Two groups clashed inside the Golden Temple premises for close to half an hour this morning leaving at least 12 persons injured, even as the temple city observed a bandh to mark the 30th anniversary of Operation Bluestar.
Brandishing swords, spears and sticks, video footages showed people clashing and chasing each other outside the Akal Takht building inside the complex. Some others were seen running for cover.
The situation took an ugly turn when one of the Akali Dal factions led by former IPS officer Simranjeet Singh Mann along with his supporters tried to raise pro-Khalistani slogans from the rostrum of the Akal Takht, Amritsar Police Commissioner Jatinder Singh Aulakh said.
Mann was prevented from delivering his speech during a ceremony organised to mark the 30th anniversary of Operation Bluestar following which clashes broke out between activists of his group, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), and guards of the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbhandhak Committee (SGPC), he said, adding that swords were used in the violence which left five members of the SGPC task force injured.
Police personnel are not permitted inside the Golden Temple premises where security and other issues are under the control of the task force, Aulakh said.
"The situation has been defused and things are under total control," he said.
When contacted, the Jathedar of the Akal Takht, Giani Gurbachan Singh, said the the incident is being investigated. "Preliminary reports suggest that some unscrupulous elements were responsible for it," he told PTI.
Mann accused the SGPC and the ruling Akali Dal government in Punjab of not addressing the issues faced by the Sikh community and also targeting groups, seeking a resolution of these problems.
The anniversary of Operation Bluestar was observed at the Akal Takht at the marbled periphery of Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple.
In the first week of June, 1984, more than 1,000 people were killed in Operation Bluestar, the raid on Sikhism's holiest shrine to flush out Sikh extremists led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale from the Golden Temple. Bhindranwale and his associates were killed in the operation.
Five months later, in retaliation, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards at her residence.
During the day, Mann's supporters raised pro-Khalistan slogans. Trouble started when the Akal Takht head was addressing the gathering and Mann tried to stop him. During the melee, many panic-stricken devotees ran for safety.
Meanwhile, 1,500 personnel of anti-riot police were deployed in several places in Amritsar in the wake of a bandh call given by hardline outfit Dal Khalsa.
In Delhi, Punjab MPs strongly condemned the incident and said that religion should be separated from politics.
"Today is very important day for us. But we are also sorry that today this incident happened. We condemn it. This should not have happened," Shiromani Akali Dal MP Prem Singh Chandumajra said outside Parliament.
AAP MP Bhagawant Mann described the incident as "shameful and a black day" and sought religion to be separated from politics.
Blaming Akalis for it, the Sangrur MP said, "Akali Dal has mixed religion with politics. Religion should be separated from politics."
Akali Dal Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Gujral said, "It is very unfortunate. I also saw it on TV. This is the holiest place for the Sikhs. It is shameful, if such activities take place."
Meanwhile, 28 people have been booked for the clash in the Golden Temple in Amritsar today.
Police said 21 out of 28 accused have been arrested under section 307 IPC (Attempt to murder).
ADCP Punjab Police Parampal said FIR was registered on the complaint of SGPC.