Chandigarh: Even as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government recently told Punjab and Haryana high court that they were too close to arresting fugitive Sikh hardliner Amritpal Singh, he again challenged state agencies through a second video in less than 48 hours.
His earlier video on Wednesday, March 29 evening, the first since he gave Punjab police a slip two weeks ago, was pre-recorded.
This time he used a phone and went live on the Facebook page of a UK-based Sikh Channel around 9 pm on Thursday, March 30. This page has been blocked in India. Before his video message, he also released an audio message.
Amritpal claimed in his latest video that he was not in “police custody”. He then justified his escape from security agencies, saying that “Gurus kept me free so far for a greater reason”. He also said, “I would soon appear in public.”
Several in Punjab, like Professor Manjit Singh, believe that the way Amritpal is involved in high-voltage propaganda freely through his videos, there are enough signals that he is “playing in the hands of powerful forces outside Punjab”, who, they say, are trying to “exploit” political and religious faults in the state to their advantage.
But the entire security fiasco around Amritpal – first the delay over action against him and then the “over the board” police crackdown that did not spare even journalists – is now catching up with the AAP government.
“No matter in whose hands he is playing, the entire spectacle around Amritpal without his arrest has become a huge embarrassment for the AAP government,” said Professor Harjeshwar Singh, a political observer and a history teacher. “This has only confirmed the growing perception that chief minister Bhagwant Mann is no longer in control of his government.”
It appears that the AAP government’s plans did not materialise as envisaged. It initially thought that a massive operation against Khalistani elements would neutralise the anti-government agenda of the opposition parties as well as the media that the current government is weak on law and order.
But the same action has now become a major headache for the government given that Amripal is still at large. Even the high court slammed the AAP government for its intelligence failure earlier last week.
On top of it, the police action led to the confrontation between AAP and top Sikh clergy Giani Harpreet Singh after his 24-hour ultimatum last Sunday to release Sikh youths arrested in the Amritpal operation and to even revoke National Security Act (NSA) against his aides.
AAP government finally blinked after it quietly released most of those arrested under preventive custody in the Amritpal operation.
But the question that has been troubling the AAP government is where is the “fugitive” hardliner now, and how long will he continue to incite religious sentiments to keep the state on the tenterhooks?
What did he say in the second video?
Starting his video by saying that many people had a suspicion that his earlier was recorded in police custody, Amritpal stated, “I request the Sangat (community) not to consider everything a conspiracy. We should have faith in the almighty and consider him supreme and not the Indian government or police.”
He then said, “Those who think I am a bhagoda (deserter) or that I have deserted my friends. Please don’t think that way. I am not afraid of dying. I will accept it when death comes. No one can escape it. But Satguru Sache Patshah has kept me free for a reason so that I can do something for the youth and the community.”
He then said, “I will appear before the public very soon and be with the community. I am not one of those who leave the country, go abroad, and then send messages to the public through video.”
“We need to understand that this is like how Guru Gobind Singh lived in the forests of Machhiwara. These are obstacles…need to go through on the path of religion,” he added.
Amritpal again nudged Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh to call Sarbat Khalsa, a huge meeting of religious Sikh congregation, a custom that dates back to the 18th century, to discuss the political, social and religious issues of great importance to the community.
“I have given an appeal for a Sarbat Khalsa. This is a test for Jathedar sahab as well. I am already going through my test. Your test is how steadfastly will you stand for our community’s rights,” he added.
Commenting upon Jathedar’s call to start Khalsa Vaheer, a Sikh tradition of a religious procession, he said, “I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a Vaheer. The Vaheer should take place. But to say that we will create awareness among people living in the villages, that is superficial. People are already aware. The need is to mobilise the community through Sarbat Khalsa.”
Akal Takht Jathedar has yet not reacted to his repeated calls, even as he, in an address, maintained that the recent police action has created a sense of terror in Punjab and allowed national forces to brand Sikhs as terrorists.
‘Rules out surrender’
Ruling out surrender before the police, Amritpal then said, “I didn’t put any conditions for surrendering. Baseless rumours are being spread that I laid down three conditions for surrendering such as that I shouldn’t be beaten up in the police station.”
He said, “Beat me up as much as you want to. I am not afraid of torture or imprisonment. I appeal to the Sangat not to believe these rumours. I am in Chardikala. I have left everything to the almighty. He will judge my actions, not any court.”
Observers say that the intention behind Amritpal’s repeated videos is to link his wrongful action to the cause of the Sikh community and seek their endorsement of whatever he has done.
So far, there is no major protest in his support in Punjab, giving an indication that people are mindfully watching the whole situation.