Amritpal Singh's journey: From polytechnic dropout, truck driver in Dubai to pro-Khalistan activist : The Tribune India

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Amritpal Singh's journey: From polytechnic dropout, truck driver in Dubai to pro-Khalistan activist

Amritpal Singh's journey: From polytechnic dropout, truck driver in Dubai to pro-Khalistan activist

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Tribune News Service

Jupinderjit Singh

Chandigarh, March 20

Amritpal Singh, a pro-Khalistan activist and most-wanted fugitive, arrived on the Punjab scene as a listener through social media app ClubHouse, where individuals or organisations set up exclusive ‘audio-rooms’ for discussions on a topic.

Hijacked outfit of Deep sidhu

Deep Sidhu distanced himself from Amritpal. However, Deep died in a car accident on February 15, 2022, days after he formed the Waris Punjab De. Much to the shock of his family and other members, it was announced on the Facebook page that Amritpal was the new chief of the Waris Punjab De and a letter of appointment was also posted on Facebook.

Dastarbandi at Bhindranwale village

There was not much activity by him for six months. Suddenly, he arrived with his supporters at Anandpur Sahib and was baptised as a Sikh on September 25, 2022. Four days later, a grand ceremony was held at Rode, the ancestral village of Khalistani ideologue Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, for the dastarbandi (turban-wearing) ceremony of Amritpal.

Threat perceived in December 2022

In December, supporters of Amritpal damaged furniture at two gurdwaras in Jalandhar while protesting the practice of providing chairs to devotees who couldn’t sit on the floor during the path of Guru Granth Sahib. The alarm went off regarding his activities when he and his supporters were seen driving around in swanky cars, carrying weapons.

Deep Sidhu formed an audio-room during the farm agitation in 2021 and continued it until he was arrested for violence on Republic Day in New Delhi.

Amritpal was not among the speakers, but some NRIs and members prompted him to take the role. However, Deep Sidhu blocked him as Amritpal spoke more on Khalistan than issues of Punjab like claims on river waters, Chandigarh and Punjabi-speaking areas, among others. In February 2022, Deep Sidhu also blocked Amritpal’s phone number.

Harnek Uppal ‘Fauji’, who heads the Deep Sidhu faction of the Waris Punjab De and was part of the ClubHouse group, said, “Amritpal became a favourite of some members but was blocked by Deep, who suspected him of having some anti-national agenda.”

Mandeep Sidhu, brother of Deep Sidhu, had also spoken to the media on how Deep distanced himself from Amritpal. However, Deep died in a car accident on February 15, 2022, days after he formed the Waris Punjab De. Much to the shock of his family and other members, it was announced on the Facebook page of the organisation that Amritpal was the new chief of the outfit and a letter of appointment was also posted on Facebook. Amritpal was not a baptised Sikh that time. He sported shorn hair and a trimmed beard. He was a truck driver in Dubai and was a dropout from a polytechnic college from Kapurthala. Amritpal belonged to Jallupur Khera village in Baba Bakala tehsil of Amritsar.

There was not much activity by him for six months. Suddenly, he arrived with his supporters at Anandpur Sahib and was baptised as a Sikh on September 25, 2022. Four days later, a grand ceremony was held in Rode, the ancestral village of Khalistani ideologue Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, for the dastarbandi (turban-wearing) ceremony of Amritpal.

He dressed up as Bhindranwale, wearing a long white kurta over short loose pants, a blue turban, kirpan and carrying a silver arrow. He was Bhindrawnwale 2.0 and set alarm bells ringing in the state.

However, it seemed the police remained as an observer only even as Amritpal denounced violence in his initial speeches. He organised an Amrit Parchaar campaign to attract Sikh youths into baptism to support turban and long hair. His first programme was held in Sriganganagar, Rajasthan, and later many were held in Punjab and even Haryana. He announced a Khalsa Vaheer Yatra across the region for ‘Ghar Wapsi’ of the Sikhs who had adopted Christianity or other religions, or had cut their hair and shaved beards. These events attracted thousands, but the security agencies kept silent.

In December 2022, supporters of Amritpal damaged furniture at two gurdwaras in rural Jalandhar while protesting the practice of providing chairs to devotees who couldn’t sit on the floor during the path of Guru Granth Sahib. The alarm went off regarding Amritpal’s activities when he and his supporters were seen driving around in swanky cars, carrying sophisticated weapons. The meteoric rise of a man who used to drive a truck and was an “operations manager” with a transport company in Dubai, sent security agencies into a tizzy due to the weapons on display and the open support for Khalistan. However, the state and central police and the government initially worked separately due to trust deficit. There were suspicions in Punjab that Amritpal was probably a stooge of powerful groups in New Delhi, whereas the central agency had their own suspicions on why the Punjab Police was soft on Amritpal. The confrontation between the BJP-ruled Centre and the Aam Aadmi Party-ruled Punjab fuelled several conspiracy theories about the origin and support of Amritpal.

The last nail in the coffin was the Ajnala incident last month, which seemed to have brought the state and central agencies together on joint action against a “common threat” now. Amritpal stormed a police station in Ajnala to free some of his supporters, including Lovepreet Toofan, who, he said, were falsely booked. Toofan and others were booked on the complaint of Varinder Singh of Ropar on February 17. He alleged that Amritpal and supporters kidnapped and beat him up as he opposed their activities. On February 23, Amritpal stormed the Ajnala police station and took control of it. Many policemen were injured in the clash. However, the police did not use much force, claiming that Amritpal had deliberately taken a palki that carried Guru Granth Sahib. The police and AAP government, along with Sikh religious leaders in the SGPC and Akal Takht, criticised Amritpal. Experts slammed the police for their meek surrender to Amritpal.

Sources said the police finally cracked down on March 18, a day before Amritpal planned to start his second Khalsa Vaheer Yatra in the state.

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The Tribune News Service brings you the latest news, analysis and insights from the region, India and around the world. Follow the Tribune News Service for a wide-ranging coverage of events as they unfold, with perspective and clarity.

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