CHANDIGARH/DIBRUGARH, Mar 19:
Police today conducted flag marches and searches across Punjab in their manhunt for radical preacher Amritpal Singh, arresting 34 more supporters and shifting four men in custody to a jail in far-off Assam.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has, however, asked the State Government to respond on Tuesday to a habeas corpus petition, claiming that the preacher is already in illegal police custody and should be released.
Justice N S Shekhawat held the hearing at his home-office as the courts were closed.
Police stuck to their version that the “Waris Punjab De” chief gave them the slip during a car chase in Jalandhar district on Saturday, when the crackdown against the group began. They have slapped fresh FIRs against the Khalistan sympathiser and his supporters.
Section 144 of the CrPc, which prohibits congregations, was imposed in the Union Territory of Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana. Prohibitory orders were already in force in some parts of Punjab.
Police recovered a second vehicle in the case, an abandoned pick-up with a gun, a sword and several cartridges in Jalandhar district’s Salema village and said it appeared to be a part of Amritpal Singh’s cavalcade.
The crackdown has come weeks after Singh and his supporters barged into the Ajnala police station near Amritsar, extracting an assurance that an arrested man would be released.
Twenty-one Amritpal supporters were taken into custody near Boparai Kalan in Jalandhar district when they tried to stage a ‘dharna’ over the previous days’ action.
These detentions are apparently not part of the arrests’ tally given by police – 78 on Saturday and 34 more on Sunday. Earlier, police said nine firearms have also been seized.
The State remained on high alert. Security forces took out flag marches at several places including Ferozepur, Bathinda, Rupnagar, Faridkot, Batala, Fazilka, Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur, Moga and Jalandhar in a show of strength.
The Punjab Government also extended the suspension of mobile internet and SMS services till Monday noon. The official order, which exempted banking services, said this was to “prevent any incitement to violence and any disturbance of peace and public order”.
Four of the arrested men were brought to BJP-ruled Assam’s Dibrugarh by a 27-member Punjab Police team accompanying them, according to an Assam Police officer.
The men, now lodged in Dibrugarh Central Jail, were identified as alleged fund raiser Daljit Singh Kalsi, Bhagwant Singh, Gurmeet Singh and ‘Pradhanmantri’ Bajeka.
“Sometimes, persons arrested in one state are sent to another state’s jail,” Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told reporters.
“We will provide them all security in the jail,” he said.
Meanwhile, Security agencies had raised a red flag after intelligence inputs suggested that pro-Khalistan preacher Amritpal Singh was using drug de-addiction centres and a gurdwara for stockpiling weapons and preparing youths to carry out suicide attacks, officials said today.
A thick dossier prepared with inputs from various security agencies claimed that Singh, who returned from Dubai last year allegedly at the behest of Pakistan’s ISI and Khalistan sympathisers residing overseas, was mainly engaged in brainwashing youths to become “khadkoos” or human bombs.
The self-styled radical preacher has been on the run since the Punjab Police launched a massive crackdown on Saturday and arrested 78 members of the ‘Waris Punjab De’, headed by him.
According to experts and officials monitoring the situation in Punjab, Pakistan, which is going through its worst economic phase and lost all the wars fought against India, is trying its best to divert attention of its people by planting stooges like Amritpal Singh inside India.
During the ongoing investigation, several arms and ammunition meant for the so-called Anandpur Khalsa Front (AKF), a creation of Amritpal Singh, were seized. Also, police confiscated uniforms and jackets, officials said, adding that the weapons and ammunition seized from the radical Sikh preacher’s car bore “AKF” marking on it.
The officials said weapons were illegally being stockpiled in several de-addiction centres run by the ‘Waris Panjab De’ and a gurdwara in Amritsar.
The youths who were admitted in the de-addiction centres used to be indoctrinated and pushed towards the “gun culture”. They were being brainwashed to choose the path of slain terrorist Dilawar Singh, who acted as a human bomb and killed former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, the officials said.
The radical preacher used to attend “shaheedi samagam” (memorial events) of slain terrorists where he termed them so-called “martyrs of the Panth” and glorified the use of weapons. (PTI)