The Punjab government has extended the suspension of mobile internet and SMS services till Monday noon, even as the hunt for radical Sikh preacher and Khalistan sympathiser Amritpal Singh continued.
The state authorities had on Saturday suspended the internet and SMS services till Sunday noon.
The police earlier said they will soon arrest the fugitive preacher.
“In exercise of power conferred on me under the India Telegraph Act, 1885, it is directed that all mobile internet services (2G/3G/45/5G/CDMA/GPRS), all SMS services (excluding banking and mobile recharge) and all dongle services provided on mobile networks, except voice calls, in the territorial jurisdiction of Punjab shall be further suspended from March 19 (12.00 hours) to March 20 (12.00 hours) to prevent any incitement to violence and any disturbance of peace and public order,” an official order issued on Sunday said.
The broadband services are not being suspended so that banking facilities, hospital services and other essential services are not disrupted, the order issued by the additional chief secretary said.
Talking to reporters near Nakodar in Jalandhar late Saturday night, Jalandhar Police Commissioner Kuldeep Sinhh Chahal had said, “Amritpal Singh is now a fugitive and we are looking for him and we will soon arrest him.” He also said that two vehicles belonging to the preacher had also been seized.
The Punjab government on Saturday launched a major crackdown against Amritpal, with the police arresting 78 members of an outfit headed by him, officials said.
The elusive preacher, however, gave the police a slip and escaped their dragnet when his cavalcade was intercepted in Jalandhar district, even as authorities stepped up security at several places in the northern state. Police had said it had launched a “massive statewide cordon and search operations (CASO)” against elements of the ‘Waris Punjab De’ (WPD), headed by Amritpal, against whom several criminal cases had been registered.
The police action also comes ahead of the start of Amritpal’s ‘Khalsa Wahir’ – a religious procession – from Muktsar district.
During the statewide operation, nine weapons, including one .315 bore rifle, seven rifles of 12 bore, one revolver and 373 live cartridges of different caliber have been recovered so far, police said.
Security has been tightened at many places in Punjab with security forces conducting vehicle checking.
The police spokesperson had informed that the WPD elements were involved in four criminal cases relating to spreading disharmony among classes, attempt to murder, attack on police personnel and creating obstructions in lawful discharge of duties of public servants.
An FIR dated February 24 stands registered against WPD elements for the attack on Ajnala Police Station.
Last month, Amritpal and his supporters, some of them brandishing swords and guns, broke through barricades and barged into the Ajnala Police Station on the outskirts of the Amritsar city, and clashed with police for the release of one of Amritpal’s aide.
After the incident, in which six policemen, including a superintendent of police rank officer, had suffered injuries, the AAP government in the state had faced severe flak and was accused of kowtowing to extremists.
Dubai-returned Amritpal was last year anointed the head of ‘Waris Punjab De’, which was founded by actor and activist Deep Sidhu who died in a road accident in February last year.