The Punjab Police on Tuesday said that Khalistan supporter Amritpal Singh changed his clothes and escaped on a two-wheeler on Saturday when he was being chased by police.
Four people have been arrested for aiding Amritpal's escape. So far, a total of 154 people have been arrested, according to Punjab Police.
The police also said the National Security Act (NSA) order against Amritpal was issued on Saturday. The disclosures by the police came in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in response to a petition seeking "release" of Amritpal and alleging that he has been secretly held by police.
The Punjab Police mounted a crackdown on Amritpal and his radical Waris Punjab De (WPD) on Saturday. While dozens of associates of Amritpal and WPD members were arrested, Amritpal himself slipped past the police net. Cellular internet was also suspended in Punjab on Saturday till Tuesday, with the ban set to remain in place in some districts till Thursday.
In its affidavit in High Court, the Punjab Police said Amritpal is waging war on the state is working for seccession and creation of Khalistan.
Here we detail what the Punjab Police said on Amritpal and what's known so far of the crackdown on him and his fellow radicals.
How Amritpal Singh escaped police hunt
The Punjab Police on Tuesday informed the Punjab and Haryana High Court that Amritsar District Magistrate issued the NSA order against Amritpal on Saturday.
In the affidavit in response to a petition seeking release of Amritpal from alleged police custody, the Punjab Police clarified it has neither arrested nor detained Amritpal. It detailed how Amritpal slipped past the police net in Punjab's Jalandhar. The habeas corpus petition was filed by Imaan Singh Khara.
According to the affidavit of Senior Superintendent of Police (Amritsar Rural) Satinder Singh, a non-bailable warrant was also issued against the Khalistan sympathiser on Monday. The affidavit said the operation to arrest and detain Amritpal and others was launched on March 18.
It said, "During this operation, one 'naka' (check post) was set up by a police party of Khilchian police station, District Amritsar (Rural). Amritpal Singh and his associates were travelling in a Mercedes car along with a caravan of three more vehicles. They were directed by the police party to stop at the 'naka', but instead of stopping their vehicles, the cavalcade broke and escaped from the 'naka'. Then all the adjoining police stations and districts were alerted to locate his vehicles."
The affidavit said Amritpal and his associates while being on the run were spotted driving rashly and negligently near a government school, village Salema, Mehatpur in Jalandhar in one chocolate-coloured ISUZU Pickup car.
The affidavit said, "Amritpal was carrying one .315 rifle and brandishing the same with an objective of creating fear amongst the public. He and others abandoned the car and fled from the spot."
Amritpal switched from one car to another, changed clothes at a gurdwara and then fled along with three other associates on two motorcycles.
At a media briefing, Punjab Inspector General of Police (Headquarter) Sukhchain Singh Gill said CCTV footage from Jalandhar showed Amritpal Singh in a Brezza car, which has now been seized from one of the four men arrested for helping him escape.Questioning these men, police learnt that Singh went to a gurdwara in Jalandhar’s Nangal Ambian village
"There he changed his clothes, wore a shirt and pants and escaped along with three others on two bikes," Gill said.
A detention proposal to detain Amritpal was prepared and sent on March 17 to Amritsar district magistrate, who considered the same and issued detention orders under section 3(2) of the National Security Act, 1980 for detaining the radical preacher on March 18, said the affidavit. It said despite conducting raids, Amritpal could not be detained so far and is absconding and concealing himself.
The judicial magistrate first class Baba Bakala, Amritsar issued non-bailable warrants against Amritpal on March 20, according to police affidavit.
Police rejected the petitioner's allegations that Amritpal was detained in the area of Shahkot in Jalandhar.
Amritpal waging war on state, demanding Khalistan: Police
In its affidavit, the Punjab Police said Amritpal Singh was waging war against the state and was working for Khalistan.
The Khalistan movement is a decades-old call for a separate Sikh nation called Khalistan. The Khalistan movement waged a bloody insurgency in Punjab for decades before it ebbed in 1990s. Though the armed element ebbed in '90s, there continues to be support for the movement from abroad, such as from Canada, where several groups are based that advocate the Khalistani cause.
