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Khalistani sympathiser Amritpal Singh arrested; lodged in Dibrugarh jail | What we know so far

Amritpal Singh Arrested: Punjab police on Sunday successfully arrested radical preacher Amritpal Singh who was on run from Moga's Rode village. He has been lodged in Dibrugarh jail amid high security.

Edited By: Bhagya Luxmi @reportersfact New Delhi Updated on: April 24, 2023 6:05 IST
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Image Source : INDIA TV Khalistani sympathiser Amritpal Singh Arrested; lodged in Dibrugarh jail | What we know so far

Amritpal Singh Arrested: A month-long manhunt came to an end today as Punjab Police arrested pro-Khalistani sympathiser Amritpal Singh from Moga's Rode village. He has been lodged in a high-security Dibrugarh jail. He was flown by a special flight from Punjab's Bhatinda air force station to Dibrugarh where he was in a high-security prison where northeast rebels used to be kept earlier.

The rise of the radical preacher with suspected pro-Khalistan sympathiser and his successful evasion of arrest ever since he and a posse of arms-brandishing supporters stormed a police station last month, was seen as a challenge by the country’s security apparatus, and brought back fears of the militancy which had stalked Punjab in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Amritpal Singh was taken into custody in the morning at 6.45 AM 

The preacher was taken into custody in the early hours of the morning at 6.45 am as he came out -- in traditional attire that included a sheathed sword -- of the gurdwara in Rode, Bhindranwale’s native village and also the place which he took over last year as the chief of Waris Punjab De.

The Punjab police which had completely surrounded the Gurudwara where Singh was hiding, detained the 29-year-old radical under the stringent National Security Act.

How Khalistani sympathiser was arrested? 

"A joint operation was conducted by Amritsar police and the intelligence wing of Punjab Police. He was located in village Rode based on operational inputs with Punjab Police. He was surrounded from all sides. The village was surrounded by the Punjab Police," said Inspector General of Police Sukhchain Singh Gill.

Formalities were done before lodging him 

The special flight which brought him to Assam’s Dibrugarh, nearly 2,000 km from Bhatinda Air Force station, landed at Dibrugarh at 2.20 pm and a double cordon of armed police personnel whisked him away for a medical check-up and other formalities before eventually lodging him in the Central Jail, where nine other associates of his, picked up over the past several weeks, have also been kept.

Singh delivered a brief address 

Shortly after his arrest, a video surfaced online in which the extremist preacher was seen delivering a brief address, indicating that he is surrendering. Another clip showed him sitting before a portrait of Bhindranwale, who died in a controversial Army operation in 1984 to flush out militants holed up inside Amritsar’s Golden Temple.

Gill countered the preacher’s claim that it was a “surrender”, and underlined that the fugitive was cornered on the basis of intelligence inputs. A message was conveyed to the preacher that he had no chance of escaping, Gill said.

"NSA warrants were issued against Amritpal Singh and these have been executed today morning. Further, the law will take its own course," he said.

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann's reaction 

In a video message hours after the arrest, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann said those who disturb peace and harmony in the state will have to face the law, and innocent people will not be disturbed. Mann said he continuously monitored developments during the night, leading to the arrest.

Former Akal Takht Jathedar Jasbir Singh Rode said he met Amritpal Singh at the gurdwara as the preacher prepared to surrender.

In the gurdwara clip, the radical preacher recalled that Rode is Bhindranwale’s birthplace and the village where his own “dastar bandi” (turban-tying ceremony) took place – a reference to his taking over as Waris Punjab De chief. He claimed there were excesses by the government against Sikhs while he was on the run, appearing to suggest that the security agencies wanted to harass people rather than just arrest him. He said he would have cooperated with them had arrest been their objective.

"This arrest is not an end"

"I have decided to surrender and this arrest is not an end, it is the beginning," he claimed. In the “court of the Almighty”, he said he is not guilty.

Hours after Amritpal was arrested, his family members said they felt relieved on seeing him after more than a month. "We came to know through the media at 7:15 am that he has been arrested," Amritpal's uncle Sukhchain Singh said in Amritsar. "Today, the family is feeling kind of free of worry. We have seen him (Amritpal)," said Singh.

Flag marches in Moga were carried out 

Meanwhile, the Punjab police took out flag marches in Moga, Bhatinda and other places following the arrest of Amritpal as a precautionary measure. Police had launched a crackdown against Amritpal Singh on March 18, about three weeks after he and his supporters, many of them brandishing weapons, stormed into the Ajnala police station near Amritsar to secure the release of an arrested colleague.

There were concerns that the preacher had links with Pakistan spy agency ISI and was working towards radicalising the Sikh youth, in an effort to revive the call for a separate nation of 'Khalistan'.

Amritpal Singh took over Waris Punjab De last year 

Amritpal Singh returned from Dubai last year and took over Waris Punjab De after the death of activist-singer Deep Sandhu.

Among the declared aims of the outfit was fighting drug addiction among young people, but intelligence agencies feared that this was just a front. Several cases have been lodged against him and his associates for allegedly spreading disharmony, attempting to murder, attacking police personnel and obstructing the lawful discharge of duty by public servants.

While the preacher remained on the run for 36 days, authorities continued to pile pressure on him by arresting his key associates.

Singh's wife was stopped from boarding a flight 

His wife Kirandeep Kaur, a UK-based woman he married in February, was stopped from boarding a flight to London from Amritsar airport recently. Scores of sympathisers were detained by police, but most of them were released as the Akal Takht and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee claimed young people were being harassed.

Security beefed up at Dibrugarh jail 

Security in Assam which has been the surprise choice, of the country’s security planners, for lodging the Waris Punjab de gang has been beefed up after news came in that Amritpal Singh was being flown into Dibrugarh. "The Dibrugarh Central jail compound has been surrounded by Assam Police's elite Black Cat Commandos, CRPF and other security personnel," a senior official told PTI.

"He (Singh) has been kept in a special cell under very tight security. A team from Punjab Police is present in the jail along with personnel of Assam Police," he added. The Assam Police has not yet made any official statement on the development.

Dibrugarh jail is said to be the most well-fortified 

Dibrugarh Central Jail was constructed in 1859-60 by the British on 15.54 acres of land. It is one of the oldest and most well-fortified prisons, officials said. Security in and around the jail premises has been upgraded progressively since March 19, when four members of the 'Waris Punjab De' (WPD) were brought here in the first batch. However, today’s security deployments are seen as unprecedented.

(with inputs from PTI)

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