Police had stopped a group of men from a Sikh warrior sect from entering a vegetable market in Patiala, Punjab
A police officer has had his hand chopped off by a sword-wielding attacker while he was enforcing the coronavirus lockdown in northern India.
Assistant sub-inspector Harjeet Singh was manning the police checkpoint at a vegetable market in Patiala, Punjab state, when a group of Sikhs armed with swords apparently objected to being asked to show curfew passes and rammed their pickup truck through the barricade.
A video of the incident, which has been widely shared on social media in India, shows several police officers surrounding the car as it gets stuck on the barriers, but they then retreat as armed men in the blue robes of the Nihang warrior sect emerge from the vehicle.
ASI Singh, armed only with a lathi or wooden stick, tried to stand his ground but was struck on the wrist with a sword, and can be seen falling down and crying out in pain. A separate graphic video shows the officer being helped by locals, carrying his own severed hand as he gets on a scooter headed for hospital.
The incident took place shortly after dawn on Sunday morning, and has prompted outrage across India after the footage was viewed hundreds of thousands of times online.
India has been under coronavirus lockdown for three weeks, and on Tuesday prime minister Narendra Modi gave a national address saying the measures would be extended until 3 May. In his speech, broadcast on TV and radio, Mr Modi urged people to respect and honour “coronavirus warriors” – including the police and other emergency services.
Amarinder Singh, the chief minister of Punjab state and legislative assembly member for Patiala, said ASI Singh was in surgery by 10am on Sunday and underwent a successful seven-and-a-half hour operation to reattach the hand.
Mr Singh spoke to the officer via a video call on Monday, he said on Twitter, to wish him a “speedy recovery”. “The composure and bravery with which he spoke today is truly worthy of admiration,” the chief minister said.
According to local media reports, the men who attacked the police fled to a rural gurdwara, which later became the scene of an armed standoff with the authorities. “Seven persons have been arrested,” one of whom suffered gunshot wounds, Punjab director-general of police Dinkar Gupta later told the Press Trust of India.
Despite the nature of the attack on their colleague, police carried out the raid on the gurdwara with “maryada” (calm/dignity), Punjab’s special chief secretary KBS Sidhu.
“There were also women and children inside, who were unharmed,” he told India Today, adding that of the seven arrested, five were believed to be part of the group who launched the “unprovoked murderous assault on a police party, with sharp-edged weapons”.
Dr RK Sharma, head of the plastic surgery department at the Chandigarh hospital where ASI Singh was treated, told the Hindustan Times blood circulation had been restored to the officer’s hand. “The arteries and veins will take two to three weeks to heal, following which he will be discharged. We are expecting 90 per cent recovery,” he said.