The Punjab Police on Saturday said 78 people were arrested in a crackdown against Khalistani sympathiser and ‘Waris Punjab De’ chief Amritpal Singh and several members, including Singh, are on the run, and a “massive manhunt" has been launched to nab them.
In a bid to prevent the circulation of rumours and possible tension amid the ongoing operation, the Punjab government suspended internet services in the state till Sunday noon. The Ministry of Home Affairs is “closely monitoring" the situation in Punjab in the wake of renewed activities of some Khalistani supporters.
Jalandhar Police Commissioner said Amritpal Singh has been declared a fugitive. “His two cars have been seized and gunmen were nabbed. The legality of their weapons are being checked, he told ANI, adding further investigation is underway.
#WATCH | Punjab: “‘Waris Punjab De’ chief Amritpal Singh declared a fugitive. His two cars seized & gunmen nabbed, legality of their weapons being checked. Further probe on": Jalandhar Police Commissioner to ANI pic.twitter.com/TX32LRb9xL— ANI (@ANI) March 18, 2023
Here are the top updates on Amritpal Singh’s arrest in Punjab:
- The Punjab Police launched a massive state-wide cordon and search operation (CASO) against elements of Waris Punjab De (WPD) against whom several criminal cases stand registered. “In this
operation, a total of 78 persons have been arrested so far, while several others have been detained for questioning," an official release said.
- After reports of a high-speed car chase comprising over 100 police vehicles in the afternoon, the police confirmed that seven close associates of Amritpal Singh were arrested after officials on the Shahkot-Malsian Road intercepted them.
- The police also recovered weapons in the state-wide operation so far: nine weapons, a rifle of 315 bore, seven rifles of 12 bore, one revolver and 373 live cartridges of different caliber.
- Police said ‘Waris Punjab De’ members are involved in four criminal cases relating to spreading disharmony among classes, attempt to murder, attack on police persons and creating obstructions in the lawful discharge of duties of public servants.
- “All persons involved in criminal offences shall be dealt in accordance with law and all persons wanted by the police should offer themselves to the process of law. Their constitutional rights of legal defence shall be protected," the police said.
- Sources told News18 that ‘Waris Punjab De’ chief Amritpal Singh had asked his aides to stay armed and had formed a team called ‘Anandpur Khalsa Army'(AKF). The team would always stay around him with dangerous weapons, sources said.
- Internet services have been suspended across the state till 12 noon Sunday. The police also asked people to maintain peace and harmony. “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," it said in a tweet.
- A heavy deployment of police, RAF and paramilitary forces has been made near village Jallupur Khera in Amritsar, the native place of Amritpal Singh. Officials told PTI that the Union Home Ministry is “closely monitoring” the situation in Punjab in the wake of renewed activities of some Khalistani supporters.
- What Amritpal’s Father Said After Raids: Amritpal Singh’s father, Tarsem Singh, told ANI that police did not find anything illegal in their house after conducting raids for around four hours. “We don’t have correct info about him (Amritpal Singh). Police conducted searches for 3-4 hours at our house. They didn’t find anything illegal…Police should have arrested him when he left from the house," he said.
- “All the citizens are requested not to pay heed to fake news and rumors. Situation in the state is completely stable. All persons indulging in mischievous activities for disturbing peace and harmony in the state shall be dealt with strictly," the official statement read.
- Some supporters of ‘Waris Punjab De’ chief shared some videos on social media claiming police were chasing them. A video showed Amritpal sitting in a vehicle and one of his aides could be heard saying policemen were after “Bhai saab" (Amritpal).
- According to reports, Singh is believed to be a close associate of UK-based Khalistani terrorist Avtar Singh Khanda. Khanda is a trusted lieutenant of leader of the banned Babbar Khalsa International Paramjit Singh Pamma, who often holds theoretical training classes for the Sikh youth to radicalise them.
- Amritpal Singh, Avtar Singh Khanda and Paramjit Singh Pamma have been aiming to destabilise Punjab by ideological indoctrination of the Sikh youth with extremist views, they said.
