Eleven people were arrested at a gurudwara in a police operation, in which shots were fired after a purported group of nihangs chopped off an officer’s hand and injured three other Punjab policemen when they were stopped from violating the lockdown in Patiala district.
Assistant Sub-Inspector Harjeet Singh's hand was cut off with a sword and three other policemen injured when the group travelling in an SUV attacked them outside the wholesale vegetable market in Sanaur town. A mandi official was also hurt.
The group had fled after the attack and holed itself up in the Nihang Dera complex which also houses Gurudwara Khichdi Sahib at Balbera village, about 25 km from Patiala city.
The stand-off at the gurudwara lasted for hours, till police entered it and arrested 11 people, including the five involved in the mandi attack.
A Nihang Dera member, Nirbhav Singh, suffered a gunshot wound and was admitted to Patiala hospital, police said.
Meanwhile, doctors at Chandigarh's PGIMER re-attached ASI Harjeet Singh's left hand after an operation which lasted over seven hours, officials said.
Punjab CM Captain Amarinder spoke to Harjeet after his surgery and said he admired his composure and bravery.
The three other injured policemen include Sadar Patiala Station House Officer (SHO) Bakkar Singh, ASI Raj Singh and ASI Raghbir Singh.
They were deployed outside the mandi, enforcing the lockdown to contain coronavirus. Only those carrying curfew passes were being allowed into the market.
The purported nihangs – members of a Sikh sect whose adherents carry traditional arms and wear blue robes – arrived in an SUV and were asked to stop by mandi officials, police said.
"They were asked to show passes. But they rammed the vehicle against the gate and the barricades," Patiala's Senior Superintendent of Police Mandeep Singh Sidhu said.
They then allegedly attacked the policemen and fled to their dera.
In their operation, policemen led by Inspector General (Patiala Zone) Jatinder Singh Aaulakh stopped the movement of people a kilometer away from the gurdwara and surrounded it, police said.
Several policemen took positions in nearby fields, with the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Punjab Police being involved. Media was barred from going near the gurdwara.
Police said three pistols, some used cartridges, two petrol bombs, spears, swords, LPG cylinders, five bags of poppy husk, other drugs in commercial quantities and Rs 39 lakh in cash were seized.
“We requested them through the public address system to surrender, but they refused,” Director General of Police Dinkar Gupta told PTI.
Local people, including a sarpanch, also went inside to talk to them but they did not relent, the police said.
Punjab's Special Chief Secretary KBS Sidhu said the police acted in a respectful manner when they went inside the gurdwara.
An attempt to murder case has been registered at Sadar police station for the attack on policemen.
Another case has been registered against 11 people, including a woman, under the Indian Penal Code, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and laws relating to disaster management and explosive substances.
(This story has been edited for structure and length.)