Chandigarh, May 22 (UNI) Punjab today virtually came to a stand still as normal life was thrown out of gear due to the state-wide 'bandh' called by the Akal Takht to protest against the ''anti-Sikh activities'' of Sirsa based Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh.
Reports reaching the state headquarters here said that barring an incident of 'dharna', the 'bandh' was peaceful and no untoward incident had been reported so far.
A report from Bathinda said about 25 members of 'Panthic' organisations were taken into custody by the police when they tried to stage a 'dharna' at Rampura Phul town. Amongst those who were taken into custody was the head of a gurdwara in Rampra Phul and the head of a 'kar sewa' organisation.
Reports said that public transport remained off the road and there were very few private vehicles plying in Punjab. The only vehicles to be seen on the highways and roads were those of the state police and the para military force (PMF) personnel who are on patrol duty to prevent any unsavoury incident.
State transport services of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Chandigarh remained confined to the Punjab borders and did not enter the state.
All 'Sacha Sauda' centers (deras) in Punjab, including the biggest at Salabatpura, have been cordoned off by the security forces as a preventive measure. The security around major historical gurdwaras particularly the Golden Temple and Takht Damdama Sahid at Talwandi Sabo, has been tightened.
Reports said that all educational institutions, shops and business establishments did not open this morning. The state government had yesterday ordered the closure of all educational institutions, causing the Universities to cancel the examinations slated for today.
Public Transport services between Chandigarh and Mohali were also affected. Reports said that attendence at government offices in the state and in Chandigarh was also affected by the 'bandh' as employees depending on public transport services could not reach their respective offices in the morning.
Fruits, vegetables and milk and milk products from the rural areas could not reach major cities and towns of Punjab due to the 'bandh'. People in certain parts of the state, particurlarly in the rural and semi rural areas, went without their morning papers.
However emergency and essential services fucntioned normally in most parts of the state. Hospitals remained open and medical shops paricularly those outside hospitals, also remained open.