Election Commission has made elaborate arrangements for smooth, free and fair elections in both the states.
 
Punjab has a total of 19879069 voters, including 10503108 males and  9375546 females. There are 1145 candidates in the fray, including 81 women and one of the third gender. The Election Commission has set up 22,615 polling stations across the state.
 
In Goa, there are a total of  1110884 electors, including 546742 men and 564142 women. A total of 251 candidates, including 19 women, are in the fray.  The Commission has set up 1642 polling stations across the state.
 
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is making a determined effort for another term in office in Goa, while the Congress is hoping to come back to power in Goa. The three-party alliance forged by Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, Goa Suraksha Manch and Shiv Sena is the other major player in the state.
 
Similarly in Punjab, the Congress is trying to wrest power back from the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine, which has been in office for a decade.
 
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The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the ruling party in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, has gone all out to emerge as the alternative to the established players in both the states.
 
In Punjab, SAD leader and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, 89, is seeking re-election for the sixth time. He will face Capt. Amarinder Singh, the chief ministerial candidate of the Congress, in the Lambi constituency. The Congress leader is also contesting the elections from his traditional seat of Patiala, where his opponent is former Army chief Gen J J Singh, a candidate of the SAD.
 
The Chief Minister's son Sukhbir Singh will face AAP's Bhagwant Mann, MP, who is his party's likely chief ministerial candidate, in Jalalabad.
 
Former Indian Test cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, who joined the Congress weeks ahead of the polls, is contesting from Amritsar East, a part of the Amrtisar Lok Sabha constituency that he represented in Parliament as a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for two terms.
 
Prominent candidates in Goa include Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar (BJP) and five former Chief Ministers -- Ravi Naik, Digambar Kamat, Pratapsinh Rane and Luizinho Faleiro (Congress) and Churchill Alemao (NCP). There have been indications that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar might return to Goa as Chief Minister if the BJP retains power.
 
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Cabinet approves Shahpurkandi Dam on the Ravi in Punjab

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The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved the Shahpurkandi Dam Project on the river Ravi in Punjab. 
 
Central assistance of Rs 485.38 crore (irrigation component) would be provided for the project over five years from 2018-19 to 2022-23, an official press release said.
 
Implementation of the project would help minimise water wastage through the Madhopur Headworks downstream to Pakistan. On completion of the project, an irrigation potential of 5,000 ha in Punjab State and 32,173 ha in Jammu & Kashmir would be created, it said.
 
In addition, water being released to provide irrigation in 1.18 lakh ha area under UBDC system in Punjab would be managed/regulated efficiently through this project and the irrigation in the area would be benefitted. On completion, Punjab would also be able to generate 206 MW of hydropower, it said.
 
Funding for Central assistance to Shahpurkandi Dam project will be made through NABARD under existing system for funding of 99 PMKSY-AIBP projects under LTIF.
 
In addition to existing monitoring mechanism for projects by Central Water Commission, a committee headed by Member, Central Water Commission and consisting of concerned Chief Engineers of Punjab and J&K and other concerned officers will be constituted to oversee/monitor the implementation of project.
 
The Advisory Committee of MoWR, RD&GR on Irrigation, Flood Control and Multipurpose Projects accepted the second Revised Cost Estimate amounting to Rs 2715.70 crore (February, 2018 Price Level) in its 138th meeting held on October 31.
 
The project will be implemented by Punjab with Central assistance of Rs. 485.38 crore. It will be completed by June 2022.
 
The Indus Waters Treaty was signed between India and Pakistan in 1960 for sharing of Indus waters. According to the Treaty, India got the full rights for utilization of waters of the three Eastern Rivers, namely Ravi, Beas and Satluj.
 
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Cabinet approves amendment of Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951

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The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved the amendment of the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951.
 
The decision aims to suitably amend the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951 so as to secure representation as Trustees, “the Leader of Opposition recognized as such in the House of the People, or where there is no such Leader of Opposition, then the Leader of the single largest Opposition Party in the House”.
 
In the existing Act, there is a provision for representation of a single national political party. Deletion of the party-specific member from the Trust will make it apolitical. The proposed amendment ensures representation of the Opposition Party in the Trust, an official press release said.
 
The proposed Amendment will empower the Government to terminate and replace a Trustee to participate in the functioning of the Trust or for any other reason.
 
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Amritsar train tragedy: Sidhu's wife gets clean chit

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Punjab cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur has been given a clean chit in a Punjab government-appointed magisterial probe into the Amritsar train tragedy on Dusshera evening in which 60 people died, sources said here on Thursday.
 
The probe, conducted by Jalandhar Divisional Commissioner B. Purushartha, has indicted Saurabh Madan Mithoo, the son of Congress councillor in Amritsar and a close political aide of the Sidhu couple, and officials of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation, local administration, police and railway authorities for lapses that led to the tragedy.
 
The officials have been blamed for giving permissions without ensuring safety while railway officials have been blamed for allowing the speeding train to move on the tracks without bothering about people crowding on the tracks.
 
The report has been sent to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh for further action.
 
Over 60 people were killed in the tragedy when a diesel multiple unit (DMU) train mowed them down on a railway track near Joda Phatak in Amritsar on October 19 while they were watching the burning of a Ravana effigy.
 
A separate inquiry into the train tragedy conducted by the Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety had blamed "negligence" of the people, who were standing on the railway track, for the incident.
 
Mithoo was the main organiser of the Dusshera event while Navjot Kaur was the chief guest.
 
