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Crackdown On Amritpal Singh: What Happens Next? Watch Out for These 3 Things

Punjab Police has launched a crackdown against Amritpal Singh and his supporters. How is this likely to play out?

4 min read
Crackdown On Amritpal Singh: What Happens Next? Watch Out for These 3 Things
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On 18 March, Punjab Police launched a massive crackdown against Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh and a number of his associates in a crackdown.

According to police sources, they are said to have intercepted Amritpal Singh near Nakodar in Punjab's Jalandhar district after a long chase. Police sources also said that he has been detained and that he and his associates have been taken to an undisclosed location.

However, a statement issued by Punjab police in the evening said that Amritpal Singh remains on the run. The statement says that 78 people have been arrested. This includes actor Daljeet Singh Kalsi, considered close to Amritpal Singh.


In separate actions by the police, Harpal Singh Baler of Shiromani Akali Dal-Amritsar and Barjinder Singh Parwana of Damdami Taksar Rajpura were also detained on 18 March.

Several political reactions have been coming in on this - with Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress supporting the crackdown and the Shiromani Akali Dal-Amritsar condemning it.

Now, how is this likely to play out? There are three aspects we need to look out for.

1. Has Amritpal Singh been Detained or Not? What Are the Charges Against Him?

The main question right now is whether Amritpal Singh has been detained or not. There are contradicting versions coming from the police. On one hand, police sources told the media, including The Quint, that Amritpal had indeed been detained.

But the press release issued later says that he is still on the run.

This ambiguity has sparked fears among Amritpal Singh's supporters regarding his safety.

The second aspect are the charges against him.

So far, the only case in which the Punjab Police went after Amritpal Singh is the alleged abduction of Chamkaur Sahib resident Varinder Singh near Ajnala.

That ended in a fiasco for the Punjab Police. It detained Amritpal's aide Lovepreet Singh, provoking a protest call from the Waris Punjab De leader, which in turn led to the clash outside Ajnala police station. The police later let off Lovepreet saying there's no evidence against him.

While Amritpal was also named in Varinder Singh's complaint, it doesn't seem likely that this would be the Punjab Police's main case against the Waris Punjab De leader.

The Punjab Police press release indicates that the crackdown is related to FIR 39 registered at the Ajnala police station, pertaining to the violence that took place there on 24 February.

The Punjab Police has accused Amritpal Singh and Waris Punjab De members of being involved in four criminal cases relating to spreading disharmony among classes, attempt to murder, attack on police persons and creating obstructions in the lawful discharge of duties by public servants.

There is also a possibility that he could be booked under the National Security Act, which provides for protracted preventive detention.


2. What Will Amritpal Singh's Supporters Do?

A lot would depend on when clarity emerges regarding Amritpal Singh's detention.

The Punjab government has suspended mobile internet till 12 noon on 19 March. At the time of writing this story, Section 144 has been imposed in Sri Muktsar Sahib and Fazilka districts in western Punjab. Many other districts are witnessing very high deployment of police and paramilitary forces.

Protests against Amritpal Singh's alleged detention broke out in Mohali but this was mainly from the Qaumi Insaf Morcha - a sit-in protest on the Punjab-Chandigarh border for the release of Sikh prisoners.

The real mobilisation by Amritpal Singh's core supporters is yet to take place. The Ajnala incident proved that Amritpal Singh does have the capability of gathering a large crowd on a short notice.

There is no dearth of supporters for Amritpal Singh. He was hailed by some for his unapologetic advocacy of Khalistan. And many of those who may have differed with him do acknowledge his work against drug addiction and his Amrit Prachar - or making Sikhs take initiation and live more in line with Sikh principles.

Will his supporters take to the streets? Can such a mobilisation happen in the absence of Amritpal Singh and his close associates?

Amritpal Singh himself filled a vacuum in the Sikh religio-political sphere. Who will fill this vacuum in his absence? Will it be someone from within Waris Punjab De or someone favouring his hardline approach? Or will the mantle fall on pro-Panthic leaders who follow a more incremental approach?

We need to watch out for this space.


3. Battle for Credit

There is likely to be a battle for credit between the Aam Aadmi Party-led Punjab government and the BJP-led Central government over the crackdown against Amritpal Singh.

Both would like to present themselves as the party which battled pro-Khalistan elements in Punjab.

Already, a number of national news channels have been claiming citing 'sources' how the Union Minister of Home Affairs and the National Security Advisor were closely involved in the entire operation.

Now, this could be true or it could also be a retrospective spin.

The operation is almost entirely being conducted by the Punjab Police. The timing of this crackdown isn't just an administrative call. It was a political decision from Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, who also holds the home portfolio in Punjab.

The timing is important because this takes place on the eve of the G-20 meeting in Amritsar as well as just before a massive gathering is scheduled to take place for the barsi of Sidhu Moose Wala. With mobile internet banned and Section 144 impost in many parts of Punjab, it remains to be seen if that gathering takes place.

What we do know is that central paramilitary forces are being used to help the police maintain order in Punjab. It is also quite likely that the centre may have been in the loop in some way, especially given that this happened on the eve of the G-20 meeting in Amritsar.

Whichever way this goes from here onwards - the credit or blame would largely go to the Punjab CM.

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