Punjab Police on Saturday launched a massive state-wide search operation against Khalistani radical Amritpal Singh Sandhu, head of ‘Waris Punjab De’. A total of 78 persons have been arrested so far, while, several others have been detained.
Several, including Amritpal Singh, are on the run and a massive manhunt has been launched to nab them, the police said in a statement on Twitter.
“During the state-wide operation, nine weapons, including one .315 bore rifle, seven rifles of 12 bore, one revolver and 373 live cartridges of different caliber have been recovered so far.
“‘Waris Punjab De’ elements are involved in four criminal cases relating to spreading disharmony among classes, attempt to murder, attack on police persons and creating obstructions in the lawful discharge of duties of public servants. FIR stands registered for the attack on Ajnala Police Station,” it added.
It is said that Amritpal Singh made a dramatic escape on Saturday during a high-speed chase by the state police. Seven people accompanying him and carrying ammunition were arrested but Amritpal Singh, the chief of ‘Waris Punjab De’, managed to escape by changing his vehicle that was chased by the police to another one.
Some police officials told IANS that he has been zeroed in Sarih village in Nakodar tehsil in Jalandhar district where he was convinced to surrender. A house-to-house search operation in villages in Nakodar is on, said a senior official. Even the central paramilitary forces have been involved in the search operation.
Meanwhile, internet services across the state were suspended as a precautionary step.
Supporters of Amritpal Singh have been sharing videos of police vehicles chasing Singh’s cavalcade in Moga district. Anticipating disturbance of peace, a large contingent of the paramilitary force was deployed outside his native village, Jallupur Khaira, in Amritsar district.
A special team of the police, comprising personnel from seven districts, had followed the separatist’s convoy while he was on his way to Jalandhar’s Shahkot tehsil. They had closed on his vehicles two to three times but Amritpal Singh managed to escape.
Section 144 has been imposed in many districts of the state. The police have also increased security in the state. In addition, all vehicles are being checked at the Punjab-Haryana border.
On the radar of Central investigating agencies, Amritpal Singh Sandhu is believed to have been groomed by Pakistan’s notorious spy agency ISI and underwent a meteoric rise after arriving from UAE where he worked in a trucking business. He has drawn comparisons to Khalistani terrorist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale owing to his similar dressing like donning a navy blue turban, a white chola, and a sword-sized kirpan.
On February 23, an armed mob led by Amritpal Singh clashed with police and laid siege to a police station near Amritsar, demanding the release of one of their colleagues who had been taken into custody in a kidnapping case. Six policemen were injured in the bloody clash.
Police officials had later clarified that they were unable to control the crowd as they were carrying a physical copy of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, also called Bir in Punjabi, as a shield.
As the Internet was suspended on Saturday, Punjab Police urged people to maintain peace and harmony and not to spread panic, fake news or hate speech.
“Punjab Police is working to maintain law and order,” the Punjab Police tweeted. “All mobile internet services, all SMS services (except banking & mobile recharge) & all dongle services provided on mobile networks, except voice call, in the territorial jurisdiction of Punjab shall be suspended from 18th March (12:00 hours) to 19th March (12:00 hours) in the interest of public safety”.
(With IANS inputs)