Shiromani Akali Dal leader Virsa Singh Valtoha said on Thursday that they had predicted earlier that the Sidhu couple would get a clean chit in the magisterial probe.
 
The probe commissioner submitted his 300-page report to the Punjab Home Department on November 21. Over 150 people were examined during the probe.
 
Sidhu and his wife were both summoned by the one-man probe commission. However, Sidhu, who was present in Amritsar on November 2 when he was summoned, failed to turn up and said he was not in Punjab from October 16 to 20 and could not give any "inputs".
 
Opposition leaders and locals alleged that Navjot Kaur, a former legislator, fled the scene after the train killings.
 
There were allegations that the event was organised without mandatory permissions, which had to be given by the municipal corporation which falls under the local government department headed by Sidhu.
 
IANS
 

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Kartarpur: Minister sees 'opportunity', warns on 'ground realities'

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Union Minister of State Hardeep Puri on Wednesday said there was an "opportunity and goodwill" in the decision of the Indian and Pakistani governments to build the Kartarpur Corridor, but sounded a note of caution: "We have to be acutely conscious of the ground realities" in the two nations.
 
"This is a historic day. This is a long standing demand of the Sikh community. At least, what I know, since 1994-95, we have been making this demand," Puri, who walked across to Pakistan through the Attari-Wagah check post, around 30 km from Amritsar, along with Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, told the media before leaving.
 
Both Ministers will represent India at the function where Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will on Wednesday afternoon perform the ground-breaking ceremony for the Kartarpur Corridor project near the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara, where Sikhism's founder, Guru Nanak Dev, spent the last 18 years of his life.
 
"This decision is anchored in hope and goodwill. But we have to be acutely conscious of the ground realities. 
 
"And the ground realities are that the two countries, on account of a lot of factors, house distrust. 
 
"We have felt for very long that we have been at the receiving end of actions of a country which should not have allowed certain forces on their territory. I don't want to touch on those now," Puri said.
 
The Minister made it clear that he was not going for any bilateral discussions with Pakistan.
 
"I am not carrying any bilateral brief. But equally, if the ground-breaking ceremony and these atmospherics is done in a positive way and we are able to invoke the Guru Maharaj's blessings, I am sure that it will become a stepping stone to positive things happening in the future," he said.
 
"This is a corridor that should have been operationalised many years ago. The cartographer who made the (boundary) line made a fundamental mistake. I think this (gurdwara) should have been on this (India) side (of the border). 
 
"But let's accept the ground realities. We should take one step at a time without getting euphoric," he said.
 
Puri said that both countries now need to operationalise the corridor project smoothly.
 
"I am expressing hope in my personal capacity and as a member of the Union Council of Ministers, that there is an opportunity here that the demand of the Sikh community has been met but we need to operationalise the decision. 
 
"And (for) making the corridor operative and to take this process further will require actions by all the stakeholders. 
 
"Let's take these things one step at a time. I don't want to jump the gun, I think we must allow the goodwill of the Guru Maharaj that is the essence of his teaching. 
 
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"He was a person at least half a century ahead of his times. And the kind of teachings he has given, if those teachings can be invoked to resolve our problems, it would be a very proud day for me as a Sikh," he added.
 
"I can tell you that I regard myself as particularly privileged and blessed to be able to make this pilgrimage and go and pay obeisance at the gurdwara sahib which has a very special significance in the life of every Sikh as it is the final resting place of the Guru," Puri said.
 
He added that the cabinet decisions of November 22, also brought about the opening of the corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to Kartarpur Sahib that was "one of the more significant measures".
 
Asked to comment on the statements of Punjab Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is projecting himself as the person who was instrumental in getting the Kartarpur Corridor project cleared by both countries, Puri said: "I don't want to comment on my colleague (Sidhu) in any way. 
 
"I have desisted from that. I never comment on what other people say. There is no scope for personalisation here. This is a demand of the Sikh community."
 
It was at the Kartarpur gurdwara, which is located around two to three kilometre from the India-Pakistan international border (IB) and is right opposite the border belt in Dera Baba Nanak in India's Gurdaspur district in Punjab, that Guru Nanak Dev spent his last days till he died in 1539.
 
The gurdwara, which fell inside Pakistan's territory following the Partition of India in August 1947, has huge significance in Sikh religion and history.
 
For the past over 71 years, ever since the Partition, Sikhs have been offering prayers near the IB watching the gurdwara from a distance.
 
IANS
 

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Thousands throng gurdwaras in Punjab, Haryana to mark 'Gurpurab'

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Thousands of devotees thronged gurdwaras across Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh on Friday to offer prayers on the occasion of 'Gurpurab' - the 549th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev.
 
It also marks the start of the year-long celebrations leading to the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539) next year.
 
The holiest of Sikh shrines Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as Golden Temple, in Amritsar and other gurdwaras elsewhere saw religious fervour to mark the occasion. 
 
Long queues of devotees could be seen waiting to offer prayers inside the sanctum sanctorum.
 
People braved the early morning chill to offer prayers at gurdwaras. 
 
Guru Nanak Dev was born in 1469 in Nankana Sahib town (now in Pakistan), around 80 km west of Lahore city.
 
Reports of Gurpurab celebrations were received from Nankana Sahib also.
 
Over 3,000 Sikh devotees have gone to Pakistan to celebrate at Nankana Sahib.
 
Tight security arrangements were made around all leading Sikh shrines in Punjab in view of recent terror-related incidents in the state.
 
The Golden Temple complex was decorated with lighting since Diwali and Bandi Chhor Diwas earlier this month. 
 
