Pro-Khalistani Preacher Amritpal Singh Shifted To Assam’s High-Security Dibrugarh Central Jail

Pro-Khalistani Preacher Amritpal Singh Shifted To Assam’s High-Security Dibrugarh Central Jail

Dibrugarh/Chandigarh: Radical Khalistan preacher Amritpal Singh, who was arrested by the Punjab Police from Moga’s Rode village on Sunday after a month-long man-hunt, was flown by a special flight from Bhatinda air force station to Assam’s high-security Dibrugarh Central Jail.

Amritpal Arrested After A Month-Long Chase

The rise of the radical Khalistan preacher and his successful evasion of arrest, ever since he and a posse of arms brandishing supporters stormed a police station last month, was seen as a challenge by the country’s security apparatus, and brought back fears of the militancy which had stalked Punjab in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The preacher was taken into custody in the early hours of the morning at 6.45 am as he came out – in traditional attire that included a sheathed sword – of the gurdwara in Rode, Bhindranwale’s native village and also the place which he took over last year as the chief of Waris Punjab De.

The Punjab Police which had completely surrounded the Gurudwara where Singh was hiding, detained the 29-year-old radical under the stringent National Security Act. “A joint operation was conducted by Amritsar police and the intelligence wing of Punjab Police. He was located in village Rode based on operational inputs with Punjab Police. He was surrounded from all sides. The village was surrounded by the Punjab Police,” said Inspector General of Police Sukhchain Singh Gill.

Amritpal Flown To Assam

The special flight which brought him to Assam’s Dibrugarh, nearly 2,000 kms from Bhatinda Air Force Station, landed at Dibrugarh at 2.20 pm and a double cordon of armed police personnel whisked him away for a medical check-up and other formalities before eventually lodging him in The Central Jail, where nine other associates of his, picked up over the past several weeks, have also been kept.

Shortly after his arrest, a video surfaced online in which the extremist preacher was seen delivering a brief address, indicating that he is surrendering. Another clip showed him sitting before a portrait of Bhindranwale, who died in a controversial Army operation in 1984 to flush out militants holed up inside Amritsar’s Golden Temple.

Gill countered the preacher’s claim that it was a ‘surrender’ and underlined that the fugitive was cornered on the basis of intelligence inputs. A message was conveyed to the preacher that he had no chance of escaping, Gill said. “NSA warrants were issued against Amritpal Singh and these have been executed today morning. Further, law will take its own course,” he said.

CM Mann’s Video Warning

In a video message hours after the arrest, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann said those who disturb peace and harmony in the state will have to face the law, and innocent people will not be disturbed. Mann said he continuously monitored developments during the night leading up to the arrest.

Surrender Or Arrest?

Former Akal Takht Jathedar Jasbir Singh Rode said he met Amritpal Singh at the gurdwara as the preacher prepared to surrender. In the gurdwara clip, the radical preacher recalled that Rode is Bhindranwale’s birthplace, and the village where his own ‘dastar bandi’ (turban-tying ceremony) took place. a reference to his taking over as Waris Punjab De chief.

He claimed there were excesses by the government against Sikhs while he was on the run, appearing to suggest that the security agencies wanted to harass people rather than just arrest him. He said he would have cooperated with them had arrest been their objective. “I have decided to surrender and this arrest is not an end, it is the beginning,” he claimed. In the ‘court of the Almighty’, he said he is not guilty.

Amritpal’s Family Relieved After Arrest

Hours after Amritpal was arrested, his family members said they felt relieved on seeing him after more than a month. “We came to know through the media at 7:15 am that he has been arrested,” Amritpal’s uncle Sukhchain Singh said in Amritsar.

Police Flag March In Moga, Bhatinda

Meanwhile, the Punjab police took out flag marches in Moga, Bhatinda and other places following the arrest of Amritpal as a precautionary measure. Police had launched a crackdown against Amritpal Singh on March 18, about three weeks after he and his supporters, many of them brandishing weapons, stormed into the Ajnala police station near Amritsar to secure the release of an arrested colleague.

There were concerns that the preacher had links with Pakistan spy agency ISI and was working towards radicalising the Sikh youth, in an effort to revive the call for a separate nation of ‘Khalistan’. Amritpal Singh returned from Dubai last year and took over Waris Punjab De after the death of activist-singer Deep Sandhu.

Among the stated aims of the outfit was fighting drug addiction among young people, but intelligence agencies feared that this was just a front. Several cases have been lodged against him and his associates for allegedly spreading disharmony, attempt to murder, attack on police personnel and obstructing the lawful discharge of duty by public servants.

While the preacher remained on the run for 36 days, authorities continued to pile pressure on him by arresting his key associates. His wife Kirandeep Kaur, a UK-based woman he married in February, was stopped from boarding a flight to London from Amritsar airport recently.

Scores of sympathizers were detained by police, but most of them were released as the Akal Takht and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee claimed young people were being harassed.

Security Tightened In Assam

Security in Assam which has been the surprise choice of the country’s security planners for lodging the Waris Punjab de gang was beefed up after news came in that Amritpal Singh was being flown to Dibrugarh. “The Dibrugarh Central jail compound has been surrounded by Assam Police’s elite Black Cat Commandos, CRPF and other security personnel,” a senior official told PTI. “He (Singh) has been kept in a special cell under very tight security. A team from Punjab Police is present in the jail along with personnel of Assam Police,” he added.

(With Agency Inputs)


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