NEW DELHI/CHANDIGARH: Several areas of Punjab witnessed the suspension of mobile and internet services over the weekend as the police in the northern Indian state conducted a “manhunt” for Amritpal Singh, a prominent self-styled Sikh preacher who says he supports the Khalistan movement for a separate Sikh homeland.
According to Scroll.in, “cordon-and-search operations” were conducted statewide against Singh’s organisation, Waris Punjab De, resulting in the arrest of 78 people, with “several more being detained.”
As the search for Singh, 30, continued into its second day, India Today reported on Sunday that security has been heightened across Indian Punjab.
“[The] father of Amritpal Singh, who was declared a fugitive by the Jalandhar Commissioner on Saturday [March 18], said the Punjab police conducted searches at his residence in Amritsar but did not find anything illegal,” it said.
“We don’t have any information about his whereabouts. They carried out a search at our residence for 3-4 hours but did not find anything illegal. Police should have arrested him before he left home,” the report quoted Singh’s father as saying.
Singh gained national attention in India after hundreds of his supporters stormed a police station in Punjab in February. The mob, many carrying guns and swords, demanded the release of an arrested aide and were reportedly carrying a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib, holy religious scripture of Sikhism, making it difficult for police to intervene.
The incident brought Singh into the spotlight, with concerns raised over the rising support for the Khalistan movement.
Meanwhile, according to The Wire, Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which prohibits the assembly of five or more persons, has been imposed in various districts of the state, including two of the six border districts. The police have increased deployment in all district headquarters, and paramilitary forces have sealed off Jallupur Khera, Singh’s hometown.
Mobile internet and SMS services have also been suspended in several districts until the afternoon.