Hymns were being rendered at the holy shrine and scores of other gurdwaras across the region to mark the occasion. 
 
At other gurdwaras in cities, towns and villages, hundreds of people could be seen coming to offer prayers. 'Langars' (community kitchen) were arranged at most gurdwaras.
 
Punjab Governor V. P. Singh Badnore and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh greeted people on the occasion and urged them to follow the Guru's teachings and to maintain peace and harmony.
 
IANS
 

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Cabinet gives go-ahead for Kartarpur corridor to ring in Nanak's 550th birth anniversary

The Union Cabinet on Thursday decided to develop a Kartarpur Corridor from Gurdaspur in Punjab to the international border to facilitate pilgrims' passage to Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan as part of the 550th birth year celebrations of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, next year.

Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan  (Photo: Xubayr Mayo, Wikimedia Commons)
Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan (Photo: Xubayr Mayo, Wikimedia Commons)
The Union Cabinet on Thursday decided to develop a Kartarpur Corridor from Gurdaspur in Punjab to the international border to facilitate pilgrims' passage to Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan as part of the 550th birth year celebrations of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev, next year.
 
The government will also develop Sultanpur Lodhi in Punjab, the city associated with Guru Nanak's early life, as a heritage town conforming to all principles of smart cities, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said a press conference after a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at which the decisions were taken.
 
It will also run special trains to sacred places and gurudwaras associated with the Sikh Guru's life, he said.
 
"The government will develop a Kartarpur Corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur, Punjab to the international border to facilitate pilgrims from India to visit the holy Gurudwara Darbaar Sahib Kartarpur on the banks of Ravi river in Pakistan where Guru Nanak Devji spent 18 years," he said.
 
The Minister said since many pilgrims visit the location on the international border from where the gurudwara in Kartarpur is visible, the government decided to set up the special corridor with all modern facilities at the border terminal including visa and customs facilities for those who are permitted to cross the border.
 
"Pilgrims would then be able to visit the holy shrine throughout the year," a Home Ministry official said.
 
Meanwhile an External Affairs Ministry official said India has urged Pakistan to complete building the corridor on its side with suitable facilities.
 
"In keeping with the resolution adopted by the Cabinet today to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji in 2019, we have approached and urged the Pakistan government to recognise the sentiments of Sikh community and build a corridor with suitable facilities in their territory to facilitate easy and smooth visits of pilgrims from India to Kartarpur Sahib throughout the year," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to queries. 
 
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"Government of India has already decided to build the corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to the International Border with all modern amenities on our side," Kumar said.
 
Kartarpur Sahib is the place where the holy gurdwara, built on the site where Guru Nanak died in 1539, is located.
 
Earlier in November, Pakistan issued over 3,800 visas to Sikh pilgrims for the ongoing celebrations of the 549th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
 
India and Pakistan share a bilateral Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines that was signed in 1974.
 
Jaitley further said at the Sultanpur Lodhi, a heritage complex would also be developed called "Pind Baba Nanak Da" to depict the life journey and teachings of the Sikh Guru.
 
"We have also decided to establish a Centre for Interfaith Studies in Amritsar and chairs in foreign universities including in the UK and Canada," he said.
 
He added that all States, Union Territories and foreign missions of India will hold special events to commemorate the 550th birth year of the Sikh Guru.
 
"Coins and postal stamps will also be released. Doordarshan and All India Radio will telecast special programs and gurbani on life and teachings of Guru Nanak Devji. The National Book Trust will publish texts on his life in all Indian languages," Jaitley said.
 
He added the government will also request UNESCO to translate those texts in various world languages.
 
IANS
 

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Punjab Police arrests one over Amritsar grenade attack

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh addressing a press conference in connection with Sunday's grenade attack on the Nirankari Satsang Bhawan near Amritsar that left three persons dead, in Chandigarh on November 21, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh addressing a press conference in connection with Sunday's grenade attack on the Nirankari Satsang Bhawan near Amritsar that left three persons dead, in Chandigarh on November 21, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
The Punjab Police has arrested one person in connection with Sunday's grenade attack on the Nirankari Satsang Bhawan that left three persons dead, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said here on Wednesday.
 
The arrested person has been identified as Bikramjit Singh, he said. The second person involved in the attack, identified as Avtar Singh, is still absconding.
 
The Chief Minister said that the grenade used in the blast was Pakistan-made. According to him, the motorcycle used in the crime has also been recovered.
 
Amarinder said it was a "terror incident" and there was no religious link to it.
 
IANS
 

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It's clear case of terrorism: Amarinder on grenade attack

Even as the Punjab Police maintained that some leads were being investigated, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday said the grenade attack on a religious congregation of the Nirankari sect was a clear case of terrorism and there was no religious connection to it.

 
Amritsar blast: NIA team reaches blast site
Even as the Punjab Police maintained that some leads were being investigated, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday said the grenade attack on a religious congregation of the Nirankari sect was a clear case of terrorism and there was no religious connection to it.
 
"It is a clear case of terrorism. This has been carried out to create panic. There is no religious link to it," Amarinder, who visited the grenade attack spot at Nirankari Satsang Bhawan in Adliwal village near Rajasansi, told the media.
 
Three persons were killed and 20 injured when two motorcycle-borne youths threw a grenade at a Nirankari congregation about 15 km from Amritsar. All victims were sect followers from nearby villages who had gathered for the weekly Sunday religious meeting.
 
The Chief Minister visited the injured in the hospital here and announced a government job for the next-of-kin of the three people killed in Sunday's grenade attack.
 