- Official sources said Pakistan ISI is believed to have told Singh to motivate the young Sikhs in the name of religion. “After coming to Punjab, at the behest of the ISI, Amritpal Singh tried to spread the influence of his group ‘Waris Punjab De’," they alleged.
- Singh was a truck driver in Dubai before the ISI, with the help of Khalistan supporters based outside India, radicalised him in bids to destabilise Punjab once again.
- The crackdown came after Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had, earlier this month, called on Union Home Minister Amit Shah and discussed with him the prevailing law and order situation in the border state. The Union home ministry last week also ordered the deployment of 18 companies in Punjab for “aid of the state government during law and order duties.”
- Last week, the Punjab Police registered cases against Amritpal Singh and his supporters in Ajnala for alleged hate speech.
- In an interview to News18 last week, 30-year-old Singh said, “I think the current government will think maturely what they will do (against me). I do not fear being arrested or being killed. But what charges are they going to arrest me on?”
- In February, a man filed a complaint at Ajnala Police Station, accusing associates of the radical preacher of kidnapping and assaulting him. Amritpal Singh and six of his associates were named in an FIR. Police arrested Lovepreet Singh Toofan, a close associate of Amritpal, in connection with the incident. However, after Toofan’s arrest, Amritpal issued a warning to the police to revoke the case against him. The situation turned violent when hundreds of his supporters armed with automatic guns and sharp weapons broke through police barricades and stormed the police complex. Toofan was released under pressure, but the police assured the court that they would continue their investigation into the matter.
- According to a CNN-News18 report in February, intelligence officials reported that Facebook and Instagram accounts sharing numerous images depicting supposed instances of Sikh oppression in India. Additionally, these posts are being promoted and specifically targeted towards viewers in Canada, the UK, and Germany. According to the sources, the advertisements are tailored to reach only young Sikhs aged between 18 and 25 years old. The funds for the ads, worth millions of dollars, directly linked Sikh secessionist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale with Amritpal Singh.
- Weeks ahead of Amritpal Singh’s arrest by Punjab police, top intelligence sources told CNN-News18 that the Khalistani separatist with international links had received a significant social media push from Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI through “indirect funding routes”.
- After the Ajnala incident Singh threatened Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann by saying he was on the path of former chief minister Beant Singh, who was assassinated by Dilawar Singh. Further, he claimed that Mann would also be killed in same manner.
- Congress’ Ludhiana MP and former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh’s grandson Ravneet Singh Bittu had last month claimed to have received a call from an international number, threatening him of dire consequences if he did not stop speaking against Amritpal Singh. In-charge Ghumar Mandi police post, Ludhiana, Sub Inspector Satnam Singh Bhullar said he had received a complaint regarding the threat call received by Bittu and further investigations were on.
- Commenting on crackdown on Amritpal Singh by Punjab police, Congress MP Bittu in a video post on Twitter, 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 was quoted as saying.
- Amritpal Singh had previously issued a threat to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, saying he would meet the same fate as that of former prime minister Indira Gandhi. “Amit Shah had said that he won’t let the Khalistan movement rise. I had said that the same was done by Indira Gandhi, and if you do the same then you would have to face consequences. If the Home Minister says the same to those demanding ‘Hindu Rashtra’, then I will see if he remains Home Minister,” he had told the media.
- Amritpal Singh was anointed the head of the ‘Waris Punjab De’ following the death of its founder - actor and activist Deep Sidhu - in a road accident in February last year. After he asserted control over the outfit, Sidhu’s family distanced themselves from Amritpal, claiming that he was never nominated as the leader of their son’s organisation.
- According to experts, Singh has been emulating the appearance and behaviour of terrorist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was killed during Operation Blue Star in 1984. This includes adopting similar clothing, gestures, carrying an arrow, maintaining a group of armed bodyguards, and using religion as a protective cover.
(With inputs from agencies)
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