“‘Waris Punjab De’ chief Amritpal Singh declared a fugitive. His two cars were seized and gunmen nabbed. The legality of their weapons being checked. Further probe is on”, Jalandhar Police Commissioner told news agency ANI.
A security blanket has been thrown over Punjab since Saturday as police launched a major crackdown against Amritpal Singh. He, however, eventually gave Punjab police’s special team, comprising personnel from seven districts, a slip.
He escaped the police’s dragnet when his cavalcade was intercepted in Jalandhar district, even as authorities stepped up security at several places and suspended internet and SMS services in the state till Sunday noon. Amritpal was last seen speeding away on a motorcycle while fleeing, as per officials.
The police said it has launched a “massive state-wide cordon and search operations (CASO)” in the state against elements of the ‘Waris Punjab De’ (WPD), headed by Amritpal Singh, against whom several criminal cases had been registered.
The police action came a day ahead of the start of Amritpal Singh’s ‘Khalsa Wahir’ – a religious procession – from Muktsar district.
The police action against Amritpal Singh came on the eve of singer Sidhu Moosewala’s death anniversary, and a day after the conclusion of G20 meetings in Amritsar. As per sources, the state government waited for the G20 event to get over to initiate action against him.
A heavy deployment of security forces had been made near village Jallupur Khera in Amritsar, the native place of Amritpal Singh, for the operation.
Speaking to reporters, his father Tarsem Singh said he was not aware whether his son has been arrested or not. Singh said he cooperated with the police who came to his house and carried out a search operation.
He called the police action “unjustified” and said his son was weaning the youth off drugs. Why the police were not acting against criminals and those involved in drugs, he asked.
On Saturday, some supporters of ‘Waris Punjab De’ chief shared some videos on social media claiming that policemen were chasing them. A video also showed Amritpal sitting in a vehicle and one of his aides could be heard saying policemen were after “Bhai saab” (Amritpal).
During the state-wide operation, nine weapons, including one .315 bore rifle, seven rifles of 12 bore, one revolver and 373 live cartridges of different caliber have been recovered so far, the police said.
Security has been tightened at many places in Punjab with security forces conducting vehicle checking.
According to a police spokesperson, WPD elements are involved in four criminal cases relating to spreading disharmony among classes, attempt to murder, attack on police personnel and creating obstructions in the lawful discharge of duties of public servants.
An FIR dated February 24 also stands registered against WPD elements for the attack on Ajnala Police Station, he added.
Last month, Amritpal and his supporters, some of them brandishing swords and guns, broke through barricades and barged into the Ajnala Police Station on the outskirts of the Amritsar city, and clashed with police for the release of one of Amritpal’s aide.
After the incident, in which six policemen including a Superintendent of Police rank officer had suffered injuries, the AAP government in the state had faced severe flak and was accused of kowtowing to extremists.
In February this year, a man complained at Ajnala Police Station alleging he had been kidnapped and beaten by the associates of the radical preacher. An FIR was registered against Amritpal Singh and six of his associates. Police later arrested one Lovepreet Singh Toofan, a close associate of Amritpal, in the matter.
The arrest of Toofan prompted Amritpal to issue a warning to the police to revoke the case against him, and the matter turned ugly when hundreds of his supporters broke through police barricades and stormed the police complex, armed with automatic guns and sharp weapons.
Toofan was released under pressure but only after the police informed the court that they would be investigating the matter further.
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