March 24, 2023

Chandigarh: Punjab police on Sunday intensified their hunt for radical Khalistan preacher and supporter Amritpal Singh, while security forces held flag marches in multiple locations and extended authorities’ restrictions on mobile internet and SMS services until Monday afternoon amid heightened alert in the state .

According to police, alleged Amritpal adviser and fundraiser Daljit Singh Kalsi and three others arrested on Saturday were flown to Assam from Punjab on a “special flight” and held at Dibrugarh Central Jail.

Senior Punjab police officers said the law and order situation was under control and warned of strict action against anyone spreading rumours, saying they monitor fake news and hate speech coming from different countries, states and cities.

They said Amritpal would soon be captured and denied any mistake when he escaped from the security net on Saturday after a crackdown was launched against the Waris Punjab De (WPD) organization he leads.

A new FIR was filed against Amritpal and some of his associates in Amritsar, and two cases were filed against him in Jalandhar, they said, the day after the arrest of 78 WPD-linked people.

In addition to Kalsi, three others – Bhagwant Singh, Gurmeet Singh and Pradhanmantry Baeka – were flown by a team of 27 from AAP-administered Punjab to Dibrugarh, according to an Assam police officer. However, none of the officers wanted to explain why they were taken to the controlled BJP Assam, more than 2,500 km away.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was in New Delhi, told reporters that his staff would provide the necessary security for the accused in prison.

“Sometimes people who are arrested in one state are sent to prison in another state. According to my information, the Punjab police sent four people. We will provide them with complete security in prison,” he said.

As the Punjab was put on high alert, security forces staged flag marches at many locations including Ferozepur, Batinda, Rupnagar, Faridkot, Batala, Fazilka, Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur, Moga and Jalandhar.

Neighboring Haryana has also stepped up vehicle checks at the Punjab border. Additional checkpoints have been set up at the Shambhu border and a large number of police officers have been deployed, officials said.

In some other areas, including Kurukshetra, Kaital and Sirs, which border the Punjab, the police maintain strict vigilance, they said.

Meanwhile, Amritpal’s father expressed concern that his son had already been detained by the police. “There is no information (about him) since yesterday. But we fear that he has been detained,” he said.

Punjab Police Inspector General Sukhane Singh Gill said Amritpal is still in hiding. The Punjab Police operate within the law. Yesterday the police set up a naka near Mehatpur, from where he (Amritpal) escaped. Whatever the Punjab police do in this case, it will be within the law.”

“Everyone has a legal right, and any remedy provided by law can be availed. In this case, Amritpal is still being sought. He has not yet been arrested and a search is underway,” Gill said.

Jalandhar Police Commissioner Kuldip Singh Chahal stated that they would soon arrest Amritpal.

When asked about the escape of a radical preacher, Chahal said it was not a “gaffe”.

This is a choir and police game. Sometimes they manage to escape. But we will arrest him soon,” he said.

“His car was followed for 20-25 km. He (his car) was in front, and naturally he had an advantage, there were narrow streets, and somehow he managed to escape by changing cars,” he said.

Amritpal eluded the police when his cavalcade was intercepted in the Jalandhar district.

Amritsar Rural Police Senior Superintendent Satinder Singh said Amritpal’s seven associates were arrested under the provisions of the Guns Act and other relevant provisions of the law on Saturday evening.

Last night we registered a new FIR under the Arms Act, in which Amritpal is a key defendant. All seven are also charged with this new FIR,” he told reporters in Amritsar.

Two FIRs were registered against Amritpal Singh and his associates in connection with the seizure of weapons from a vehicle and the breaking into of police checkpoints in Jalandhar.

Deputy Inspector General of Police (Jalandhar Band) Swapan Sharma said the FIR was registered on Sunday after the discovery of weapons and several dozen live rounds in a car that was part of Amritpal’s convoy on Saturday.

On Sunday, police found an abandoned car in Salema village in Shahkot Jalandkhara. The second case was reported after Amritpal and his accomplices broke down police barricades in Jalandhar on Saturday, he said.

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