Earlier in the day, a few of Amritpal’s associates were detained at Mehatpur while others including the self-styled Sikh preacher managed to escape in his vehicle. The chase was streamed live from his vehicle.
Internet services have been suspended across the state till noon on Sunday, said a senior official of the state’s home affairs department.
The 30-year-old shot into prominence in the past 6-7 months as a separatist leader, Khalistani sympathiser and radical preacher.
Here’s all you need to know about Amritpal Singh:
- He was born in Amritsar’s Jallupur Khera village in 1993.
- Amritpal studied up to Class 12, and in 2012 left India to work with his uncle’s transport company in Dubai.
- He came to the notice of Punjab’s politicians and police only six months ago when he was anointed the head of Waris Punjab De, an organisation founded by actor-turned-activist Deep Sidhu.
- Amritpal and his supporters claim Sidhu, who died in a road accident in February 2022, was murdered by the ‘state’.
- Amritpal never met Sidhu in person but says he was strongly influenced by him in their online interactions.
- Amritpal had backed Deep Sidhu when others vilified him for the Red Fort protests on Republic Day of 2021 during the farmers’ agitation.
- On Sidhu’s first death anniversary a week ago, Amritpal said he had stopped trimming his hair on the late actor’s advice in November 2021.
- On September 25 last year, Amritpal went through a formal Sikh baptism at Anandpur Sahib to become an ‘Amritdhari Sikh’.
- Just four days later — on September 29 — large numbers of Sikhs again gathered to witness Amritpal’s ‘dastar bandi’ (turban-tying ceremony to indicate the taking on of a responsibility) at Rode village, the birthplace of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, whose name is inseparable from the Punjab militancy.
- Amritpal’s transformation from a clean-shaven transporter in Dubai to a separatist Sikh leader with a flowing beard has been swift. He dresses like Bhindranwale and some are already calling him Bhindranwale 2.0.
- In a recent speech, he said he was questioned by the ‘agencies’ for quite some time when he landed at Amritsar airport. A Sikh youth being questioned about returning to his homeland is a sign of ‘ghulami’ (slavery), he added.
- He has been espousing the cause of Khalistan on Facebook for quite some time. Why is it wrong for a Sikh to demand Khalistan if advocacy of a Hindu Rashtra is not punished, he asked.
- In an interview to a Punjabi news channel, Amritpal had said he was drawn to Sikh activism after the Bargari sacrilege and Behbal Kalan police firing of 2015.
- Both incidents occurred on Shiromani Akali Dal’s watch, which is the political organisation of the Sikhs. The party was routed in last year’s assembly election. It seems Amritpal is hoping to fill hte power vaccuum.
- Similar circumstances in the 1970s had enabled Bhindranwale’s rise.
- Amritpal dresses and presents himself similar to Bhindranwale. This includes wearing a turban and robe similar to ones worn by Bhindranwale.
- According to police records, Amritpal Singh is married to UK-based NRI Kirandeep Kaur.
- There are three cases registered against Amritpal Singh, out of which two are related to hate speech and one is related to kidnapping.
A history of violence
On 9 December, 2022 — just a few months after he was appointed as chief of Waris Punjab De — Amritpal’s supporters vandalised a gurudwara in Biharipura and then later on 13 December, vandalised a gurudwara in Jalandhar.
Punjab: Police arrest 6 aides of pro-Khalistan leader Amritpal Singh, internet services suspended
They burned the chairs and sofas at these two gurudwaras claiming that one must not pray while sitting at the level of the Guru Granth Sahib at the gurudwara.
In February 2023, a man complained in an Ajnala police station stating he was kidnapped and beaten by the associates of Amritpal Singh. An FIR was registered against Amritpal Singh and six of his associates. The police arrested one of his close associates, Lovepreet Singh Toofan.
After the arrest, Amritpal Singh issued an “ultimatum” to Punjab Police to revoke the case and, when the police did not respond, his supporters broke through police barricades and stormed the police complex, armed with automatic guns and sharp weapons.
Several police personnel were injured and police vehicles were damaged.
According to Senior Superintendent of Police Satinder Singh, the police could not retaliate because the supporters of Amritpal Singh had styled their group like a Jatha, carrying the Guru Granth Sahib.
Punjab police later released Lovepreet Singh after the court ordered his release based on the police report.
Amritpal has also threatened Union home minister Amit Shah, saying that he will meet the same fate as Indira Gandhi who was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984.
(With inputs from agencies)