Punjab Police File ‘Zero FIR’ Over Assault on Punjabi NRI in Dalhousie

| | Chandigarh
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Punjab Police File ‘Zero FIR’ Over Assault on Punjabi NRI in Dalhousie

Monday, 17 June 2024 | PNS | Chandigarh

In a significant development, the Punjab Police on Sunday lodged a ‘Zero FIR’ concerning an alleged assault on a Punjab-origin NRI Kawaljit Singh, who claimed that he was brutally beaten by a group of men over a parking dispute in Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh. The incident has triggered a political uproar and drawn attention to regional tensions.


Punjab NRI Affairs Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal reached out to Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, urging a comprehensive investigation into the matter. Dhaliwal emphasized the need for swift and thorough action to ensure justice and maintain the goodwill between tourists and locals in Himachal Pradesh.


The Zero FIR, a legal mechanism allowing complaints to be registered at any police station irrespective of jurisdiction, was filed under sections including 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 506 (criminal intimidation), and 148 (rioting) of the Indian Penal Code at the Ranjit Avenue police station in Amritsar.


Allegations of Assault and Discrimination

Kawaljit Singh, who is currently receiving medical treatment in Amritsar hospital, alleged that he and his family were attacked by a mob of around 100 people after a parking dispute in Dalhousie. Singh, who has been residing in Spain with his Spanish wife for the past 25 years, recently returned to Punjab and was visiting Dalhousie with his wife and a relative when the altercation occurred. He claimed that the attack was fueled by regional discrimination, stating that he was targeted specifically because he is Punjabi.


Political and Public Reactions

The incident has prompted strong reactions from various political figures. Punjab NRI Affairs Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal, who visited Singh in the hospital, expressed grave concern over the assault. In his letter to Himachal Pradesh’s Chief Minister, Dhaliwal highlighted the potential impact such incidents could have on tourism, especially during the peak summer season when many visitors from Punjab and other regions flock to Himachal Pradesh's scenic spots.


“Tourists from Punjab and across the world come to visit Himachal Pradesh. This highly condemnable and unfortunate incident shall impact tourism in the Hill State if we collectively do not take strict action against the culprits,” Dhaliwal wrote. He requested that the Himachal Pradesh Government undertake a thorough investigation and take stringent action to prevent future occurrences.


“I shall be highly grateful if you look into the matter personally and please direct the authorities concerned to thoroughly inquire the matter. I would also request some of your precious time to personally discuss this unpleasant incident,” he added.


Dhaliwal said that thousands of people from Punjab visit tourist places such as Shimla, Manali, Kasauli, and Dalhousie every day and such incidents are not good for tourism.


Himachal Pradesh Police's Response

Contrary to Singh’s allegations, the Himachal Pradesh Police had stated that the incident was not related to any inter-state or inter-community dispute. Inspector General of Police (Northern Range) Santosh Patial had, a day before, clarified that Singh was involved in a scuffle while performing palm readings for some women in Khajjiar, Chamba district, which offended some locals. The situation reportedly escalated into a scuffle, but both parties later reached a compromise in the presence of the police, and Singh chose not to pursue legal action.


“There is nothing like an interstate or inter-community dispute. Tourists are welcome in Himachal,” Patial asserted, describing the altercation as a “stray incident”. He added, “Thousands of tourists are coming to the State every day during the summer season and it is just an isolated incident that occurred as some people felt offended by Singh’s actions.”


Broader Implications

The incident has also drawn parallels to other regional disputes, including the recent controversy involving Bollywood actor and BJP MP from Mandi, Himachal, Kangana Ranaut, who was allegedly slapped by a CISF woman constable at Chandigarh airport. Amritsar MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla and Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia have suggested that these incidents reflect underlying regional tensions that need to be addressed to maintain harmony and mutual respect.


As the investigation progresses, both the Punjab and Himachal Pradesh Governments face the challenge of addressing the immediate concerns of justice and accountability while ensuring such incidents do not mar the reputation of these tourist-friendly states. The emphasis remains on a fair and transparent inquiry to uphold the law and protect the interests of all parties involved.

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