Chandigarh: As the Punjab police failed to arrest Amritpal Singh even four days after beginning a crackdown against the Waris Punjab De group that he heads, speculation is rife that the pro-Khalistan leader may have slipped beyond reach.
The inspector general of police (IGP) Sukhchain Singh Gill said during a press conference on Tuesday evening that after fleeing from the police in Shahkot in Jalandhar district, he visited a gurdwara in Nangal Ambian village, also in Jalandhar, where he changed his clothes before fleeing again in a Brezza car, which too has been recovered by the police. He is believed to have then escaped on a bike.
He told the media that these facts came into the picture after police arrested four people who helped him during the course of his temporary stay in the gurdwara.
While claiming that he would be arrested very soon, Gill also informed that the National Security Act (NSA) has already been invoked against him, besides the issuance of a non-bailable warrant (NBW).
The Punjab police also released several pictures of Amritpal in different attires, asking people to help the police to arrest him.
Punjab Police releases a few pictures of ‘Waris Punjab De’ chief Amritpal Singh, requesting people to help them in his arrest. pic.twitter.com/cXbQayGsdm
— ANI (@ANI) March 21, 2023
IGP Gill said that a total of 154 persons have been arrested for disturbing peace and harmony in the state, many of them from the Waris Punjab De group.
He said that a lookout circular (LOC) and NBW have been issued against Amritpal Singh. The Punjab police are working with police from other states and central agencies, he added.
High court slams police
Earlier, Punjab and Haryana high court slammed the Punjab government for its failure to arrest Amritpal Singh. While Punjab advocate general (AG) Vinod Ghai tried to explain the situation on the ground, the bench of Justice N.S. Shekhawat called it an intelligence failure and questioned the state government as to why Amritpal was not arrested yet when the state had 80,000 police personnel at its disposal.
Later, in the order, the bench appointed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) to assist the court in this matter and asked the AG to file the status report before the next date of hearing on March 28.
The court’s observation came during the hearing of a habeas corpus petition filed by Amritpal Singh’s legal adviser Imam Singh Khara, who claimed that the Sikh hardliner was taken into police custody from Shahkot in Jalandhar on March 18, the day the police began the crackdown.
The Punjab police in its affidavit, filed through Jalandhar police chief Kuldeep Chahal, claimed that the allegations levelled in the petition was vehemently denied. Amritpal was neither arrested nor detained or taken into custody at any point of time, Chahal told the HC, adding that he was absconding from the law.
Giving details of the reasons behind the Punjab police’s action against the pro-Khalistan leader, Chahal said Amritpal was “continuously acting in a manner prejudicial to the security of the state”. For some time he was professing radical ideologies for the demand of the “secession of Punjab” from India supported using all means, including violent means, for making a separate nation called Khalistan.
The Jalandhar police chief also added that Amritpal has also said that he does not believe in the Indian constitution, thereby challenging its supremacy.
Meanwhile, in a press statement, Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann said that severe action is being taken against those conspiring to disturb peace, amity, communal harmony and brotherhood in the state. He vowed that no one will be allowed to derail progress in the state and disturb its hard-earned peace.
On the other hand, the opposition has targeted the Mann government for ‘mishandling’ the situation.
In a statement, Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal said it was shocking that scores of youth were being arrested indiscriminately merely on suspicion. He said the party has formed a committee to provide prompt legal aid where desired.
Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring said the suspension of many Twitter accounts of journalists was a direct attack on the freedom of expression.