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Amritpal Singh Arrested: Who Is He And How He Became Leading Khalistani Voice In Punjab

With the help of overseas Sikh separatists, Pakistan's external spy agency ISI has been the brain behind pushing Amritpal Singh back to India with an aim to revive terrorism in Punjab, according to officials cited by PTI.

Waris Punjab De founder Amritpal Singh with his associate Lovepreet Toofan visits Golden Temple
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Khalistan supporter Amritpal Singh was on Sunday arrested from Punjab's Moga after being on the run for over a month.

Amritpal's arrest comes after a month of Punjab Police mouting a crackdown on him and his radical organisation Waris Punjab De (WPD).

Often seen amid supporters with rifles and ammunition belts wrapped around their torsos prior to going on the run, Amritpal lately emerged as a leading Khalistani voice in Punjab.

Amritpal's visit along with rifle-wielding supporters to the Golden Temple last month brought back memories to the days decades back when Khalistani terrorists had taken over the complex under Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. 

The crackdown on Amritpal last month came after a meeting between Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Following the meeting, the Centre rushed thousands of central paramilitary personnel to Punjab to beef up the security grid. 

As Punjab deals with gang violence, drug addiction, and poor economy, the rise of Amritpal and a string of acts tearing the fabric of law and order posed a further challenge to the state and its beleaguered chief minister. 

Here we trace the journey of Amritpal and explain what's Waris Punjab De and what led to the crackdown.

Who is Khalistan supporter Amritpal Singh?

Amritpal Singh is the chief of radical organisation Waris Punjab De (WPD). He is around 30-years-old.

Before helming WPD, Amritpal used to work in Dubai. He became the chief of WPD after actor and activist Deep Sidhu died in an accident last year.

Amritpal and WPD memebers are named in a number of cases. Last month, a police spokesperson said that the Waris Punjab De elements were involved in four criminal cases relating to spreading disharmony among classes, attempt to murder, attack on police personnel, and creating obstructions in lawful discharge of duties of public servants. An FIR dated February 24 stands registered against WPD elements for the attack on Ajnala Police Station.

In February, Amritpal and his supporters, some of them brandishing swords and automatic guns, broke through barricades and barged into the Ajnala Police Station on the outskirts of the Amritsar city and clashed with police for the release of one of Amritpal's aide — Lovepreet Singh Toofan. The case was related to a complaint of a man at Ajnala Police Station in which he alleged that he had been kidnapped and beaten by the associates of Amritpal. An FIR was registered against Amritpal and six associates in the case.

After the attack on the police station, Toofan was freed under pressure by the police. However, the court was informed that the police will investigate the case further. In the attack on the police station, six policemen, including a Superintendent of Police-rank officer, had suffered injuries.  

Earlier this year, Amritpal threatened Union Home Minister Amit Shah with a fate similar to former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was killed by her Sikh bodyguards after she mounted a military operation to flush out Khalistani terrorists who had occupied Golden Temple in Amritsar —holiest Sikh religious site— and neutralise Khalistani leader Bhindranwale who was leading these terrorists.

Rise of Amritpal Singh and Pakistan hand

With the help of overseas Sikh separatists, Pakistan's external spy agency ISI has been the brain behind pushing Amritpal Singh back to India with an aim to revive terrorism in Punjab, according to officials.

Singh was a truck driver in Dubai before the ISI, with the help of Khalistan supporters based outside India, radicalised him so that he could plunge Punjab again into the dark days of terrorism, said officials earlier.

Threatening Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Punjab Chief Minister Bagwant Singh Mann, Amritpal had been openly making statements about declaring secession from India and forming Khalistan. He spoke about former prime minister Indira Gandhi and chief minister Beant Singh who were assassinated by terrorists.

While Indira was shot dead by her own guards, Beant Singh was killed by Dilawar Singh, who acted as a human bomb. Khalistani supporter Amritpal claimed that many Dilawars were ready in the current scenario of Punjab.

