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Police Closing-in on Khalistani Leader Amritpal Singh

Police Closing-in on Khalistani Leader Amritpal Singh


Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Mar 20: The police is believed to be closing in on the Khalistani supporter and an agent of the Pakistani intelligence network ISI Amritpal Singh who managed to give a slip to the police on Saturday and is still absconding.

The attitude of the Indian government hardened further over supporters of Amritpal Singh pulling down the national flag at the Indian High Commission building in London which was closely followed by an incident in San Francisco in the United States. Videos showed a huge mob attacking the Indian Consulate in US’s San Francisco while loud Punjabi music blared in the background. They also spray-painted a huge graffiti saying “Free Amritpal” on the outer wall of the building.

Several videos, filmed by the attackers themselves, showed men smashing the glass on doors and windows of the consulate building with the wooden butt of the Khalistan flags they were earlier seen waving.

Three men, presumably employees of the Indian consulate, were seen removing the Khalistan flags put up in the building near the entrance when suddenly the mob broke through a barricade behind which they were earlier shouting slogans. Two men who were removing the flags then dashed inside the consulate, and a few protesters chased after them, flags in hand. Unable to get inside the building before the door was slammed shut in their faces, they could be seen violently hitting the doors and windows with the wooden sticks and rods of the flags. One of the men could be seen smashing the windows with a sword.

In Canberra, Khalistan supporters gathered outside Australian parliament to protest against the police crackdown on Amritpal Singh and his associates in Punjab. Earlier on Monday, a huge Tricolour was put up at the Indian High Commission building in London in response to the action by Khalistan supporters.

A photograph of the massive national flag stretched across India House in London’s Aldwych has gone viral, with social media users applauding the move. Many praised the bold action by a High Commission official who is seen throwing the Khalistan flag out.

The External Affairs Ministry had summoned British deputy high commissioner Christina Scott late Sunday evening after the videos of the Indian flag being pulled down started circulating online. It demanded the arrest and prosecution of the pro-Khalistan people involved in pulling down the national flag.

The ministry also demanded an explanation for “absence of security” at the high commission premises and said the UK government’s “indifference” to Indian diplomats and personnel was “unacceptable”.

British officials condemned the vandalism, calling it “disgraceful” and “completely unacceptable”. London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted, “I condemn the violent disorder and vandalism that took place at the Indian High Commission today. There is no place in our city for this kind of behaviour. An investigation has been launched by the Met into today’s events.”

Sources say Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had discussed the plan to arrest Amritpal Singh with the Union Home Minister Amit Shah in a meeting on March 2. So far, the police have arrested 112 associates of Amritpal Singh — 34 of them on Sunday. Several members of his ‘Waris Punjab De’ group have been detained for questioning. Among those arrested was Daljeet Singh Kalsi, the man who handles Amritpal Singh’s finances.

Even as the top anti-terror body National Investigation Agency (NIA) has been roped in to probe Amritpal Singh and seven of his aides over the charge of possessing illegal arms, Amritpal has become the focal point of a massive manhunt by the Punjab police with hundreds of paramilitary personnel having spread out in Punjab and internet has been banned in the search. Amritpal Singh, was seen speeding away in the Mercedes SUV on Saturday when the police were hot on his trail. He later ditched the car and rode a bike to throw off the police.

The Mercedes was allegedly gifted by Ravel Singh, a drug dealer. Amritpal Singh often drove around the city in the SUV and waved to people from its sunroof. Amritpal stashed a large number weapons and ran de-addiction centres to indoctrinate young Sikh men, according to top government sources.

Investigations so far have revealed disturbing facts about the man known by many as “Bhindranwale 2.0” after Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was killed during Operation Blue Star in 1984. Amritpal Singh, a radical preacher, was allegedly building a “private militia” of youth from drug de-addiction centres, to be used for creating law and order problems or organizing violent protests.

