Chandigarh: Even as the search for Sikh hardliner Amritpal Singh continues, there is great curiosity about five of his close aides who have been slapped with the stringent National Security Act (NSA) and shifted to Assam.
Four of them – Daljeet Kalsi, Basant Singh, Gurmeet Singh Bhukhanwala and Bhagwant Singh – were shifted to Dibrugarh central jail in Assam by special military aircraft early Sunday morning.
The fifth accused, identified as Harjit Singh – who is Amritpal’s uncle – was also sent to Assam on Monday after he surrendered before the Punjab police at around midnight on Sunday.
Security agencies in Punjab claimed that these five associates were “closely managing” the affairs of Amritpal and his outfit Waris Punjab De, which was “professing radical ideology and demanding Punjab’s secession from India”. The Punjab police began a crackdown on the group, which began on March 18 and is still underway after Amritpal gave the cops a slip.
In the latest affidavit filed in Punjab and Haryana high court on Tuesday, Punjab police had claimed that Amritpal and his associates were acting in a manner “prejudicial to the security of the state” and “maintenance of public order”.
What was their role?
While these five aides are facing six FIRs, the slapping of the NSA means there is little chance of them getting bail. The period of preventive detention without charge under the NSA is 12 months, which can be extended if the government gathers fresh evidence.
According to security agencies and media reports, Daljeet Kalsi, a small-time Punjabi actor-turned-businessman, was the main financier and adviser to Amritpal and Waris Punjab De.
Kalsi was a long-time associate of Deep Sidhu, the founder of Waris Punjab De. His Twitter profile had several pictures of him with Deep Sidhu as well as many Bollywood actors and singers.
After Deep Sidhu’s death, Kalsi played a key role in Amritpal’s anointment as Waris Punjab De’s in charge, even though Sidhu’s brother was against the move and said that the actor’s family members did not agree with Amritpal’s ideology.
As per an Indian Express report, Kalsi was on the board of several firms allegedly doing unregulated activities including running Ponzi schemes. He is also alleged to have received Rs 35 crore from abroad over the last two years, which was allegedly used to fund Waris Punjab De activities.
He has received around a dozen phone calls from Pakistan, security agencies have said.
Amritpal’s uncle Harjit Singh worked as his manager. He ran a transport company in Dubai, where Amritpal too worked before his arrival in India last September.
Harjit joined him later and became one of his close lieutenants. He was driving the white Mercedes car in which Amritpal Singh fled when the Punjab police attempted to arrest him on March 18.
In an interview before he surrendered to the police, he denied that Waris Punjab De was trying to disturb Punjab’s atmosphere. He claimed that they were going towards Muktasar Sahib to launch the second leg of Khalsa Vaheer (a religious procession, which Amritpal used as a mobilisation effort) when police stopped them on a naka en route.
But by the time the police intercepted the Mercedes car that he was driving, Amritpal and his gunmen had left in another vehicle, Harjit claimed.
He claimed he had no idea where Amritpal was right now. He did not deny the possibility that the police had already detained him. “I surrendered when I got to know that police were searching me,” Harjit said.
Meanwhile, Bhagwant Singh alias Pradhanmantri Bajeke has been the most outspoken of Amritpal’s team. The police claimed that he was at the forefront of radicalising youth through the Waris Punjab De group and was trying to disturb the law and order situation and harmony in the state.
He is believed to have attracted many towards Waris Punjab De with his outspoken behaviour. While Bajeke’s YouTube page has been withheld, his Facebook page is still operational and is showing more than six lakh followers.
He was often seen in social media videos challenging his opponents. He once openly challenged Congress MP Ravneet Bittu after the latter accused Amritpal and his group of spreading disharmony in society.
Bajeke also regularly visited the ongoing protest by Qaumi Insaaf Morcha at Mohali for the release of Sikhs who were convicted of militancy.
He was arrested from his village Bajeke in Moga district on Sunday morning. A video of him running from the police before his arrest on Sunday had gone viral and was telecast by all major news outlets.
On the other hand, Basant Singh Fauji and Gurmeet Singh Bukkanwal, who also belong to Moga district of Punjab, were trusted lieutenants who often remained by Amritpal’s side
Basant was initially attached to Amritpal as a bodyguard. However, he later started looking after a drug de-addiction centre that Amritpal had set up in his native village Jallu Khera. The police now say that the de-addiction centre was used to spread radicalisation and create a private militia. This charge was denied by Harjit Singh in the interview before his surrender.
Little is known about Gurmeet Singh Bukkanwal, except that he was Waris Punjab De in-charge for Moga. He worked with Deep Sidhu and later with Amritpal Singh.
As per the media reports, on the day of the ajnala thewire.in, Bukkanwal was taken into preventive custody near Harike as he was moving towards the police station with his men.
More associates sent to Assam
Apart from these five aides, Punjab police sent two more associates of Amritpal – Kulwant Singh Dhaliwal and Gurinder Pal Singh – to Dibrugarh in Assam on Tuesday.
The reason for their transfer has not yet been announced, and it is also unclear if they are facing detention under the NSA.
Over 115 people linked to Waris Punjab De have been arrested so far as part of the Punjab police’s statewide crackdown.
Meanwhile, internet suspension has been been lifted in most parts of the state, but it will continue to be in place Tarn Taran, Ferozepur, Moga, Sangrur and parts of Amritsar and Mohali districts.