Violence broke out between supporters of Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh and the police outside the police station in Ajnala in Punjab's Amritsar district on Thursday 23 February. The spark for the violence was a stand-off between the police and Amritpal's supporters over the arrest of his aide Lovepreet Singh aka Toofan Singh.
What Led to This?
On 18 February, the Amritsar police picked up Lovepreet Singh in connection with the alleged kidnapping of one Varinder Singh, a resident of Chamkaur Sahib in Rupnagar district. Varinder has accused Amritpal Singh and his supporters of kidnapping him near Damdami Taksal in Ajnala on 15 February, taking him to Jandiala and assaulting him.
The police registered a case based on Varinder's complaint and named Amritpal Singh, Pappalpreet Singh, Kulwant Singh Rauke, Bikramjeet Singh, Fauji Rode and others.
Based on Varinder Singh's complaint, the police picked up Lovepreet Singh. However, his family alleged that he had been wrongly accused in the case.
Amritpal Singh, too, said that the police has wrongly picked up Lovepreet and issued an ultimatum to the police.
"Toofan Singh has been wrongly framed by the police. The police should release him or we will not be responsible for the consequences," he said, warning of a mobilisation.
On the morning of 23 February, Amritpal Singh's supporters began gathering outside Ajnala police station. People even began coming from other districts of Punjab.
Soon a huge crowd had gathered outside the police station and tried to enter its premises.
The situation went out of control with the protesters and police clashing with each other.
A number of police personnel as well as protesters were injured in the protest.
"We were only doing our duty. Yet we were attacked," an injured policeman told the media, while being taken away for treatment.
However, Amritpal Singh blamed the police for the clash.
"Whatever has happened is the police's doing. They wrongly picked up Toofan Singh. This is what they always do," Amritpal Singh said.
He further accused the police of preventing people from reaching Ajnala in solidarity with Lovepreet Singh.
"They stopped people near Harike and at the Beas crossing. The administration wanted to show that no one came for the protest. But that failed," he said.
In an attempt to end the standoff, the police issued a statement saying that Lovepreet Singh will be released.
SSP Amritsar Rural, Satinder Singh, said, "This chief sewadar has given us evidence that Lovepreet who has been detained wasn't there at the crime scene. Based on this he will be released".
The Political Impact
While the Ajnala standoff may have ended with the police announcing that Lovepreet Singh will be released, the tussle between the Aam Aadmi Party government in Punjab and Amritpal Singh and his supporters isn't likely to end any time soon.
The release of Lovepreet following the protest is only likely to increase Amritpal Singh's prominence in Punjab's religio-political space.
This comes also at a time when the sit-in protest for the release of Sikh prisoners who have been in jail for 20 years and more, has picked up momentum.
The other consequence will be that the Aam Aadmi Party government is likely to face more questions. On one hand, it has already begun facing allegations that the law and order situation has worsened in its tenure.
On the other hand, the tensions with Amritpal Singh's supporters could also increase.
(With inputs by Amit Sharma)