The inside story of what transpired at the Ferozepur flyover where PM Modi was stuck for 20 mins

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Punjab Police failed to give safe passage to the prime minister despite assuring SPG that the route was clear. An inquiry is now expected to fix the accountability and heads are likely to roll

Police personnel and officials at the flyover where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s convoy was stuck for 2o minutes due to a blockade by a group of protestors, in Punjab’s Ferozepur. PTI

The Moga-Ferozepur highway near Piarenana village was clear till around 11 am on Wednesday, before 50 farmers led by union leader Surjeet Singh Phool reached there and blocked the road with the help of local villagers. The Punjab police chose not to exercise force to remove them.

News18.com has learnt that there is high concern at the Centre as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cavalcade was stuck on top of a flyover in plain sight around 1:30 pm for nearly 20 minutes, just 30 kilometres from the India-Pakistan border, and some protesters came as close to around 150 meters from the prime minister’s vehicle.

The SPG got its vehicles to park themselves strategically on the road to surround the prime minister’s car. This area has always been on high alert due to detection of drones and tiffin bombs in the past.

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A senior official at the Centre said the Moga-Ferozepur highway of around 100 kilometres was the approved “contingency route” in case the prime minister was not able to fly from Bathinda to Ferozepur. The prime minister had undertaken a similar length road journey from Delhi to Meerut a few days ago without any hitch.

Punjab Police had assured the SPG when the prime minister started from Bathinda by road that the route was clear and security was assured. On Tuesday evening, this route was blocked by the Bhartiya Kisan Sangharsh Samiti but was cleared by early morning after talks.

A written assurance was given by the Punjab government too. But at 11 am on Wednesday, 50 men of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Krantikari) led by Surjeet Singh Phool arrived at the highway near Piarenana village and blocked the road with a trolley, about 8 kilometres before the rally venue of the Prime Minister.

Announcements were made from a speaker to collect local villagers from Piarenana and soon a crowd of about 150 protestors were on the highway. The prime minister by then had embarked from Bathinda to take the Bajakhana-Kotkapura-Faridkot route to Ferozepur.

News18.com spoke to Surjeet Singh Phool who claimed there was no intention to stop the prime minister and, in fact, said they were not even aware that the prime minister would pass through the road till the Punjab Police asked them to vacate the roue, saying so.

“We didn’t know that prime minister is coming by road. Villagers told us later that it was the prime minister’s convoy on the flyover. There was no planning to stop the prime minister’s convoy. We were told around 12:30 pm to 1 pm by police that we have to vacate the road… we couldn’t believe it and we thought they were lying to us. Usually, the route for prime minister is cleared at least 2-3 hours before the convoy has to pass,” Phool said.

The role of both the Ferozepur and the Moga SSPs is now under the scanner for the lapse and Punjab government on Thursday marked a probe under a retired judge to give a report in three days on the lapses during the prime minister’s visit.

The BJP alleges there was connivance between the Punjab Police and the protestors who arrived on the highway after leaking of the details of the PM’s route.

As the highway was open for traffic and buses with BJP supporters were also travelling on it towards the rally venue, the prime minister’s convoy on the flyover got stuck between the protestors at one end on the front and BJP supporters on the other end at the rear. With no headway possible and SPG getting no response from the CMO, the PM turned back after 20 minutes.

Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi has made it clear that he disallowed any use of force on protestors to remove them as it could have led to violence. Behind this decision are the memories of 2015 when Punjab Police had to use force in nearby Kotkapura and Bargari areas of Faridkot leading to deaths of protestors and a political upheaval in the state.

A senior Punjab police official told News18.com that the entire route of the prime minister fell in a sensitive area which criss-crosses the Malwa region where the farmer agitation has been at its peak. But Punjab Police failed to give safe passage to the prime minister despite assuring SPG that the route was clear. An inquiry is now expected to fix the accountability and heads are likely to roll.

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