The de-addiction centres were allegedly also used to stockpile illegally-sourced weapons from Pakistan. Amritpal Singh has known links with Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which helped him run the drugs business, investigations so far show.

Amritpal Singh’s Waris Punjab De (WPD) outfit tried to inculcate a radical, violent way of thinking among those at the drug de-addiction centres, sources said. There were no doctors at the Centre. If the inmates do not agree to do his bidding, they were beaten into submission, they added. Sources also said Amritpal Singh procured low quality, cheaper antidotes of drugs, prolonging a person’s dependence on drugs and making them more pliant.

Amritpal Singh allegedly came in contact with the ISI when he worked as a truck driver in Dubai. The ISI told him to go to Punjab and incite young people in the name of religion, sources say. Since Amritpal Singh landed in Punjab, there has been a spike in the number of drones carrying drugs from across the border, say police sources, adding that they are investigating whether he has a role in bringing drugs from Pakistan to India.

Amritpal Singh also had links in Dubai with Jaswant Singh Rode, whose brother Lakhbir Singh Rode was allegedly involved in bringing drugs from Pakistan to India. His London-based associate Avtar Singh Khanda allegedly knew a dealer, Paramjeet Singh Pamma, who sent drugs to India, sources said.

Police sources say they are also gathering evidence of Amritpal Singh’s links with cross-border drug dealers based in Pakistan. The crackdown comes a month after Amritpal Singh and his supporters broke into a police station with swords and guns in a dramatic standoff, forcing the release of one of his aides.

The decision to act against Amritpal Singh was taken by top Home Ministry and Punjab police officials after he led the violent February 24 attack on a police station in Ajnala on the outskirts of the Amritsar city, sources said.

Amritpal and his supporters, some of them brandishing swords and guns, had barged into the Ajnala police station, using the Sikh holy book as shields, to extract an assurance from the police that his key aide, kidnapping accused Lovepreet Singh, would be released.

The radical leader had then threatened both Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and Home Minister Amit Shah. Sources say that the attack on the police station indicated That Amritpal was succeeding in inciting people under the guise of religion, and was building an independent group of armed supporters.

Videos of Amritpal’s close aides carrying weapons with ‘Anandpur Khalsa Force’ logo have been found. Home Ministry sources said he was planning to launch a state-wide procession to baptize the youth of the state into devout Sikhs. Six police personnel, including a Superintendent of Police rank officer, were injured during the Ajnala clash.

The BJP had demanded Governor’s rule in the state, and the Punjab Congress sought the arrest of Amritpal Singh and his supporters for attacking police personnel. Punjab police was heavily criticised for dragging its feet in taking action against the attackers on the Ajnala police station.

The Centre is believed to be prepping charges under the National Security Act (NSA) against Amritpal Singh and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) may step in soon. With a fresh FIR citing the Arms Act against Khalistan supporter Amritpal Singh, who is being chased by the Punjab police, the Centre seems to be moving in to take over the case as a terror investigation. The NIA may probe Amritpal Singh and seven of his aides over the charge of possessing illegal arms – Arms Act cases are included in the NIA Act. The Khalistani leader has been named “Accused Number one” in the new case.

Meanwhile, Four of Amritpal Singh’s top aides, arrested and flown to Dibrugarh in upper Assam, have been charged under the stringent National Security Act (NSA), which allows the police to detain suspects in any prison across the country.

The ‘top secret’ action was a coordinated effort between Aam Aadmi Party-ruled Punjab, the Centre, and BJP-governed Assam, say officials. An Indian Air Force aircraft was used to transport the accused, further signalling the union government’s increasing involvement to dissipate the issue, which has the potential to hamper peace, invoking painful memories of the state’s disturbed past.

However, the BJP remained tight-lipped about the coordination between states governed by rival parties. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma yesterday said it was just a “police-to-police” cooperation. “There were arrests in Assam as well when we sent people to Bihar’s Bhagalpur jail for security reasons. Maybe the Punjab Police feels the prisoners should be held in Assam for a few days,” he said.



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