Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, April 23
Amritpal Singh, who was arrested on Sunday, after being on run for 34 days, arrived on the Punjab scene as a simple listener through a social media app ClubHouse, where individuals or organizations set up exclusive ‘audio-rooms’ for discussion on a topic. Late Deep Sidhu formed such a room during the late 2021 Farmer’s agitation and continued it until he was arrested for violence on Republic Day, 2022 in New Delhi. Amritpal was not among the designated speakers, but soon, egged on by some NRIs and members on his ‘knowledge on Punjab’, he became one of the speakers. However, Deep Sidhu blocked him as Amritpal spoke more about the creation of Khalistan, a separate country for the Sikhs than the Punjab issues of claims on river water, Chandigarh, Punjabi speaking areas among others. Deep Sidhu later in February 2022 blocked Amritpal’s phone also for about two weeks.
Harnek Uppal ‘Fauji’, who heads the Deep Sidhu faction of ‘Waris Punjab De’, was part of the ClubHouse group and confirmed the first introduction of Amritpal on the Punjab scene. “He became a favourite of some members but was blocked by Deep Sidhu who suspected him of some agenda,” said Uppal. Mandeep Sidhu, brother of Deep Sidhu, has also spoken in media interviews on how Deep Sidhu distanced himself from Amritpal. However, Deep died in a mysterious car accident on February 15, 2022, days after he formed ‘Waris Punjab De’ organisation. Much to the shock of his family and other members, the Facebook page of the organization, allegedly hacked, announced Amritpal as the new chief of Waris Punjab De by posting a letter of appointment. Amritpal was not a baptised Sikh at 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 about him for six months when suddenly he arrived big on the Punjab scene when he arrived with supporters at Anandpur Sahib and was baptised as a Sikh on September 25, 2022. Four days later, a grand ceremony was held in Rode, ancestral village of Khalistani ideologue, late Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, for dastarbandi (turban-wearing) ceremony of Amritpal. He dressed up as Bhindranwale, wearing a long white kurta over short loose pants, a blue turban, a Kirpan, and alternately carrying a silver arrow or a weapon. He was Bhindrawnwale 2.0 and sent alarm bells ringing in state and central security agencies.
However, it seemed police remained as an observer only on his activities as Amritpal denounced violence in his first speeches. He organized Amrit Parchaar campaign to attract Sikh youths into baptism to support turban and long hair. His first program was in Ganganagar, Rajasthan and later many in Punjab and even Haryana. He announced a Khalsa Vaheer yatra across the region for ‘Ghar Wapsi’ of Sikhs who had adopted Christian or other religions or had cut their hair and shaved beards. His functions attracted thousands, but the security agencies remained at a distance.
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 red alarm went off regarding Amritpal’s activities when he and his supporters brandished sophisticated weapons and drove around in swanky cars, including Mercedes and ISUZU. For a man who used to drive a truck and was at best an “Operations Manager” with a transport company in Dubai, his meteoric rise mixed with religion, weapons, and open support for Khalistan sent security agencies into a tizzy. However, the state and central police and government initially worked separately due to a trust deficit. There were doubts in Punjab that Amritpal was probably a stooge of powerful groups in New Delhi, whereas the central agency had their own suspicions on why Punjab Police was soft on Amritpal. The confrontation between the BJP-ruled Centre government and 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 violence in February this year, which seemed to have brought state and central agencies together on a 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 by the police. 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 as he opposed their activities. On February 23, Amritpal stormed the Ajnala police station and took control of it. Many cops were injured in the clash. However, police did not use much force, claiming that Amritpal had deliberately taken shield behind a palki that carried Guru Granth Sahib. Police and AAP government, along with Sikh religious leaders in SGPC and Akal Takht, criticized Amritpal, and it seemed that he was discredited. Experts on policing and opposition parties slammed Punjab Police for their meek surrender to Amritpal.
Sources said police finally cracked down on March 18, a day before Amritpal planned to start his second Khalsa Vaheer yatra in the state. The crackdown also coincided with the first death anniversary of singer Sidhu Moosewala, whose parents and supporters planned a big march, much to the chagrin of the AAP government. Intelligence agencies suspected that Amritpal may join the Sidhu Moosewala march, and the situation may go out of the hand of the AAP government, which has been struggling to keep gangsters and anti-social elements in check.
In the crackdown, police arrested 78 supporters of Amritpal, besides several others from other states. It is alleged that they carried arms and ammunition illegally and received funds from abroad. It is being alleged that Amritpal received special training from Pakistan’s ISI in Georgia before his arrival in Punjab.
Most Read In 24 Hours
Don't MissView All
Odisha train crash: Preliminary report states 'signal was given and taken off'; PM promises stringent action against guilty; death toll mounts to 288
Both passenger trains were at a high speed and it has been c...
Caught on camera: Mamata-Vaishnaw argument over death toll in Odisha train accident
Railways minister seeks to play down the disagreement with W...
Odisha train accident site: Coaches strewn haphazardly, ambulance wails punctuate noise from electric saws
The rescue workers with gas cutters and medical personnel wi...
Government bans 14 fixed dose combination drugs, cites they may involve risk to people
‘No therapeutic justification for these medicines’