Chandigarh, March 27
In the aftermath of the Ajnala violence on February 23 in which “Waris Punjab De” chief Amritpal Singh stormed a police station along with his supporters to free his accomplice, a senior intelligence officer said, “Catching Amritpal is not a big deal, but the problem is how to do it without making him a martyr?”
A month later, the Punjab Police have “succeeded” in exposing and discrediting Amritpal as he has been on the run since March 18. However, the police need to answer “uncomfortable questions” on “lack” of intelligence gathering and a botched-up operation to arrest Amritpal.
It seems the police failed to learn from past mistakes. For example, the police could not nab six shooters of singer Sidhu Moosewala, even though four of them hid for an hour in fields 10 km away from the crime spot. Two others, Jagroop Singh, alias Roopa, and Manpreet Singh, alias Mannu Kusa, who were shot dead in an encounter, roamed on link roads avoiding highways.
Similarly, Amritpal took to link roads not just to escape from Jalandhar, but to cross over into Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Nepal. It could not have been a surprise for the police that Amritpal had hideouts in other states. In October 2022, Amrtipal held “Amrit Prachar” in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan, in which 647 persons took part. He visited Haryana as well.
The police had no intelligence input about a makeshift firing range at Jallupur Khera village and the formation of the “Anandpur Khalsa Fauj”.
The fugitive’s CCTV footage and photos along with his aide Papalpreet Singh from Punjab and Haryana have raised serious questions about who is behind these leaks?
Defending the police at a press conference, IG Sukhchain Singh Gill said catching Amrtipal had become difficult as he was changing his appearance.
“Arresting him from his house could have led to an exchange of fire. Not a single bullet was fired in such a big operation, where more than 200 persons were arrested,” said a senior police official.
Meanwhile, the absence of central agencies and the Delhi Police to nab Amritpal has come as a big surprise. The latter had caught several gangsters since AAP came to power.
This included the killers of Sidhu Moosewala and assailants who fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the Punjab Police Intelligence (Headquarters) in Mohali. The Delhi Police and central agencies had picked up the electronic trail of the accused by identifying their numbers through dump data. This alertness has been completely missing in Amritpal’s case.
- Why was Amritpal allowed to amass weapons?
- Why didn’t the police block all roads around Harike bridge?
- Why weren’t the borders with Haryana and Rajasthan sealed?
- Why did the police fail to act after learning that Amritpal used the phone of a priest’s family?
- Why didn’t they respond to Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij’s remark that the Punjab Police reached Shahbad 24 hours after being alerted?
Fugitive’s key aides and their role
Avtar Singh Khanda
A UK-based pro-Khalistan activist. He is said to be the master handler of Amritpal, who allegedly radicalised him. Khanda also led a mob that attacked the Indian High Commission’s office in London. He is an asylum seeker in the UK and is listed as an expert in making IEDs.
He was a part of a 16-member core committee of Deep Sidhu, who had led a group of youths to hoist a flag on the Red Fort on Republic Day in 2021. After Sidhu’s death in February 2022, Kalsi and seven others broke away and formed a parallel “Waris Punjab De” outfit. He has been booked under the NSA.
A journalist with a vernacular daily, he is a media adviser to Amritpal. He is instrumental in the escape of the “Waris Punjab De” chief and is the one spotted with him in CCTV footage and photos, which have gone viral.
Tajinder Singh Gill, alias Gorkha Baba, was involved in arms training of members of Amritpal’s “Anandpur Khalsa Fauj”. The police have found several incriminating videos from his mobile phones. The videos show weapons training at a makeshift training camp and AKF written on bulletproof jackets.
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