Amarinder had earlier on Monday announced a reward of Rs 50 lakh to anyone giving information regarding the two youths who carried out Sunday's grenade attack on the Nirankari prayer meeting.
 
The Punjab Police, which has remained clueless for the last over 24 hours regarding who carried out the attack, has formed several teams to investigate the grenade attack. CCTV footage of places near the blast was being scanned to know more about the two masked attackers.
 
Forensic teams and a team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) reached the spot late on Sunday to investigate the attack.
 
Inspector General (Border Range) S. P. S. Parmar told the media on Monday that the probe would look at all angles and police teams were trying to trace the culprits.
 
The attack at the compound located in the rural belt, around three kilometres from the Guru Ram Das Jee Amritsar International Airport, created panic.
 
Punjab Director General of Police Suresh Arora, who rushed to the spot on Sunday along with senior officers, admitted that it was a "terror act".
 
The Punjab Police has drawn flak for intelligence failure regarding the attack despite the border state being on high alert since November 14 over reported movement of six to seven terrorists in the state.
 
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Eyewitnesses told the police that two youths on a motorcycle, with their faces covered, forced their entry into the sect compound by pointing a pistol at a woman volunteer at the gate. There were around 200 followers in the compound at the time.
 
Amarinder Singh, who on Sunday directed the police to immediately enhance security arrangements at all sensitive places, terming it "the first such indiscriminate attack on innocent people in recent past", said that the "possibility of involvement of ISI-based Khalistani/ Kashmiri terror groups can't be ruled out".
 
The Nirankari sect, with headquarters in Delhi, has millions of followers across the country and abroad. 
 
In the last few months, Khalistani and Kashmiri activists have been trying to foment trouble in Punjab, which shares a 553-km barbed wire-fenced international border with Pakistan.
 
The state police, along with its Jammu and Kashmir counterpart, had busted two modules of Kashmiri students who were studying in institutions in Punjab and having links to terrorist outfits in troubled Kashmir. The Maqsudan Police Station was targeted by Kashmiri terrorists on September 14 with hand grenades though no one was injured in the attack.
 
Posters of Kashmiri terrorist Zakir Mussa had mysteriously appeared in Punjab's Gurdaspur district on Friday saying that he had been seen in Punjab.The Chief Minister said 15 terror modules had been busted in the past 18 months, including those with Kashmiri terror links.
 
IANS
 

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Amritsar attack: CM announces Rs 50 lakh for information

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Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday announced a reward of Rs 50 lakh to anyone giving information regarding the two youths who carried out Sunday's grenade attack on a prayer meeting at the Nirankari Satsang Bhawan of Amritsar district.
 
The Punjab Police has formed several teams to investigate the grenade attack in Adliwal village in Rajasansi area. CCTV footage of places near the blast was being scanned to know more about the two masked attackers.
 
Forensic teams and a team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) reached the spot late on Sunday to start the probe.
 
While some injured have been discharged from the Amritsar hospital, others are still recuperating. One of the injured was still serious, a police officer said.
 
Inspector General (Border Range) S. P. S. Parmar told the media on Monday that the probe would look at all angles and police teams were trying to trace the culprits.
 
In a major terror attack, three persons were killed and 20 injured when two motorcycle-borne youths threw a grenade at a Nirankari congregation about 15 km from Amritsar. 
 
The attack on the campus located in the rural belt, around three kilometres from the Guru Ram Das Jee Amritsar international airport, created panic.
 
All victims were sect followers from nearby villages who had gathered for the weekly Sunday religious meeting.
 
Punjab Director General of Police Suresh Arora, who immediately rushed to the spot along with senior officers, admitted that it was a "terror act".
 
The Punjab Police has drawn flak for intelligence failure regarding the attack despite the border state being on high alert since November 14 regarding the movement of six to seven terrorists in the state.
 
Eyewitnesses told the police that two youths on a motorcycle, their faces covered, forced entry to the sect campus by pointing a pistol at a woman volunteer at the gate. 
 
There were around 200 followers in the campus at the time.
 
Amarinder Singh, who on Sunday directed the police to immediately enhance security arrangements at all sensitive places, terming it as "the first such indiscriminate attack on innocent people in recent past", said that the "possibility of involvement of ISI-based Khalistani/Kashmiri terror groups cannot be ruled out".
 
The Nirankari sect, with headquarters in Delhi, has millions of followers across the country and abroad. 
 
In the last few months, Khalistani and Kashmiri activists have been trying to foment trouble in Punjab, which shares a 553-km long barbed wire fenced international border with Pakistan.
 
The Punjab Police, along with its Jammu and Kashmir counterpart, had busted two modules of Kashmiri students who were studying in institutions in Punjab and having links to terrorist outfits in troubled Kashmir. 
 
The Maqsudan police station was targeted by Kashmiri terrorists on September 14 with hand grenades though no one was injured in the attack.
 
Posters of Kashmiri terrorist Zakir Mussa had mysteriously appeared in Punjab's Gurdaspur district on Friday saying that he had been seen in Punjab.
 
The Chief Minister said 15 terror modules had been busted in the past 18 months, including those with Kashmiri terror links.
 
IANS
 

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Amritsar grenade attack kills three; DGP admits terror act

In a major terrorist incident, three people were killed and 20 others injured when two motorcycle-borne masked youths threw a grenade at a Nirankari congregation in Rajasansi area in Punjab's Amritsar district on Sunday, police said.

