Amrit Pal Singh Had Links To Pakistan-Based Terrorist Organisations: Officials

The hunt for self-styled Sikh preacher by Punjab police, armed with Intelligence inputs began on Saturday.
<div class="paragraphs"><p>(Source:&nbsp;<a href=";utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Sumeet Singh</a>/<a href=";utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>)</p></div>
(Source: Sumeet Singh/Unsplash)

Two days after Khalistani supporter Amritpal Singh threatened the authorities to arrest him if they can, the hunt for self-styled Sikh preacher by Punjab police, armed with Intelligence inputs began on Saturday, with a massive manhunt for him that led to the police detaining his family members, including his father, many of his close associates, imposing Section 144 in many parts of the State and also suspending internet services in the State.

While the Home ministry is closely monitoring the situation,  Punjab police has said several activities of Waris Punjab De, headed by Singh were intercepted by the police at the Shahkot-Malsian Road in Jalandhar district, and over 76 members have been booked for spreading disharmony, attempt to murder, attack on police persons and creating obstructions in the lawful discharge of duties of public servants.

According to officials investigating the matter, Pakistan's external spy agency ISI was actively behind pushing Amritpal Singh back to India with an aim to revive terrorism in Punjab. Formerly a transporter in Dubai before the ISI established links with him and got him to India, Singh has given several speeches in Punjab, demanding a separate country and also a separate constitution, they added.

He 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, conspiracy to attack government leaders in New Delhi and spreading hatred in Punjab. Two weeks ago, the state special operation cell (SSOC) of the Punjab Police had booked nine persons including Rode, for smuggling arms, ammunition, drugs and explosives using drones from across the border. Officials said that Singh, during his stay in Dubai, was in close touch with Rode's brother Jaswant. 

In Punjab to strengthen his presence Singh had launched a campaign called ‘Khalsa Waheer' and travelled to different villages. These Khalsa saheer or amritpan ceremonies to baptize Sikh youth was being done by Singh to mislead youth, specifically from poor families to mobilise them to join an army of disenchanted youth who are ready to take on the state, by projecting it as a battle of "Sikh Panth against the State, the oppressor," officials said. Singh had asked his aides to stay armed and he had formed a new army called Anandpur Khalsa Army that always moved around with dangerous weapons contrary to teachings of Sikh Gurus who advised weapons only for protection and not to terrify common men and women, an official said.

On Saturday, Singh's cavalcade was intercepted by the police when he was on his way to perform Khalsa Vaheer near Jalandhar. Although the police managed to detain Singh in the day, he managed to escape, dodging them and one of his supporters even "live streamed" the act. Singh's father later told media persons that the family had no clue where Singh was, and the police "instead of catching drug smugglers was going after his son who was working against the menace of drugs."

Those being suspected of having links with Singh include Avtar Singh Khanda, close associate of Khalistani terrorist Jagtar Singh Tara who was convicted for the assasination of  former Punjab CM Beant Singh. Activities of organisations such as Babbar Khalsa international operating out of U.K. and Canada for a separate Sikh country and known for holding theoretical radical training classes for Sikh youth are also being looked into, in this context, officials said.

Officials in know of the matter said the centre was monitoring his activities and the social fall out of his actions, and was working in tandem with the State of Punjab to rein him in.  Officials said Singh was using religion as a shield. During the recent Ajnala incident when his supporters had barged into the police station brandishing swords demanding the release of one of his aides Lovepreet Singh Toofan, they had deliberately put the Guru Granth Sahib in a Palki (mini bus) in front of the police. This act of using the holy guru granth sahib during violent protests had led to anger against Singh in the minds of many members of the community, officials said. The concept of sacrilege or beadbi is very important in Sikhism, and the Akal Takht Sahib --  the highest temporal seat of the sikhs-- had formed a committee to investigate Guru Sahib's disrespect in the Ajnala case. The panel in its report has recommended not carrying the saroop (physical copy) of the Guru Granth Sahib to protest sites and disputed places.

"He(Amritpal) was giving his own viewpoints as Hukumnamas (codes) to be followed by Sikh Sangat which were generally not in consonance with the law of the land which could have really created social unrest, " an official said. It was also pointed out that Singh was not mindful of the piety associated with Gurdwara, did not pay respects to the Guru Granth Sahib while visiting Qaumi Insaaf Morcha site.

Singh had advocated a separate constitution for the State, and even threatened the home minister Amit Shah and Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann of dire consequences, even bringing up the way former Punjab CM Beant Singh and former PM Indira Gandhi were assassinated.  Those investigating the matter said there was evidence that Singh had taken over the management of accounts of Waris Punjab De with the help of his uncle, Harjit Singh and had made it a family run organisation, and that it was being funded by some Pakistan based organisations. 

Officials were studying the deliberate attempts by Singh to copy militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale by copying his attire, mannerisms, with even similarities in his slogans around slavery, separate constitution, demand of self-determination for Sikhs and projection of non-Sikhs as traitors.  Even his coronation as head of Waris Punjab De or Dastar Bandi (turban tying) had taken place in village Rode, Moga, the ancestral village of Bhindranwale, less than a week after he was baptised as an Amritdhaari Sikh in Anandpur Sahib in September last year, they said.

Singh took over as the head of Waris Punjab De, an organisation first floated by late actor Deep Sidhu who was known for hoisting the sikh flag at the Red Fort at the peak of farmers' protest on Republic day.

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