Not many people had heard of Khalistani leader Amritpal Singh till a couple of months ago. And yet, he is now Punjab’s most wanted criminal and such is his following that the state police crackdown against him has sparked protests at Indian embassies abroad.
Who is Amritpal Singh?
The 30-year-old’s family is from Jallupur Khera in Punjab’s Amritsar district. His family reportedly runs a transport business in Dubai and Amritpal had been staying there since 2012. During the year-long farmers’ protest against the centre’s now-repealed farm laws, Amritpal travelled to India and joined the agitation. Later, he returned.
What is Waris Punjab De?
Punjabi actor-turned-activist Deep Sidhu, who was arrested over the farmers’ protest at Red Fort on January 26, 2021, founded Waris Punjab De after he was granted bail. The stated objective of the outfit was to fight for the “rights of Punjab”. After Deep Sidhu’s death in an accident last year, Amritpal Singh positioned himself as Waris Punjab De’s leader.
Changing The Narrative
According to Deep Sidhu’s brother Mandeep, Amritpal’s Waris Punjab De is completely different from their outfit with the same name. In an interview with The Indian Express, Mandeep alleged that the Khalistani preacher is “misusing” his brother’s name. “Deep had clearly said that talks are the (only) way but Amritpal is clearly asking youths to pick up weapon,” he said.
Amritpal Singh was born nine years after Sikh terrorist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was killed in the Army operation in Golden Temple, the most sacred place of worship for the Sikh community. From style to mannerisms, Amritpal projects himself as a Bhindranwale follower. Like the cult leader, he too carries an arrow and moves with armed guards. The differences though are many. Bhindrawale was an out and out religious leader, the head of orthodox Sikh organisation, Damdami Taksal. Prior to his Waris de Punjab avatar, Amritpal doesn’t have an orthodox religious background.
The Journey To Headlines
The name Amritpal Singh started doing the rounds after a huge mob of his supporters attacked a police station on the outskirts of Amritsar this February. Brandishing swords and using the Sikh holy book as shields, they barged in and extracted an assurance from police that his key aide, a kidnapping case accused Lovepreet Singh, would be released. The incident hit headlines and provided Amritpal a platform from where he made statements calling for an armed rebellion against democratically elected governments for “ultimate goal” of ‘Khalistan’.
Allegations Against Amritpal Singh
The latest case against Amritpal Singh has been registered under the Arms Act after a huge cache of weapons was recovered from his aides. According to official sources, he has been maintaining close links with Pakistani intelligence agency ISI and some terrorist groups based abroad, news agency PTI reported. The Khalistani leader is believed to be close to of UK-based Khalistani terrorist Avtar Singh Khanda and he is believed to be a key factor behind his rise to prominence. He was allegedly building a “private militia” of youth from drug deaddiction centres, to be used for violent protests. The deaddiction centres were allegedly also used to stockpile illegally-sourced weapons from Pakistan.