For supporters and sympathisers, a few, he’s the Next Gen of Sikh ‘separatist leader’ like Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was killed in the Bharatiya Army’s Operation Blue Star in 1984.
He also believes the late separatist an “inspiration” for him.
He’s 30-year-old Amritpal Singh, a pro-Khalistan fiery propagator and self-styled Sikh preacher, who has been running ‘separatist’ propaganda through speeches.
On the radar of Central investigating agencies, he has drawn comparisons to Bhindranwale owing to his look-alike pious looks and 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 an alleged kidnapping case.
Six policemen were injured in the bloody clash.
Police officials 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.
After 12 days of the bloody clash, Punjab Police on Tuesday decided to cancel nine arms licenses of Amritpal Singh’s guards. Also, the police sought details of his security guards.
Intelligence officials, familiar with “dark days” in Punjab from September 1981 to August 1992 in which 1,792 police officers sacrificed their lives while fighting the militants, fear the current Khalistan sentiment will create another 1984-like situation.
Blaming the government’s intelligence failure, Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa equated the police station siege incident with the return of the “dark era” of militancy.
“No one has any issue if Waris Punjab De wants to connect Sikh youth with religion or fight against drugs. But if they try to create a fear psychosis by flaunting guns, no one will let this happen,” Bajwa said in the Assembly on Monday.
Who is Amritpal Singh?
He was not known till last September when he returned to India from Dubai where he was running his family’s transport business.
After taking charge of Waris Punjab De, which means the heirs of Punjab, he is trying to position himself as a new fulcrum for the panthic cause by calling on the youth to “fight for the freedom” of the Panth.
A resident of Jallupur Khera in Amritsar district, Amritpal Singh moved to Dubai in 2012.
Waris Punjab De is an organisation floated by lawyer-actor-turned-activist Deep Sidhu in 2021. One of the accused in Red Fort violence, Sidhu died in a road accident near Haryana’s Sonepat in February 2022.
Unlike Bhindranwale, Amritpal Singh didn’t have any formal religious schooling. A dropout from polytechnic, he cut his hair and shaved his beard while in Dubai.
Police records say Amritpal Singh, who tied the knot with UK-based NRI Kirandeep Kaur last month, has been involved in scores of disputes, kidnappings and issuing threats.
Facing criticism for using the Bir of the Guru Granth Sahib as a shield during the clash, Amritpal Singh last week met Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh in Amritsar.
After the closed-door meeting, Amritpal Singh said, “This meeting was about Panthic issues and Sikh youth. Such meetings on current affairs of Punjab should be held regularly.”
The meeting was held against the backdrop of a committee formed by the Jathedar on whether the Bir of the Guru Granth Sahib should be used in protests or not.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has also formed a committee to look into the Ajnala incident in which the Guru Granth Sahib was used as a shield.
Responding to the Ajnala clash, former Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh expressed grave concern over the incident.
“This is not only a complete collapse of the law and order situation in Punjab, it is more serious than that,” Capt Amarinder said, while pointing out the police station siege by a mob has serious security implications for the state and the country.
The senior BJP leader drew the Central government’s attention towards this incident, warning that there was a particular pattern in these incidents which does not bode well for the national security.
“Particularly when Pakistan is there to encourage and exploit such a situation,” he observed, while raising questions over the competence of the state government in dealing with such a situation.
However, after the clash security agencies suspect Amritpal Singh is getting funding from Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) to be projected as Bhindranwale 2.0.
(This article has been published via a syndicated feed with minor edits to conform to HinduPost style guide)