Amritpal was acting in a manner prejudicial to the security of the state and maintenance of public order, said the affidavit. It said Amritpal, resident of Jallupur Khera village in Amritsar, has been professing radical ideology and raised the demand of secession of Punjab from India.
"He has been actively abetting/provoking/motivating/conspiring to wage war against the state for a separate nation by the name of 'Khalistan'. He has been acting in manner prejudicial to the security of the state and maintenance of public order," said the affidavit.
The affidavit also mentioned how Amritpal and his supporters stormed the Ajnala police station on February 23, besides stating that so far six FIRs have been registered against the preacher and his associates.
What we know of police crackdown so far
The police crackdown on Khalistan supporter Amritpal Singh and fellow radicals of Waris Punjab De (WPD) began on Saturday. A total of 78 WPD members were arrested that day and arms, ammunition, and vehicles were also seized. However, Amritpal slipped past the police net.
In the latest update, four people were arrested for helping Amritpal escape, the Punjab Police said on Tuesday.
The four have been identified as Manpreet Singh alias Manna, Gurdeep Singh alias Deepa, Harpreet Singh alias Happy and Gurbhej Singh alias Bheja. The police said the car has been seized and that a .315 bore rifle, some swords and a walkie-talkie set were found in it.
These four helped Amritpal to escape in a car, and during their questioning, it came to the fore that he went to a gurdwara in Nangal Ambian village in Jalandhar, police said.
"There he changed his clothes, and wore a shirt and pant, and escaped along with three others on two bikes," Punjab Inspector General of Police (Headquarters) Sukhchain Singh Gill said while addressing reporters in Chandigarh.
Police also released four pictures of Amritpal Singh in different attire and appealed to people to help tracing him. The IG further said efforts are on to nab the radical preacher. Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann is monitoring the situation and taking regular feedback from police officers, Gill said.
Amritpal's uncle Harjit Singh and driver Harpreet Singh gave themselves up before police past Sunday midnight. Harjit, who officials say helped his nephew gain control over the accounts of Waris Punjab De, is among the five slapped with the NSA, which allows the preventive detention of anyone who could threaten national security or public order.
Harjit was shifted to the central jail in Assam’s Dibrugarh on Tuesday, where the other four were brought on Sunday. They are Daljit Singh Kalsi, Bhagwant Singh, Gurmeet Singh and 'Pradhanmantri' Bajeka.
After the operation began on Saturday, the Punjab Police said it seized vehicles, weapons, and ammunition belonging to radical Waris Punjab De during the ongoing crackdown.
In photos and videos, Amritpal was often seen with armed personnel around him with rifles and ammunition belts wrapped across their torsos. He also visited the iconic Golden Temple —the holiest Sikh religious site— with armed personnel.
Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh at Golden Temple Complex in #Amritsar— HT Punjab (@HTPunjab) March 3, 2023
📷 @SameerS38127453 / HT pic.twitter.com/CE5ODzVq7g
In a tweet, the Punjab Police said 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 had also been seized.
78 arrested after mega crackdown against Waris Punjab de#AmritpalSingh fugitive, Police teams are on manhunt— Punjab Police India (@PunjabPoliceInd) March 18, 2023
Nine weapons including 8 rifles, one revolver recovered during operation
Situation is under control, citizens requested to not to believe in rumours
The crackdown Amritpal and his fellow radicals is rooted in a number of cases registered against him and members of Waris Punjab De.
The Punjab Police has said it launched a "massive statewide cordon and search operations (CASO)" against elements of the Waris Punjab De against whom several criminal cases had been registered. The police action also comes ahead of the start of Amritpal's 'Khalsa Wahir' —a religious procession— from Muktsar district.
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.
Last month, 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.
First reports of crackdown on Waris Punjab De and Amritpal came on Saturday 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.
(with PTI inputs)