Fresh FIR against still-elusive Amritpal Singh; Internet suspension continues in Punjab

During the statewide crackdown against the radical preacher, a .315 bore rifle, seven rifles of 12 bore, one revolver and 373 live cartridges of different caliber were recovered.

CHANDIGARH/DIBRUGARH: A fresh FIR was lodged against radical preacher Amritpal Singh and some of his associates on Sunday in connection with the possession of illegal weapons, a senior police officer said. 

Four arrested members of Waris Punjab De outfit headed by the Khalistan sympathiser were brought to Assam's Dibrugarh on Sunday even as the hunt for the radical preacher and his associates continued.

The Punjab government also extended the suspension of mobile internet and SMS services till Monday noon and security forces took out flag marches at several places in the state, including Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana. The state authorities had on Saturday suspended the internet and SMS services till Sunday noon.

Meanwhile, Jalandhar Commissioner Kuldeep Singh Chahal on Saturday late evening confirmed that the radical leader had been declared a "fugitive".

Police said four associates of Amritpal, who were arrested in Punjab, have been brought to Dibrugarh. "They were brought in a special flight and kept in Dibrugarh central jail," a police officer said, without elaborating further. The police earlier said they would soon arrest the fugitive radical preacher.

The Punjab government had on Saturday launched a major crackdown against Amritpal, with the police arresting 78 members of an outfit headed by him, officials said.

The elusive preacher, however, gave the police a slip and escaped their dragnet when his cavalcade was intercepted in Jalandhar district, even as authorities stepped up security at several places in the northern state.

"In exercise of power conferred on me under the India Telegraph Act, 1885, it is directed that all mobile internet services (2G/3G/45/5G/CDMA/GPRS), all SMS services (excluding banking and mobile recharge) and all dongle services provided on mobile networks, except voice calls, in the territorial jurisdiction of Punjab shall be further suspended from March 19 (12.00 hours) to March 20 (12.00 hours) to prevent any incitement to violence and any disturbance of peace and public order," an official order issued on Sunday said.

The broadband services are not being suspended so that banking facilities, hospital services and other essential services are not disrupted, the order issued by the additional chief secretary said.

Meanwhile, security was also tightened at Amritpal's native village Jallupur Khera in Amritsar, where his father Tarsem Singh alleged that his son has been detained by police. "There is no information (about him) since yesterday. We feel he has already been detained," he said. "There is no need of fear because he (Amritpal) has not done anything wrong," Tarsem said, adding that his son was weaning the youth off drugs.

Speaking to reporters in Jalandhar on Sunday, Police Commissioner Kuldeep Singh Chahal said they will soon arrest Amritpal. Asked if there were any 'lapses' as there was no news about the preacher's whereabouts even as his supporters were held, Chahal shot back and asserted that there were no lapses in the investigation.

"It is a game of 'chor' (thief) and 'sipahi' (police). Sometimes, they (culprits) manage to escape. But we will soon arrest him (Amritpal)," he said.

On how Amritpal managed to escape, the senior police official said the former's vehicle was chased by the security personnel. "His (Amritpal) vehicle was chased for 20 to 25 km. He (his vehicle) was at the front and naturally, he was having an advantage and there were narrow streets and somehow, he managed to escape by changing his vehicle," Chahal rued. He said Amritpal's two vehicles have been seized.

The Jalandhar police commissioner along with the Rapid Action Force personnel took out a flag march in Jalandhar and said nobody will be allowed to disturb the peace and harmony of the region and that strict action will be taken against the erring.

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Police had launched a "massive statewide cordon and search operations (CASO)" against elements of the 'Waris Punjab De' (WPD), headed by Amritpal, against whom several criminal cases had been registered.

The police action also comes ahead of the start of Amritpal's 'Khalsa Wahir' - a religious procession - from Muktsar district.

During the statewide 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, police said.

The police had also informed that the WPD elements were involved in four criminal cases relating to spreading disharmony among classes, attempt to murder, attack on police personnel and creating obstructions in lawful discharge of duties of public servants.

Weapons recovered. (Photo | ANI)

An FIR dated February 24 stands registered against WPD elements for the attack on Ajnala Police Station.

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.

Dubai-returned Amritpal was last year anointed the head of 'Waris Punjab De', which was founded by actor and activist Deep Sidhu who died in a road accident in February last year.

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