 
3 killed, 20 injured in grenade blast in Amritsar
In a major terrorist incident, three people were killed and 20 others injured when two motorcycle-borne masked youths threw a grenade at a Nirankari congregation in Rajasansi area in Punjab's Amritsar district on Sunday, police said.
 
The grenade attack took place at the Nirankari Satsang Bhawan of the Nirankari sect in Adliwal village, about 15 km from Amritsar. The campus is located in Amritsar's rural belt, around three kilometres from the Guru Ram Das Jee Amritsar international airport.
 
The injured were rushed to hospitals in Amritsar. Two of them were in serious condition, police said. 
 
All the victims were sect followers from nearby villages who had gathered for the Sunday weekly religious meeting.
 
Punjab Director General of Police Suresh Arora, who rushed to the spot along with senior Punjab Police officers, said that it was a "terror act".
 
"We are taking it as a terror act. This incident is against a group and not an individual. That's why we are taking it as a terror act. We did not have any specific input of a strike against any particular group," he told the media in Adliwal village.
 
Describing it as an unfortunate incident, Arora said that further investigations will reveal details about who was behind the attack.
 
Witnesses told the police that two youths on a motorcycle, their faces covered, forced entry to the sect campus by pointing a pistol at a woman volunteer at the gate.
 
"Everything happened within a couple of minutes. They got in, threw the grenade and fled," one man told the police.
 
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Sunday directed the police to immediately enhance security arrangements at all sensitive places, terming it as "the first such indiscriminate attack on innocent people in recent past".
 
"Preliminary investigations had so far revealed that two men, one of them with a flowing beard, with covered faces, allegedly forced their way into the hall by brandishing a pistol. They detained the sewadar, lobbed the grenade into the prayer room, and escaped on a motorcycle," he said.
 
A crater three inches in diameter was formed by the impact of the explosion and was being examined by the forensic team. The safety valve of the grenade has also been found, he said.
 
"The possibility of involvement of ISI-based Khalistani/Kashmiri terror groups cannot be ruled out. Police teams are investigating various angles," the Chief Minister said in a statement.
 
The attack on Sunday happened amid a high alert issued on November 14 by the Punjab Police regarding the movement of 6-7 terrorists in the state.
 
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Punjab Police Inspector General (Border Range) S.P.S. Parmar said that all angles, about who could be behind the attack, were being investigated.
 
"The people had gathered for prayers. There were around 200 people. Preliminary reports suggest that the two persons threw one grenade. No firing took place," he said.
 
The Nirankari sect, with headquarters in Delhi, has millions of followers across the country and abroad. 
 
In recent months, Khalistani and Kashmiri activists have been trying to foment trouble in Punjab, which shares a 553-km long barbed wire fenced international border with Pakistan.
 
The Punjab Police, along with the Jammu and Kashmir Police, had recently busted two modules of Kashmiri students who were studying in institutions in Punjab and having links to terrorist outfits in troubled Kashmir. 
 
The Maqsudan police station was targeted by Kashmiri terrorists on September 14 this year with hand grenades though no one was injured in the attack.
 
Posters of Kashmiri terrorist Zakir Mussa had mysteriously appeared in Punjab's Gurdaspur district on Friday saying that he had been seen in Punjab.
 
The Chief Minister said he would ensure that the culprits were apprehended.
 
"Though the state had been hit by a series of cases of targeted attacks since 2015/16, this was the first attempt, in a long time, to disturb the peace in the state through indiscriminate killings. Pakistan is continuing with its nefarious activities to disturb the state's peace," Amarinder Singh said.
 
He pointed out that 15 such terror modules had been busted in the past 18 months, with Kashmiri terror links also indicated in some instances, as evidenced in the arrest of Kashmiri students from Jalandhar and in the Maqsudan police station grenade blast case.
 
The Chief Minister announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the next-of-kin of the dead.
 
IANS
 
 

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3 killed, 10 injured in grenade attack in Punjab

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At least three people were killed and 10 others injured on Sunday when a grenade exploded after it was flung at a religious gathering in Punjab's Amritsar district, police said.
 
Two youths, their faces covered, rode to the venue of the Nirankari sect's congregation in Rajasansi area, lobbed the grenade and escaped, a police officer said. There were around 500 people at the venue.
 
The attack came amid a high alert issued by the Punjab Police that six-seven terrorists had entered the state.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 

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Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety, Lucknow to probe Amritsar accident

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The Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety (CCRS), Lucknow will conduct a statutory inquiry into the accident in which at least 58 people were killed and 72 others injured after a speeding train mowed down a large group of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks at Joda Phatak, a level crossing, during Dussehra celebrations in Amritsar in the evening of October 19.
 
"The unfortunate incident of run over by a train at Amritsar leading to several deaths and injuries has become a matter of great public discourse especially raising concerns regarding safety of persons trespassing on railway tracks," an official press release from the Ministry of Railways said.
 
The release said Mr. Gurjeet Singh Aujla, the MP from Amritsar, had met Railways Minister Piyush Goyal and handed over a letter dated October 23 seeking an inquiry by the CRS in the incident.
 
"Ministry of Railways has considered this request and other facts, circumstances and legal provisions. As per law, in such cases, it is not mandatory to conduct inquiry by Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety (CCRS), but it is not impermissible either. In past, CRS inquiry was conducted in an incident of run over of persons on railway tracks. 
 
"Though, prima facie, Railways does not appear to be responsible in this incident, issue of inquiry by an independent and technically competent authority not reporting to Ministry of Railways was considered and request was made to CCRS to conduct an inquiry in this matter. Considering this, Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety (CCRS), Lucknow has ordered statutory inquiry into this incident," the release added.
 
