Amritpal Singh Saga, a probable precursor to difficult times in Punjab

The ease with which alleged Khalistan sympathizer, Amritpal Singh, managed to escape the police dragnet in Jalandhar and other places, has raised a big question mark over the efficiency of the Punjab police. The young preacher, who shot into fame after he and his supporters had gheraoed the Ajnala police station some time ago, to secure the release of an associate, is now being described by intelligence agencies as someone who was in constant touch with Jaswant Singh Rode, brother of Pakistan based Lakhbir Singh Rode and Paramjit Singh Pamma, Khalistan supporters, when he was in Dubai. In all 78 of his associates were arrested by the police including four, who were then shifted by air in a special Indian Airforce Aircraft to Dibrugarh in Assam. The authorities have also suspended internet services following the recovery of arms and ammunition, which is of prohibited variety and was in possession of those who have been rounded up. Amritpal was able to elude the police for the entire day on Saturday and despite the central intelligence agencies also assisting the Punjab police, his whereabouts could not be ascertained. The action against him was launched on the eve of the first anniversary of the murder of noted singer Sidhu Moosewala and a day after the G-20 meeting ended in Amritsar. It is being said that the Punjab police in close coordination with the central agencies had prepared the plan to arrest him following an interaction between Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann and Home Minister Amit Shah. Amritpal is the head of a little-known organization, “Waris Punjab De’’ which was founded by the late actor and activist, Deep Sidhu. Deep Sidhu was amongst those who had entered the Red Fort during the farmers agitation and hoisted the Nishan Saheb there despite stiff security. Many in Punjab believed that he could not have done what he did without the support of central intelligence agencies. Deep Sidhu died in a mysterious accident on the Manesar-Kondli Expressway in February last year. Amritpal who was based in Dubai, apparently assumed charge of this outfit. The suspect’s father Tarsem Singh told the media in Punjab that his son was being targeted because he was against drugs and was trying to stop their sale. “Was acting against the drugs mafia’’, an anti-national act? he asked. What has surprised many is that why has the National Investigation Agency (NIA) not been involved to pursue this case, particularly since it is also headed by Dinkar Gupta, former DGP of Punjab who is very familiar with the affairs of the State. There is speculation in political circles that the action against Amritpal could lead to several other things. Many supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party are of the view that it was an intelligence operation planned to show the State government in poor light and to provide a handle to the Centre to dismiss it at a later date on the grounds of its failure to maintain law and order. This appears to be far-fetched since the Centre cannot afford to put the border State in a turmoil, especially when there have been attempts by forces across the border to de-stablise the situation. Punjab had seen very dark days for over 15 years following the Nirankari-Akali clash at Mehta Chowk on the Baisakhi day in 1978. The incident had led to the rise and rise of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and fanned militancy in the border state leading to first Operation Blue Star at the Golden Temple Complex and then the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The assassination resulted in the anti-sikh riots and thousands of innocent people were massacred by uncontrollable mobs in North India, particularly Delhi. Punjab was never the same again and there were slayings by militants in various parts and the State was under constant threat of those who were also demanding a separate motherland for the Sikhs. Amritpal Singh and his influence needs to be contained to bring back normalcy. However, excessive action by the security forces against innocent people, merely on suspicion, needs to be monitored by senior functionaries of the Central and State governments. Punjab needs peace and that is more important than political objectives of any nature. For this border state, Nation has always come first.

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