Armed with swords, guns and sharp weapons, scores of supporters of the self-styled Sikh preacher and pro-Khalistan (sovereign state for Sikhs) propagator Amritpal Singh on Thursday indulged in a scuffle with Punjab police personnel, injuring a few in Amritsar’s Ajnala.
Mr. Amritpal, who recently stated that “Khalistan movement can’t be stopped from flourishing”, had given a call to his supporters to gather at Ajnala to protest against the arrest of his close associate in an alleged kidnapping and theft case. The supporters of Mr. Amritpal, who is head of ‘Waris Punjab De’ outfit, broke a police barricade as they clashed with the police personnel near the Ajnala Police Station, and stormed into the police complex in a “show of strength”.
Alleging that the FIR has been registered only with a political motive, Mr. Amritpal demanded cancellation of the FIR and immediate release of the arrested person as his supporters picketed the complex. Talking to journalists, he issued a warning that if the demands were not met, then the administration would be responsible for whatever happens. Mr. Amritpal, among others, was recently booked by the Punjab police allegedly for kidnapping, theft and voluntarily causing hurt to a resident of Chamkaur Sahib in Rupnagar district. In this connection, the police arrested Lovepreet Singh alias Toofan Singh last week. Following this, his family members accused the police of falsely implicating him in the case.
Succumbing to the demand, the Police later announced that they will release Mr. Lovepreet. Satinder Singh, Senior Superintendent of Police (Amritsar rural), said “...we will be discharging the person (Lovepreet) who we had arrested as according to the evidence given by them (supporters), he was not present on the spot. Besides, a Special Investigating Team would probe the matter and take action. He will be discharged tomorrow.”
About the scuffle between the supporter and police personnel, he said “Police personnel have been injured. We are looking into it.”
Mr. Amritpal has been invariably speaking the language of secession and separatism, evoking calls for the freedom of Punjab and the creation of Khalistan on several platforms. The 29-yer-old man dresses similar to the slain militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and draws “inspiration” from him. The revival of Khalistan movement in Punjab may have lost popular support, yet the recent sporadic incidents surrounding the Kahlistan connection in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh and the activeness of pro-Khalistan elements, including Mr. Amritpal, has created concern among many who remember the era of armed militant movement in Punjab during 1980s and 1990s.
Meanwhile, former Punjab Chief Minister and BJP leader Amarinder Singh expressed grave concern over the Ajnala incident. “This is not only a complete collapse of the law and order situation in Punjab, it is more serious than that,” he said, adding that “this incident has serious security implications for the state and the country.”
The senior BJP leader drew the Central government’s attention to this incident, warning that there was a particular pattern that does not bode well for national security. “Particularly when Pakistan is there to encourage and exploit such a situation”, he said, while raising questions over the competence of the State government in dealing with such a situation.