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Police injured as Amritsar tragedy protesters take to stone-pelting

People gather at the site where a local train crushed at least 58 people and left 72 injured while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy from a railway track on the previous night; in Amritsar on October 20, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
People gather at the site where a local train crushed at least 58 people and left 72 injured while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy from a railway track on the previous night; in Amritsar on October 20, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
Protests staged by residents here against the Punjab government and the Railways, after 59 people were killed when a train crushed them as they were watching Dusshera celebrations, turned violent on Sunday leaving a few policemen injured following stone-pelting.
 
The injured policemen, including Punjab Police commandos, were rushed to a government hospital for treatment.
 
Police officials said that reinforcements were rushed to the area near the Joda Phatak (railway gate) where the situation turned violent on Sunday afternoon.
 
Residents of the area indulged in stone pelting on the police when the latter tried to remove them from the railway tracks where the tragedy occurred on Friday evening.
 
The protesters were demanding action against organisers of the Dusshera function near Joda Phatak for which hundreds of people had gathered to see the burning of the Ravan effigy.
 
The people were watching the proceedings from the live railway tracks when the Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU (diesel multiple unit) train crushed them.
 
The angry residents blocked traffic from crossing the Joda Phatak (railway gate) to show anger against the authorities not bothering about the families who had lost their loved ones, including women, children and youth.
 
Plying of trains on this section has been stopped since Friday evening.
 
Family members of the train tragedy victims said that Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and his wife Navjot Kaur, who was the chief guest at the Dusshera function on Friday, had not even bothered to meet them despite their loss.
 
The Punjab government on Saturday ordered a magisterial probe into the train tragedy.
 
The railways said they were not responsible for the tragedy.
 
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has ordered a magisterial probe into the incident, including finding out if mandatory permissions for holding the function were given.
 
Opposition Shiromani Akali Dal demanded that a case of murder be registered against the organisers, who were mostly ruling Congress leaders.
 
IANS
 

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Amritsar tragedy: Amarinder orders magisterial probe

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on Saturday that a magisterial probe into the Amritsar train tragedy in which 59 people watching Dusshera effigy burning were crushed to death by a train will reveal if mandatory permissions for holding the function were given.

 
Punjab CM orders magisterial probe, visits injured
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on Saturday that a magisterial probe into the Amritsar train tragedy in which 59 people watching Dusshera effigy burning were crushed to death by a train will reveal if mandatory permissions for holding the function were given.
 
Amarinder, who visited the accident site and the injured in hospitals on Saturday, said the Jalandhar Divisional Commissioner will conduct an inquiry within four weeks.
 
"Action will be taken against those responsible for the tragedy once the inquiry report comes. The probe will cover all aspects of the tragedy," he said. 
 
Asked if there were any lapses on the part of the railways, the Chief Minister said the probe would look into the matter.
 
"It (the probe) will ascertain whether approvals for holding the function were given or not," Amarinder said.
 
The Chief Minister said that nine of those killed were yet to be identified, while 57 other Dussehra revellers were injured as the Jalandhar-Amritsar Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) passenger train mowed them down at Joda Phatak in Amritsar.
 
Amarinder Singh, who reached the accident site on Saturday from Delhi, said the inquiry will look into all aspects, including whether the train followed the signals and if there was any trespassing. 
 
"It's a terrible tragedy, we all accept it. The inquiry will find out who is at fault and who is not. I cannot prejudge an inquiry. Let them come up with the report. I have given four weeks for the inquiry to be completed," he said. 
 
He said while the Railways were also probing the causes, the state government will hold its own inquiry. "This is not the time for making allegations. The tragedy needs to be dealt with in a proper manner. All parties should come together at this time of grief," he said.
 
On Friday, hundreds of people watching a huge Ravan effigy go up in flames amid exploding crackers spilled on to the tracks at Joda Phatak when the passenger train heading to Hoshiarpur from Amritsar came hurtling down around 7 p.m. 
 
People gather at the site where a local train crushed at least 58 people and left 72 injured while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy from a railway track on the previous night; in Amritsar on October 20, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
People gather at the site where a local train crushed at least 58 people and left 72 injured while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy from a railway track on the previous night; in Amritsar on October 20, 2018. (Photo: IANS)
Most people reportedly could not hear the train hooter due to the exploding crackers. 
 
Asked why the Chief Minister reached Amritsar after 16 hours of the tragedy, he said, "I was supposed to go to Tel Aviv. I came back from New Delhi to Amritsar." He also said he did not want the administration to get busy making arrangements for his visit.
 
The Amarinder government is under fire for reacting late to the massive tragedy and also for not taking action against organizers of the Dusshera function since they are from the ruling Congress and close aides of Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. 
 
THe Chief Minister urged all political parties "to rise above petty politicking to join hands to mitigate the sufferings of the victims and their families".
 
"The three-member Crisis Management Group, headed by Health Minister Brahm Mohindra, will camp in Amritsar for as long as required to monitor and assist in the relief operations," the Chief Minister said.
 
He said he was at the Delhi airport, ready to leave for Tel Aviv, when he heard of the incident and rushed back after postponing his Israel visit.
 
"Though I wanted to visit Amritsar last night itself, I was advised against it by the district authorities which did not want a VIP movement to divert attention from the urgent rescue and relief efforts needed at that hour," he said.
 
The Chief Minister expressed grief at the tragic incident, extending his government's full support to the victims and their families.
 
He said two little girls he met in the hospital had lost their entire families in the accident.
 
