Amrit Pal Singh, a Frankenstein in the making

| Updated: 27 February, 2023 7:54 pm IST

India’s hyper-sensitive border state Punjab is on the boil and if the situation is not brought under control, it may hurtle to anarchy. The cult of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the 14th head of Damdami Taksal (Over 300 years old Sikh religious institution) has resurfaced with ominous dimensions. The emergence of Amritpal Singh Sandhu as the new face of separatism is akin to what Bhindranwale typified in the 1980s. There is a newfound craze amongst people especially the younger generation of sporting accessories having pictures of Bhindranwale and Khalistani images. One could see people wearing shirts with images of Bhindranwale and flaunting them with police and local administration remaining mute spectators.

Bhindranwale died some 39 years ago but his cult is thriving in Punjab. If not nipped in the bud, it may lead to a serious threat to national security and integrity.

The recent violent protest on February 23, 2023, in Ajnala police station of communally sensitive Amritsar by a mob led by Amritpal Singh the self-proclaimed preacher a few days ago, should have sent the alarm bells ringing. The mob not only outnumbered 500 police personnel of the Punjab Police, but it also let loose a reign of terror with half a dozen policemen receiving grievous injuries. If that was not enough, Punjab Police had to literally bow before the diktat of Amritpal Singh of the ‘Waris Punjab De’ group and forced to release Love Preet Singh aka Tufan, arrested on the charges of kidnapping and beating a man identified as one Varinder Singh.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government led by Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann is committing the same mistake that then Punjab CM Darbara Singh committed. Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Union Home Minister Giani Zail Singh too dithered in taking corrective measures against Janrail Singh Bhindranwale who had become the fulcrum of separatist protests against India. Her political brinksmanship to keep Akalis on the tenterhooks by promoting Bhindranwale ultimately led to Operation Blue Star, considered to be a black day in the history of Sikhs in independent India.


Now the question arises who is Amritpal Singh Sandhu, who has become central to radicals, demanding Khalistan, a separate state for Sikhs? Very little is known about Amritpal, He worked as a truck driver in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). His emergence in Punjab is quite mysterious. He returned to Punjab last year and has occupied the space. He apes Bhindrawale in dressing, and turban and has been going around as a devout Sikh and a preacher. It appears that he was groomed by his handlers during his stay in Dubai and has been indoctrinated to the extent of resembling Bhindranwale. Central security agencies.

Amritpal first claimed control of Waris Punjab De (heirs of Punjab), an organization formed by Punjabi singer Deep Sidhu who later died in a road accident in February 2022. He lives in camps guarded by Nihangs and armed disciples who are seen moving with him around the class. Amritpal is projecting himself as a Sikh warrior and copying the mannerisms of the late Bhindranwale.

The Ajnala episode should not be seen in isolation as it was a well-choreographed attack on the police station. An armed mob of over 2000 people had stormed the police station to seek the release of Love Preet an accused of a kidnapping case. It has now emerged that 500 strong Punjab Police were outnumbered by the mob and they succeeded in getting Love Preet released. This incident has similarities to Bhindranwale holding a fort at Mehta Chowk on October 16, 1981, with his armed supporters after his release from jail. The president of Sri Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) Gurcharan Singh Tohra then claimed the credit for Bhindranwale’s release. Tohra, Santa Harchand Singh Longowal, then president of Akali Dal and Parkash Singh Badal had met Bhindranwale to show solidarity with him.


After his release from the Ferozepur central jail, Bhindranwale issued a threat to Indira Gandhi Government and warned of serious consequences, Darbara Singh Government in Punjab was not dismissed. “Centre would be taught a lesson if all the members of the Dal Khalsa, arrested by the Government on charges of extremist activities were not released in a fortnight”, Bhindranwale had threatened.

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had to dismiss her own party Congress headed by Darbara Singh. Bhindranwale was given a free run. Punjab was witness to the gory killings of AS Atwal, the Deputy Inspector General of Police Amritsar while he was going to pay obeisance at Durbar Sahib. Publisher of Punjab Kesri and Jagbani Lala Jagat Narain and his son Ramesh Chand.

These killings led to further deterioration of law and order in Punjab. Tohra had invited Bhindranwale to reside at Nanak Niwas inside Golden Temple. It ultimately led to Army being pressed into service to evict Bhindranwale and his armed supporters from the Golden Temple.

Amritpal is following the footsteps of Bhindranwale in letter and spirit. His threat to create a law and order issue in Ajnala if his man Love Preet was not released by Punjab Police has a striking similarity to Bhindranwale’s threat to the Central Government.

If we look into some of the killings in Punjab after the AAP government took over the reins of Punjab, these have the footprints of things to come in Punjab.

Murders of Pardeep Singh, a follower of Dera Sacha Sauda who was accused in the 2015 blasphemy cases in Faridkot’s Kotkapura area, and Shiv Sena (Taksali) leader Sudhir Suri outside a temple in Amritsar were warning signals. They were killed in the presence of Punjab Police. Suri was guarded by 16 armed men while Singh was having three armed guards, yet their lives could not be saved.

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann is slated to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi. The meeting has gained significance in the wake of recent killings in Punjab and the emergence of Amrit Pal as a Panthik preacher. One hopes that sanity prevails and Punjab which shares its 573 km long border with Pakistan remains peaceful and the ugly specter of Khalistan which is rearing its head, is not allowed to move further.

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