Chandigarh: After over a month-long chase, Punjab police have finally taken radical Sikh preacher Amritpal Singh into custody on Sunday morning.
While Punjab police in a tweet a short while ago claimed that Amritpal has been arrested in Punjab’s Moga district, claims are that he had surrendered himself before the police in Rode village, Moga.
Interestingly, Rode village is the birth place of late Sikh militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who Amritpal idolises. It is from this village that Amritpal’s dastarbandi was held before he took over Waris Punjab De, a pressure group late actor-activist Deep Sidhu created.
Several news channels in Punjab are broadcasting statements of Bhindranwale’s brother Jasbir Rode who claimed that Amrtipal had arrived in Rode village last night. Early in the morning he prayed at the gurudwara in the village. He then addressed the Sikh Sangat before police took him in custody.
— ANI (@ANI) April 23, 2023
Rode, also the former Akal Takht Jathedar, said some fake news is being circulated that police surrounded and gripped Amritpal. These are lies, he said. Amritpal has willingly surrendered before the police.
“If he had been arrested by the police [without surrendering], why was he being allowed to address the gathering inside a gurdwara?” Rode asked. He said Police will of course present its narrative that he was arrested. But the reality is that he has himself surrendered to the police.
Visuals of police taking Amritpal into custody from the gurudwara are already going around on social media. He is seen in his traditional Sikh attire.
There are reports that he will soon be shifted to Dibrugarh central jail in Assam where his other accomplices were shifted after their arrest. The last person who was sent there was Amritpal’s close aide Pappalpreet, who, police said, helped him escape police arrest after a crackdown operation began on March 18.
I am not guilty in eyes of almighty, will fight legally: Amritpal before arrest
As the police earlier declared, Amritpal will be booked under the draconian National Security Act. This means that he can be kept in preventive detention without charge for 12 months, which can be extended if the government gathers fresh evidence.
As per police records, he has been facing more than eight cases including for his role in Ajnala police station siege.
Police charge that Amritpal was acting in a manner prejudicial to the security of the state. For some time he was professing radical ideologies and demanding the “secession of Punjab” from India, using all means including violent ones, to make a separate nation called Khalistan.
However, in a video that surfaced before his arrest in Rode village, Amritpal claimed that he is innocent in the eyes of the almighty and will fight a legal battle.
He said in his address that he is right now at a crucial stage of his life in Rode, the land of Saint Bhindranwale, from where he began his journey for the cause of the Sikh community.
He said there were several ways to arrest him but the true colour of the current rulers (referring to the AAP government) has been exposed after it mindlessly harassed and arrested hundreds of Sikh youth.
“People outside may hold us guilty but we are not guilty in the eyes of the almighty. We have decided that we will stay here and fight,” said Amritpal.
He said all cases against him and his followers are false and fabricated. “We will fight the legal battle in time to come,” he said.
“I have blessing of the Sikh Sangat and that is why I have decided to surrender myself before the police. My surrender is not the end, but a beginning. We will fight the wrong propaganda and false cases against Sikhs,” he said.
Who is Amritpal?
Amritpal’s rising profile has been sudden and is still a mystery. The 29 year old became an instant hit via social media and captured the radical space in Punjab soon after he arrived from Dubai last September. He is said to have spent the last 10 years in Dubai.
While he openly demanded Khalistan, a separate Sikh state, there was tension in Punjab when he along with his supporters captured the police station in Ajnala to free one of his aides in February this year.
Since then, he has been in the eye of a storm, as the Aam Aadmi Party government in the state began a crackdown to arrest him on March 18, an operation, which was heavily criticised in several quarters.
Even as Amritpal slipped out of the police net and finally gave himself in, the Punjab government has been accused of creating a scare in Punjab by upping the ante on his significance, suspending the internet for days, detained over 300 Sikh youth, and even blocking social media accounts of several journalists in Punjab who were reporting on this issue.