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Amritpal Singh arrested, sent to Assam's Dibrugarh jail amid tight security

The 29-year-old was detained under the stringent National Security Act and flown to Assam on a special flight to be lodged at the Dibrugarh Central Jail

(File Photo) Khalistani leader and Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh as police launch an operation to arrest Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh, on Saturday.

Khalistani leader and Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh

Press Trust of India Chandigarh

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The Punjab police arrested Amritpal Singh in Moga's Rode village early Sunday, ending an over a month-long manhunt against the radical preacher who styled himself after slain Khalistani militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

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

The 29-year-old was detained under the stringent National Security Act and flown to Assam on a special flight to be lodged at the Dibrugarh Central Jail, where nine other associates picked up over the past several weeks are kept.

Shortly after his arrest, a video surfaced online in which the extremist preacher is 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.

Inspector General of Police Sukhchain Singh Gill countered the preacher's claim that it was a “surrender”, and said the fugitive was cornered.

"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," he said.

He said police did not enter the gurdwara. “It was very important to maintain the sanctity of the gurdwara and police in uniform could not enter inside.” A message was conveyed to the preacher that he had no chance of making his escape, Gill said.

"National Security Act warrants were issued against Amritpal Singh and these have been executed today morning. Further, law will take its own course," he said.

In a video message hours after the arrest, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann said those who disturb peace and harmony in the state will face the law, and innocent people will not be disturbed.

Mann said he continuously monitored developments during the night, leading to the 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 fugitive recalled that Rode is Bhindranwale's birth place, and the village where his own “dastar bandi” (turban-tying ceremony) took place – a reference to his taking over 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 said.

In the “court of the Almighty”, he said he is not guilty.

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 declared 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 sympathises 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.

Nine of the preacher's alleged associates are in the Dibrugarh jail. They are Daljit Singh Kalsi, Papalpreet Singh, Kulwant Singh Dhaliwal, Varinder Singh Johal, Gurmeet Singh Bukkanwala, Harjit Singh, Bhagwant Singh, Basant Singh and Gurinderpal Singh Aujla.

The plane carrying Amritpal Singh landed in Dibrugarh on Sunday afternoon. 

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Apr 23 2023 | 3:14 PM IST

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