A police officer’s hand has been hacked off while he was attempting to uphold the lockdown in India.
Surgeons later re-attached the hand after police battled a group who were refusing to comply with the country’s coronavirus restrictions.
Assistant Sub-Inspector Harjeet Singh was taking part in an enforcement operation to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when he tried to stop a group of five men in a market in the Punjab city of Patiala.
Asst Sub-Insp Singh was hit with a sword, severing his wrist.
Patiala’s Senior Superintendent of police Mandeep Singh Sidhu said: “They were asked to show passes. But they rammed the vehicle against the gate and the barricades.”
The incident was recorded on a mobile phone by a witness.
The men then fled to a Sikh temple about six miles (10km) to the south, where they took refuge for hours, threatening to set fire to gas cylinders if security forces entered.
Police surrounded the Gurudwara Khichri Sahib and attempted to negotiate, but the gang opened fire on officers.
In the exchange, one of the attackers was hurt.
Eventually, seven men, including the five who were originally stopped at the vegetable market, were arrested and charged with various criminal offences.
The group of men belonged to the Nihang community – a sect that carries traditional arms and wears blue robes.
Officers seized a stash of arms, ammunition, petrol bombs and large amounts of cash.
The sub-inspector was rushed to hospital in Chandigarh where he underwent a seven and a half hour operation.
Lead surgeon, Dr Jagat Ram, said afterwards: “This was a technically very complex and challenging surgery, which has been successfully done.”
Punjab’s chief minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, tweeted: “I thank the entire team of doctors and support staff for their painstaking effort. Wishing ASI Harjeet Singh a speedy recovery.”
India’s lockdown, which is in its 20th day, is set to be extended
Authorities initially said it would last three weeks but signs are that it will be extended for another two weeks.
The states of Odisha, Punjab, Karnataka and Maharashtra have already extended the lockdown until 30 April.
As India has a federal structure, state chief minsters can extend the shut down individually.
The government is mindful of the economic repercussions of the extension and there are plans to resume limited industrial activity but with reasonable safeguards.
The lockdown has had a devastating effect on daily wage earners, contract workers and the migrant labour force.
They form almost 81% of the country’s working population with millions unable to work and or earn money while the restrictions are in place. An extension would further hit this group.
Over the weekend, migrant workers torched vegetable carts and damaged vehicles in Surat, Gujarat.
They were protesting against not being paid and demanding to be allowed to go back to their homes and villages. Police arrested 81 people.
The government has set out a $22.5bn relief package for all sectors including the poor, women and daily workers.