Water tanks Punjab's favourite protest points

Protests by various groups and organisations in Punjab are going sky high - literally, that is! People are now clambering up water tanks to hold protest.

In recent years, tower-type community water tanks have become the newest, and sometimes deadliest, protest points in the state. Be it unemployed teachers, women, employees or other protesting groups, community water tanks have become a rallying point for many of them in recent years. 

The protesters just climb up the water tanks, some of them as high as 100 feet, and perch themselves there for the protest.

In recent months, protesters have climbed water tanks in Bathinda, Kapurthala and other places.

In June 2010, two unemployed women teachers were seriously injured when they jumped from the top of a 90-foot water tank near Bathinda. Nearly 10 teachers, including women, had perched themselves atop the water tank and were threatening to immolate themselves if the state government did not agree to their demands, including giving them jobs.

A woman teacher, Kiranjit Kaur of Faridkot, had set herself on fire in Kapurthala town in February 2010 after the state government failed to honour a promise to fulfil the demands of education guarantee scheme (EGS) teachers. She was one of the four protesting EGS women teachers who had climbed on the tower-type water tank at the civil hospital complex in Kapurthala. 

Having got 90 per cent burns, she later succumbed to her injuries in hospital in Ludhiana.A police officer was accused by the protesters of instigating and challenging her to carry out the self-immolation threat. 

“When the protestors climb on water tanks, we try all means to persuade them to come down. Some of them refuse to budge and keep sitting there for some days. The protests on water tanks can be dangerous and even fatal,” police officer Gurdeep Singh said.Caught unaware

In September 2007, nine teachers in Punjab, including five women, did the water tank stunt in Kapurthala town and threatened to jump if their arrested colleagues were not released. Caught unawares, the authorities roped in a local unit of the army to spread nets under the tank to save the teachers if they actually jumped. The authorities had to order the release of 150 teachers arrested earlier.

“We know that such protests on water tanks are dangerous. But the government does not seem to listen when the protests are carried out on the streets. This is our way of bringing our issues to the notice of the government,” unemployed youth Balwinder Singh said.

While most protests are for a genuine cause like getting jobs, others do it even for trivial issues.

In March 2012, undertrial prisoner Lakhwinder Pal climbed up the water tank inside the Gurdaspur Central Jail to show his protest. He was upset at not being allowed to smoke and demanded a cigarette.

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