Amritpal's inciteful acts, plans to plunge Punjab into violence

Be it his rally at Tarn Taran on this year’s Republic Day or his media interviews, Amritpal had openly supported separatism and the formation of Khalistan.

Amritpal incited the Sikh youths to resort to armed rebellion against the democratically elected governments in order to oppose the supposedly discriminatory treatment to achieve the ‘ultimate goal’ of the formation of Khalistan, the officials said.

During a function at Rode in Moga district, Amritpal had said that governments run by non-Sikh have no right to rule over the people of Punjab and that the people of Punjab must be ruled over only by Sikhs.

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Amritpal has been styling himself on the lines of terrorist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was killed during Operation Blue Star in 1984, by copying his attire, mannerisms, carrying an arrow, keeping a battery of armed bodyguards and taking the shield of religion.

Amritpal is also alleged to have links with Lakhbir Singh Rode, head of the International Sikh Youth Federation who is sought for trial in India and wanted in cases of arms smuggling (including RDX explosive), conspiracy to attack government leaders in New Delhi and spreading hatred in Punjab. Tracking his movements, the officials said that Amritpal, during his stay in Dubai, was in close touch with Rode’s brother Jaswant.

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Having made his comeback to Punjab at the behest of ISI, Amritpal took the help of Amrit Sanchar to set up his organisation. Later he launched a campaign called ‘Khalsa Waheer’ and strengthened his organisation by going to the villages, they said.

Amritpal stirred up the issues of Punjab and started inciting the Sikhs against the government by invoking religion.

"The lower strata of society and aimless youth became an easy target of Singh and he started exploiting the sentiments in the name of religion," a source said.

In the name of organising Amritpan Ceremonies to baptise Sikh youth and connect them with religion, his attempt was to make an army of disenchanted youth who were ready to take on the state, officials alleged.

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Not considering the sanctity of pious places like gurdwara, his so-called army vandalised two gurdwaras for keeping some furniture for the elderly and disabled people to sit, they said.

According to the officials, his main aim was to push Punjab towards dark decades of militancy which have been overcome by great difficulty and a lot of sacrifices.

The officials claimed that the organisation headed by Amritpal was getting funds from Pakistan.

The radical Sikh preacher had taken over the control of accounts of Waris Punjab De with the help of his uncle Harjit Singh, thus making it a family-run organisation.

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They said the so-called preacher had been using Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji during his February agitation for his personal interests. The officials alleged that Amritpal went to Jathedar Akal Takht and threatened him to remain silent. He had said in a statement that the Ajnala incident is "not violence" and also threatened to unleash "real violence" in the future.

How crackdown on Amritpal Singh began

The crackdown on Khalistan supporter Amritpal Singh began on March 18. It's rooted in a number of cases registered against him and members of his radical organisation Waris Punjab De. 

A total of 78 members of Waris Punjab De were arrested in the crackdown in the initial phase, but radical preacher Amritpal slipped past the police net. At the time, the Punjab Police said in a tweet it seized eight rifles and one revolver in the operation. PTI reported that 373 live cartridges of different caliber were also recovered by police. Jalandhar Commissioner Chahal also told reporters that two vehicles belonging to Amritpal were seized.

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First reports of crackdown on Waris Punjab De and Amritpal came on March 18 when some of his supporters shared videos on social media claiming that policemen were chasing them. A video also showed Amritpal sitting in a vehicle and one of his aides could be heard saying policemen were after 'Bhai saab' (Amritpal). Another supporter in a field shared a video in which he was claiming that policemen were after him.  

Earlier on March 18, CNN News18 reported that a car chase happened in which police went after Amritpal but he was believed to have escaped.

"Officials said there was a tense car chase involving Amritpal Singh’s team and the Punjab police, but Amritpal Singh may have escaped from the spot. However, Punjab Police sources say they are continuing their chase to nab Amritpal Singh and around 100 police cars are following Singh’s convoy," reported News18.

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(With PTI inputs)

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