Cat & mouse chase ends finally as Amritpal falls in police net

Radical preacher Amritpal and his aides have been sent to Dibrugarh Jail to avoid any disruption of peace in the state. Currently, he is being quizzed by central agencies for his connections with Pakistan’s ISI, Babbar Khalsa, his foreign funding etc, writes Aayush Goel

The 36 day long Amritpal Saga ended on April 23 with the dramatic arrest of a Khalistani separatist from the native village of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Evading police for long, pro-Khalistani separatist leader Amritpal Singh was nabbed from outside Sant Khalsa Gurudwara in Rode village in Punjab’s Moga district at 6.45 am on Sunday under the National Security Act (NSA). Wasting no time, he was flown from Bathinda airport to Assam’s Dibrugarh Central Jail where his nine arrested associates are already lodged. 

The arrest was as dramatic as his chase by police, but was predictable in lots of ways. Amritpal styled himself by wearing a turban and robe similar to Bhindranwale before his arrest. It is the same village where Amritpal’s ‘dastar bandi’ (turban tying ceremony to bestow responsibility) was held on September 29, last year. The choice of the place and dress up was aimed to re-emphasise his fascination for Bhindranwale and a desperate attempt to establish that he was a worthy successor to his ideology.

Before walking out of Gurudwara, Amritpal addressed a small gathering boasting how he could have easily fled the country, but did not do so. In one of the viral videos from inside the Rode village gurudwara, Amritpal said, “I have decided to surrender and this arrest is not an end, it is the beginning.”

Bhindranwale’s nephew and former Jathedar of the Akal Takht Jasbir Singh Rode said that Amritpal had surrendered of his own will and was not arrested. The supporters and family of Amritpal insisted it was a surrender by ‘warrior’ but police refuted all claims. Punjab police IG (headquarters) Sukhchain Singh Gill announced the arrest saying they maintained the sanctity of Gurudwara by not stepping into its premises, but had cornered him in the village and finally arrested him. “He was located in Rode village, based on operational inputs. The village was surrounded from all sides by the Punjab police and he knew that he had no way to escape”, said Gill. He further added that there was a “relentless pressure by Punjab police for the last 36 days” and all the wings of Punjab police had worked in coordination for this special operation. He and his supporters were sent to Dibrugarh Jail to avoid any threat of jailbreak or disruption of peace in the state and to break his local network. Currently, he is being quizzed by Central agencies for his connections with Pakistan’s ISI, Babbar Khalsa, his foreign funding etc.

Peace and harmony priority: Mann

While the state virtually relived the decade old trauma for over a month CM Bhagwant Mann came with assurance of a brighter future after the arrest. Appearing more confident than ever before, Mann addressed the state through video saying the situation was in control. “I had got the information about the police operation on Saturday night. I remained awake the whole night. I was talking to police officers every 15 minutes. I wanted all this to end smoothly and peacefully.”

Responding to constant ridicule about police reportedly losing to Amritpal and his people’s ruckus at Ajnala, Mann said that they had made the choice. “He used Palki with Guru Granth Sahib to shield himself in Ajnala and cops did not retaliate to maintain its sanctity. Then and now we were clear that there will be no bloodshed from our side. Punjab police has been appreciated world over for this,” added Mann. Amongst other things, the entire episode drew attention to coordination between the Mann-led AAP government in Punjab and the Centre. A day prior to the arrest, Amit Shah had appreciated Mann in dealing with the issue and even announced that Amritpal could be arrested anytime. The duo had even met on March 02 and it is said that a crackdown was planned then. The opposition while taking pot-shots at Mann’s bonhomie with Shah, even calling Punjab government “the B team” of BJP, AAP’s Punjab chief spokesperson Malwinder Kang while talking to Tehelka said, ”National security is prime and way above politics. How can any connivance be thought about with what’s going on between us and Delhi?” Has this operation nudged Mann out of Kejriwal’s shadow remains to be seen.