IANS
 

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Amritsar train tragedy: Railways deny responsibility

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Hours after 60 people were crushed to death by a train while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy here, the Railways on Saturday said it was not responsible for the tragedy.
 
Northern Railways spokesperson Deepak Kumar said in a statement that the event was organised in an area which does not belong to the railways. 
 
It also said that neither the area administration nor the organisers informed it about any Dusshera ceremony at the spot. 
 
"Therefore granting permission from the Railway's does not arise," he added. No information about the event was given to the railway authorities by the civil administration."
 
He said at the time of the incident on Friday evening the gates of the manned level crossing were closed.
 
A senior Railway Ministry official, however, admitted that the loco-pilots of the Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) Jalandhar-Amritsar Passenger train did not apply emergency brakes.
 
"He informed the station master at Amritsar about the train hitting the crowd immediately after the accident," he said. He told the Amritsar official that the incident happened some 340 metres from an interlocked level crossing.
 
The official agreed that the gateman should have communicated to the nearest station about the assembly of a large crowd near the railway crossing that had spilled over on to the tracks.
 
The station master should have been informed and he should have alerted the loco-pilots.
 
On Friday, a 700 strong crowd was watching a huge Ravana effigy go up in flames amid exploding crackers when on the Joda Phatak tracks near Dhobi Ghat the Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU passenger train heading to Hoshiarpur from Amritsar came hurtling down around 7 p.m.
 
In just 10-15 seconds it left behind a heap of crushed and dismembered bodies.
 
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Doctors at the Civil Hospital said that the death toll could rise as some of the injured were critical. Many killed were migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
 
The Punjab government has declared state mourning on Saturday and all offices and educational institutions would remain closed, an official spokesperson said, adding that a probe has been ordered.
 
Video clips posted on the social media showed some people who had apparently seen the approaching train trying to run away as train came mowing down all on its path.
 
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal who was in the US, cancelled all his engagements and was set to return.
 
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced Rs 5 lakh compensation each to the kin of the deceased and cancelled his proposed Israel visit to rush back to Amritsar.
 
The Chief Minister would visit the accident spot on Saturday later.
 
President ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi condoled the deaths on Twitter late on Friday.
 
The Prime Minister also announced Rs 2 lakh compensation each to the families of the dead and Rs 50,000 each to the injured.
 
IANS
 

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Amritsar train tragedy: Train driver detained, questioned

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The Punjab and Railway Police on Saturday questioned the driver of a train that crushed at least 60 people to death here while they were watching the burning of a Ravana effigy from a railway track.
 
Punjab Police officials said that the DMU (diesel multiple unit) driver had been detained at the Ludhiana railway station and was being questioned regarding the incident that took place on Friday night at the Jora Phatak near Dhobi Ghat within Amritsar city.
 
Sources said that the driver claimed that he was given green signal and all clear and had no idea that hundreds of people were standing on the tracks when the train crossed the area.
 
No action has so far been initiated against the organisers, who are leaders of the ruling Congress in Punjab, of the Dusshera event. Police sources said that the organisers had gone underground.
 
Railway officials were also gathering information from the railway linemen posted along the tracks near the Jora Phatak area who failed to inform the DMU driver regarding the presence of over 700 people on the railway tracks who were watching the burning of the Ravan and other effigies during Dusshera celebrations.
 
As the Ravan and other effigies went up in flames with the deafening noise of bursting fire crackers, the people standing on the live railway tracks did not realise that a speeding train was approaching.
 
Nearly 150 people, most of who were watching the burning of effigies or were recording the event on their mobile phones, were mowed down by the train.
 
The disaster was over in 10-15 seconds, people at the spot said.
 
Union Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha visited the accident spot late on Friday night.
 
Sinha said that the incident was being probed and that the tragedy was unfortunate.
 
Railway authorities here and in New Delhi defended themselves saying that they had not been informed about the Dusshera event at that spot and the local police did not prevent the people from coming on the live and busy railway tracks.
 
IANS
 

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About 50 dead as train mows down people celebrating Dussehra in Amritsar

About 50 people were killed after a speeding train mowed down a large group of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks at Joda Phatak, a level crossing, during Dussehra celebrations at Amritsar on Friday evening, sources said.

A view of a train crashing through a crowd of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks during Dussehra celebrations at Joda Phatak in Amritsar, Punjab on October 19, 2018. Photo taken from a video posted on Twitter by an eyewitness.
A view of a train crashing through a crowd of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks during Dussehra celebrations at Joda Phatak in Amritsar, Punjab on October 19, 2018. Photo taken from a video posted on Twitter by an eyewitness.
About 50 people were killed after a speeding train mowed down a large group of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks at Joda Phatak, a level crossing, during Dussehra celebrations here this evening, sources said.
 
There were conflicting reports about what exactly happened but it appeared that, as the effigy of Ravana was set ablaze and fire crackers flew all around in the dark, several people from the crowd unwittingly moved on to the railway tracks, close the venue of the celebrations, to avoid being singed by the fire crackers.
 
The loud noise and the blinding lights appeared to have prevented the people from noticing that a train was speeding towards them. Before the people, engrossed by the spectacle before them, realised what had happened, the Jalandhar-Amritsar train went by in a flash, running over several of them.
 
Police officials at the scene told journalists that the number of casualties could be between 40 and 50. Unofficial sources said the toll could be higher.
 
More than 60 other people suffered injuries and were rushed to various hospitals in the city, many of them in a critical condition.
 
