Punjab: Could Missing Amritpal Stage an Appearance on Baisakhi?

After Amritpal's allegedly close associate Papalpreet Singh's arrest on Monday, police in the state raise their guard. There are reports of police asking personnel on leave to report back on duty.

Chandigarh: After arresting Papalpreet Singh, allegedly a close aide of Amritpal Singh, on Monday, April 10, Punjab police claimed that they are “close” to arresting the fugitive Sikh hardliner.

Papalpreet, a former journalist, is responsible for Amritpal escaping the Punjab police net on March 18. He was seen with Amritpal in several videos and images that the police circulated days after their escape.

After spending days outside Punjab, both are believed to have returned. A fresh CCTV footage surfaced on social media on March 29 purportedly showing Papalpreet in a dera in Hoshiarpur village.

Amritpal Singh’s close aide Papalpreet Singh was arrested from Punjab’s Hoshiarpur on Monday, April 10. Photo: Screenshot from PTI video.

Even as Amritpal is still untraceable, the police finally caught Papalpreet from Kathu Nangal village near Amritsar, in what is believed as a major breakthrough in an ongoing hunt for the main ‘fugitive’.

There is already police built-up in several parts of Punjab especially when there are unconfirmed reports of Amritpal’s appearance on the day of Baisakhi, April 13.

Some media reports also suggested that police have already cancelled the leave of all its personnel till April 14.

The spotlight is at Takht Damdama Sahib in Bathinda’s Talwandi Sabo where a large Sikh gathering is expected for the Baisakhi celebration following the call given by top Sikh clergy Akal Takht head Giani Harpreet Singh last week.

The day of Baisakhi, which is celebrated across India in different forms, has huge importance in Sikh history and culture.

It marks the establishment of Khalsa panth by the 10th and last Guru Gobind Singh, which laid the foundation of a community distinct from other religions.

Amrtipal in his last video had also called for a huge Sikh congregation on Baisakhi to discuss prevailing Sikh issues.

These developments make many believe that he could use the day to appear before the community to gain their sympathy, something the state would never see happening.

Punjab DGP Gaurav Yadav, who supervised secuirty arrangements in Amritsar and Bathinda districts on Monday afternoon, claimed that the arrangements were to ensure a safe and secure environment for everyone to celebrate the coming festival of Baisakhi.

But behind the curtains, there appears a police built-up not to miss any opportunity to capture Amritpal, who has already caused enough embarrassment both for the police as well as the Aam Aadmi Party government in the state.

Despite a huge police operation, Amritpal managed to evade police arrest twice and later released recorded videos on social media in a clear dig at the state establishment.

While this has given an opportunity for opposition parties in Punjab to slam the AAP government’s alleged failure to handle law and order in the state, the civil society organisations have also been miffed at the media gag as well as internet suspension in follow-up to Amritpal crackdown.

Former Punjab Director General of Police (DGP) Shashi Kant told The Wire that the police’s failure to arrest Amritpal showed their lack of concentrated effort. Besides, it also showed a lack of coordination with state and central agencies too.

But Kant said another aspect of the whole operation is how elements like Amritpal and his aides have deep sleeper cells both within the state and outside, which keeps protecting and harbouring them.

“Papalpreet’s arrest near Amritsar very much reflects this. He was staying in Punjab for days and he still remained untraceable,” said the ex-DGP.