Amritpal Used Religious Camps, Drug De-Addiction Centres To Promote Separatism: Officials

Officials said Singh was to roll out the second phase of the Khalsa Vaheer processions from Muktsar on Sunday.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Amritpal Singh (Photo: Facebook page)</p></div>
Amritpal Singh (Photo: Facebook page)

Amritpal Singh, on-the-run Khalistan supporter, self-styled preacher and chief of ‘Waris Punjab De’, was using ‘Khalsa Vaheer’ or religious processions and drug de-addiction centres to promote militancy among the youth of Punjab, officers investigating the matter found out.

While his links with the ISI and Pakistan-based drug groups have also been established, central agencies have also unraveled his support for groups and leaders of organisations such as U.S.-based Sikhs For justice that has been demanding Khalistan for years.

Officials said Singh, who was to roll out the second phase of the Khalsa Vaheer from Muktsar on Sunday, had plans to cover the entire state of Punjab. While his video released recently said the procession would move only in districts of Malwa Punjab before moving to Bathinda on Baisakhi on April 14, officials said the procession was scheduled to cover around 20 kilometres every day for months, with a religious gathering planned every evening. The procession was scheduled to make halts at Jandiala Guru, Baba Bakala Sahib, Khadoor Sahib, Goindwal Sahib, Sultanpur Lodhi, Kapurthala, Kartarpur, Jalandhar, Phagwara, Bahiram, Nawa Shahar, Balachaur and Ropar before finally reaching Anandpur Sahib. 

Singh had started the Khalsa Vaheer from Akal Takht Sahib in Amritsar in the last week of November and it was halted in Muktsar on Jan. 14. Although the aim of these processions in Singh's own words was to spread awareness on the norms of Amrit Sanchaar (good conduct) as taught by Sikh gurus, Singh was using it to incite young people and "revive the demand for a separate land for Sikhs, a separate constitution and spreading hatred against non Sikhs", officials said.

Officials said he had planned the second phase of the procession to recruit more youth on Sunday from Muktsar Sahib to Damdama Sahib (Baisakhi) to increase his influence in the Malwa region on Sidhu Moosewala's barsi (death anniversary) to capitalise on the late singer's huge following.

Concerned about the social fallout and possible unrest due to Singh's increasing activities, the centre government had played a proactive role in this matter, and soon after a meeting of Home minister Amit Shah with Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, had sent central forces to the state. It was decided to launch the operation after the G20 meetings scheduled from March 15 to March 17 in Amritsar ended.

On Sunday, Jalandhar DIG Swapan Sharma on an operation to nab Singh said till now 10 people arrested and seven illegal weapons and more than 300 bullets seized. While three cars used by them have been recovered, four of Singh's aides have been taken to Assam's Dibrugarh, but Singh continues to be on the run.

Central investigating agencies whose inputs played an important role in giving strategic direction to Punjab Police in the chase have found that while Singh had linkages in the ISI in Pakistan, the drug addiction centres he was running were being used to radicalise youth, forcing them to carry weapons for no reason and becoming shastradhaaris (weapon holders), largely to turn them against the state. The Anandpur Khalsa Fauj that was being created by Singh in Amritsar was inciting Sikh youth to "choose the path of slain militant Dilawar Singh (the assassin of Beant Singh, former chief minister of Punjab)". Singh has objected to the state government's decision to review firearms licences, stating that he didn't understand the meaning of such an order, claiming Sikhism allowed arms to be carried.

Singh was also attending Shaheedi Samagams (prayer meetings) of slain militants to create a narrative that they were martyrs of the panth, officials said.

Those investigating the matter said he was allegedly working on building a private militia of sorts in drug de-addiction centres that had no doctors, but were also being used to stockpile illegally sourced weapons allegedly from Pakistan. Those residing in the drug de-addiction centres were also being used to stage violent protests, they added.

The agencies have found that Amritpal had links with Jaswant Singh Rode, whose brother Lakhbir Singh Rode, a known Khalistani separatist sought for trial in India in cases of arms smuggling, conspiracy to attack government leaders in New Delhi, and spreading religious hatred in Punjab.

Singh's association with some Pakistan-based drug dealers, London-based associate Avtar Singh Khanda and Paramjeet Singh Pamma are also being established by the agencies. Khanda, vice-president youth wing of Shiromani Akali Dal (Mann) and a close associate of Khalistan terrorist Jagtar Singh Tara; and Pamma (associated with Babbar Khalsa International) have been raising demands of Khalistan in the U.K. and have a suspected role in conducting theoretical radicalisation training classes for Sikh youths.

Officials said Singh had received training by the ISI in Georgia and had come with a plan to revive terrorism in Punjab. They said he campaigned for the secessionist activities of Sikhs for Justice on social media, and maintained a large convoy of expensive vehicles without any account of the expenditure incurred.