A special team of the Punjab police, gearing up to arrest self-styled radical Sikh preacher and Khalistan sympathiser Amritpal Singh, today detained six of his associates and deployed heavy police force in the Moga district. Internet has also been suspended across the state till 12 pm tomorrow. Sources say the state government waited for the G20 event to get over to initiate action against him.
Amritpal leads “Waris Punjab De”, a radical organisation started by actor and activist Deep Sidhu, who died in a road accident in February last year.
Sources said police personnel from seven district chased Amritpal Singh and his associates, and have surrounded him at Mehatpur village in Jalandhar’s Shahkot tehsil. Police had closed all roads and set up huge barricades in Shahkot as they had prior information of Amritpal Singh’s visit.
Punjab police has, through a tweet, requested all citizens to maintain peace and harmony, and “not to panic or spread fake news or hate speech”.
Request all citizens to maintain peace & harmony
Punjab Police is working to maintain Law & Order
Request citizens not to panic or spread fake news or hate speech pic.twitter.com/gMwxlOrov3
— Punjab Police India (@PunjabPoliceInd) March 18, 2023
The radical separatist leader, who has been active in Punjab for a few years, is often seen escorted by armed supporters.
Amritpal Singh was at the centre of a massive protest on February 23 against the arrest of his key aide, kidnapping accused Lovepreet Singh. He, along with his supporters, had attacked the police station, and later blamed the Punjab Police for the violence. Punjab police was heavily criticised for dragging its feet in taking action regarding the incident.
Reacting to the police action, Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu said the man who “used to talk about taking up arms for Khalistan is today running away fearing the police”.
“Does a Sikh ever run away? He would have faced the police if he had courage. He is running around in the streets like a gidad (jackal). I used to say earlier, too, that he has come to get our children killed. He is a man of (intelligence) agencies,” he said.
Amritpal Singh and his sympathisers had last month, carrying swords and guns, clashed with the police for the release of one of his aides in Ajnala near Amritsar. Six police personnel, including a Superintendent of Police rank officer, were injured during the clash. The police have not yet revealed whether an FIR was lodged against Amritpal for the violence.
After the Ajnala incident, BJP demanded Governor’s rule in the state, and the Punjab Congress sought the arrest of Amritpal Singh and his supporters for attacking police personnel.
Facing heat from the opposition parties in the state, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had recently said his government was committed to maintaining law and order in the state, and no one would be allowed to disturb the hard-earned peace.
Union Minister Anurag Thakur had earlier this month attacked the AAP government in Punjab, saying law and order “collapsed” in the state after the formation of “one government”, and suggested it “wakes up” and takes some steps.