Page last updated at 15:36 GMT, Monday, 25 May 2009 16:36 UK

Punjab riots after Vienna killing


Protesters take to the streets in the Indian state of Punjab

Riots have broken out across the Indian state of Punjab after a preacher from an Indian sect was killed by a rival Sikh group in Austria.

Within hours of the incident in Vienna, thousands of Sikhs took to the streets, clashing with police and setting fire to buildings, vehicles and a train.

At least two men were killed when the security forces opened fire on crowds near the city of Jalandhar, police say.

The army has marched through the city, where a curfew is in force.

However thousands of protesters carrying swords, steel rods and sticks defied the curfew on Monday.

Whatever the provocation, it is important to maintain peace and harmony among different sections of the people
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Major highways were blocked by bonfires of tyres and sticks. Trains were attacked in several places.

Police said they had fired at rioting mobs in Jalandhar after coming under attack. At least four people were wounded.

One man was shot dead as police dispersed a crowd in the nearby town of Lambran. Police say they arrested six people for arson.

In the Sikh holy city of Amritsar, police fired tear gas after protesters burned dozens of buses.

The Delhi-Lahore bus was stopped near the town of Ludhiana as a precautionary measure.

Violent demonstrations have also been reported in the towns of Patiala, Ferozepur, Bathinda and Nawanshahr.

Appeal for calm

Chief Minister of Punjab Prakash Singh Badal has called an all-party meeting on Tuesday and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has appealed for calm.

A vehicle is set on fire by protestors in Jalandhar, India, 25 May 2009
Most of the disturbances occurred in or near Jalandhar

"I am deeply distressed by the outbreak of violence in Punjab following certain incidents in Vienna, Austria," Mr Singh, himself a Sikh, said in a statement

"Whatever the provocation, it is important to maintain peace and harmony among different sections of the people."

The disturbances were triggered by the death of preacher Sant Rama Nand during a religious ceremony in Vienna on Sunday.

He was attacked by six men armed with knives and a pistol and succumbed to his wounds in hospital early on Monday.

Another preacher, Sant Nirajnan Dass, who was among 15 other people injured, is said to be stable.

Both the preachers were from a breakaway sect which has a large following in parts of Punjab and had travelled to Vienna to conduct a special service.

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder, in Delhi, says several Sikh groups had apparently opposed his presence and threatened violence.

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