Hundreds of people gathered at the scene. While many of them were grieving for their near and dear ones, others were angry with the authorities for failing to ensure the safety of people participating in the celebrations. Similar crowds also gathered outside the hospitals.
 
Senior officials from the district administration, the police and the Northern Railway had reached the spot and were supervising the rescue and relief efforts.
 
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on micro-blogging site Twitter that he was rushing to Amritsar to personally oversee the relief effort. He was due to leave on a visit to Israel later tonight but the trip has now been called off.
 
Capt. Amarinder Singh also announced that the Punjab government would give Rs. 5 lakh to the next-of-kin of those who were killed in the incident and free treatment for the injured.
 
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"Rushing to Amritsar to personally supervise relief & rescue in tragic rail accident on Dussehra in Amritsar. My govt will give Rs 5 lakh to kin of each deceased & free treatment to injured in govt & pvt hospitals. District authorities have been mobilised on war footing," he said.
 
"We will do everything possible to assist the injured. Have directed the district administration to leave no stone unturned to ensure the best possible treatment for them," he said, adding that a Crisis Management Group had been set up to monitor the relief and rehabilitation efforts.
 
"The state will remain in mourning tomorrow in view of #Amritsar train mishap. All offices & educational institutions will remain closed," he added.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in the accident.
 
"Extremely saddened by the train accident in Amritsar. The tragedy is heart-wrenching. My deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones and I pray that the injured recover quickly. Have asked officials to provide immediate assistance that is required," he said.
 
Congress President Rahul Gandhi said, "The train accident in Punjab in which over 50 people have died is shocking. I urge the state government & Congress workers to provide immediate relief at the accident site. My condolences to the families of those who have died. I pray that the injured make a speedy recovery."
 
Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, who was on an official visit to the United States, is flying back to India after cancelling his remaining engagements.
 
IANS adds:
 
It took just about 10 to 15 seconds for the train to pass -- and leave behind a heap of crushed and dismembered bodies.
 
Video clips posted on the social media showed some people who had apparently seen the approaching train trying to run away from the site. A few of them were also mowed down.
 
The Punjab government, in a statement in New Delhi, put the death tool at 40 but Amritsar Police Commissioner S.S. Srivastava told reporters that "it is definitely more than 50-60" and that people were still being rushed to hospitals.
 
Sub-divisional Magistrate Rajesh Sharma said 50 bodies have been recovered.
 
"Out of nowhere came the train," said a man, sounding angry while speaking to journalists. "Before anyone could realise what was happening, it ran over scores of people."
 
"When the effigy started to burn in full flow, people began running away from it fearing it may fall over them," said another man. "They did not realise that a speeding train was coming and the train did not sound its hooter."
 
The dead included several children, another witness said.
 
Ironically, moments before the tragedy, another train passed the area but there were no casualties, a railway official said.
 
A local resident, Nirmal Jit Sindhu, alleged that the Dussehra celebrations were organised by forcing the local administration to grant permission near the railway tracks.
 
He said last year the administration had not granted permission for the use of this venue for Dussehra celebrations owing to its proximity to the tracks.
 
Some people blamed Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur, who was the Chief Guest at the celebrations, saying her late arrival delayed the burning of the effigy by more than half an hour.
 
Sidhu told a news channel on telephone from Bengaluru that the death toll was alarmingly high.
 
A railway official said in New Delhi that the drop gates at the spot were down but people still massed on the tracks in violation of railway rules.
 
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About 50 feared dead as train crushes people celebrating Dussehra in Amritsar

As many as 50 people were feared dead after a speeding train crushed a large group of people who strayed on to the railway tracks at Joda Phatak, a level crossing, during Dussehra celebrations in Amrtsar in Punjab this evening, sources said.

A view of a train crashing through a crowd of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks during Dussehra celebrations at Joda Phatak in Amritsar, Punjab on October 19, 2018. Photo taken from a video posted on Twitter by an eyewitness.
A view of a train crashing through a crowd of people who had strayed on to the railway tracks during Dussehra celebrations at Joda Phatak in Amritsar, Punjab on October 19, 2018. Photo taken from a video posted on Twitter by an eyewitness.
As many as 50 people were feared dead after a speeding train crushed a large group of people who strayed on to the railway tracks at Joda Gate, a level crossing, during Dussehra celebrations here this evening, sources said.
 
There were conflicting reports about what exactly happened but it appeared that, as the effigy of Ravana was set ablaze and fire crackers flew all around in the dark, several people from the crowd unwittingly moved on to the railway tracks.
 
The loud noise and the blinding lights appeared to have prevented the people from noticing that a train was speeding towards them. Before the people realised what had happened, the Jalandhar-Amritsar train went by in a flash, running over several of them.
 
Police officials at the scene told journalists that the number of casualties could be between 40 and 50. Unofficial sources said the toll could be higher.
 
They said injured people had been rushed to a nearby hospital, many of them in a critical condition.
 
Hundreds of people gathered at the scene. While many of them were grieving for their near and dear ones, others were angry with the authorities for failing to ensure the safety of people participating in the celebrations.
 
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on micro-blogging site Twitter that he was rushing to Amritsar to personally oversee the relief effort.
 
He also announced that the Punjab government would give Rs. 5 lakh to the next-of-kin of those who were killed in the incident and free treatment for the injured.
 
"Rushing to Amritsar to personally supervise relief & rescue in tragic rail accident on Dussehra in Amritsar. My govt will give Rs 5 lakh to kin of each deceased & free treatment to injured in govt & pvt hospitals. District authorities have been mobilised on war footing," he said.
 
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