Amid a crackdown on the ‘Waris Punjab De’ organisation by the Punjab police which began on Saturday, its chief Amritpal Singh, who police claim slipped its dragnet, still remains elusive.
Over 150 arrests have been made so far in connection with the case, including his uncle Harjit Singh, who has been taken to Assam and lodged at a jail there, and booked under the stringent National Security Act (NSA).
Police have released seven photos of the radical preacher and pro-Khalistan activist asking citizens to give information about him.
Amritpal Singh was first introduced to the Punjab scene through a social media app called ClubHouse, where individuals or organisations set up exclusive ‘audio-rooms’ to discuss a topic, reports Tribune.
Activist and actor Deep Sidhu, who rose to fame from his participation in the farmers’ struggle and passed away in February last year in a car accident, had formed such a room during the late 2021 farmers’ agitation, and continued it until his arrest for violence on Republic Day, 2022.
Amritpal Singh was not a speaker, but due to his ‘knowledge on Punjab’, after a few members pursued him, he became one of the speakers of the room. This was confirmed by Harnek Uppal ‘Fauji’, who heads the Deep Sidhu faction of ‘Waris Punjab De’ to The Tribune.
Harnek was part of the ClubHouse group. He said that Amritpal was a favourite of some members, but Deep Sidhu had blocked him suspecting him of having some agenda.
After Deep’s sudden death in the car accident, days after he formed ‘Waris Punjab De’ organisation, the Facebook page was allegedly hacked and Amritpal Singh was announced as the chief of the organisation by posting a letter of appointment.
However, Amritpal was not a baptised Sikh then, and was working as a truck driver in Dubai.
For sometime, there was not much activity about Singh for about six months, and suddenly he arrived in Punjab when he arrived with supporters at Anandpur Sahib and was baptised as a Sikh on September 25 last year.
A ‘dastarbandi’ (turban-wearing) grand ceremony was held in Rode, ancestral village of Khalistani ideologue, late Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, for Amritpal Singh.
Dressed up as Bhindranwale, donning a white long kurta, loose pants, and blue turban and also carrying a silver sword, Amritpal Singh came to be known as ‘Bhindranwale 2.0’, putting him on the radar of state police and central security agencies.
In his first speeches, he denounced violence and organised Amrit Parchaar campaign, which drew huge crowds. He also announced the ‘Khalsa Vaheer yatra’ for ‘Ghar wapsi’ of Sikhs, who had adopted other religions or had cut their beard or hair.
Security agencies finally acted on him and his organisation after the Ajnala police station violence in February this year. Amritpal Singh, along with his supporters, stormed the police station demanding the release of his aide and kidnapping accused Lovepreet Singh Toofan, and others.
Police said that in the clash, several cops were injured, as the police had not used force claiming Amritpal had deliberately taken shield behind a palki that carried Guru Granth Sahib.
The Punjab police have alleged that the organisation members carried arms and ammunition illegally and had used to receive funds from abroad. It is also alleged that Amritpal Singh received special training from Pakistan’s ISI in Georgia before his arrival in Punjab.