Sikh separatists stepped up their campaign of terrorism in Punjab State in northern India today, shooting and wounding the head of a committee seeking unity between the Sikh and Hindu communities and wounding another man.
Baldev Krishan Khullar, a Hindu and president of a citizen's committee seeking reconciliation between Sikhs and Hindus in Punjab, was wounded in Jalandhar when one of two men on a scooter fired at him with a homemade gun as he rode his bicycle near his home. Another man, riding nearby in a rickshaw, also was wounded.
The shootings followed an attack in Amritsar early today on Raghundan L. Bhatia, a general secretary of the ruling Congress (I) Party who had been a key mediator between the government of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and militant Sikhs. Bhatia, a Hindu, was reported out of danger in a hospital, but a man who was visiting him was killed in the attack.
The new wave of terrorism was viewed by Indian officials as an attempt by radical Sikhs to sabotage efforts by the government to draw moderate Sikhs into negotiations for a settlement of Sikh demands for increased autonomy in Punjab.
Meanwhile, in a conciliatory move, the government released from prison today Gurcharan Singh Tohra, president of a committee that manages the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Sikhdom's holiest shrine.
Tohra, who had been detained following the Indian Army's assault last June on the Golden Temple, is regarded as a militant who was close to Sikh preacher Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who led separatist guerrillas before he was killed in the attack on the temple.