India coronavirus: Doctors reattach policeman's hand severed in lockdown attack

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Police officers show sharp-edged weapons recovered from the arrested Nihangs in Punjab in IndiaImage source, Hindustan Times
Image caption,
The police said the attackers were defying the lockdown in the state

Doctors have reattached the severed hand of an Indian policeman who was attacked while enforcing the coronavirus lockdown in Punjab state.

The assault took place on Sunday in Patiala district. Sub-inspector Harjeet Singh is recovering in hospital.

Eleven people, reportedly from the Nihang Sikh religious sect, have been arrested in connection with the attack.

All Indian states are in lockdown until 15 April as part of efforts to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Doctors said the surgery was very complex and challenging, but sub-inspector Singh was likely to make a full recovery.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh congratulated the medical team.

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Sub-inspector Singh had reprimanded his attackers for violating the lockdown.

After the attack on the police, the men escaped to a nearby village and took shelter in a gurdwara complex, according to media reports.

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They refused to surrender and fired at police but eventually came out of the gurdwara after police called for reinforcements.

Three separate cases of attempt to murder, grievous bodily harm and attack on a public servant have been registered against the accused.

Several Sikh groups, including the Nihangs, have condemned the incident.

Policemen have been at the forefront of enforcing the lockdown across the country. They have come under attack in other states as well.

But the attack in Punjab has been the most brutal. A viral video of the incident shows the injured policeman asking his colleagues to help him.

Who are the Nihangs?

The word nihang means crocodile. Many scholars of Sikh history state that the Nihangs were earlier also called Nihang Akalis. Various historical accounts describe them as the mainstay of the Sikh warrior army that took up the cudgels with India's former Mughal rulers.

Dressed up in their trademark blue, they are known for their martial arts and sword-fighting skills.

The sect was responsible for protecting the Sikh faith and its followers. The group's role is largely ceremonial in the present context, but they still carry swords and knives as a part of their attire.