Indian state cuts off internet in hunt for preacher

Posted by News Express | 21 March 2023 | 393 times

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•Police out in force in Punjab - trying to catch Amritpal Singh for days
Police in India's Punjab are searching for a Sikh separatist leader who has been on the run since Saturday.
Mobile internet is suspended across the state and more than 100 of Amritpal Singh's supporters have been detained.
But despite numerous roadblocks and a dramatic live-streamed car chase, they have not caught the self-styled preacher whose whereabouts are unclear.
His calls for a separate homeland for Sikhs have revived memories of a 1980s insurgency in which thousands died.
Amritpal Singh claims to draw inspiration from Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a preacher accused by the Indian government of leading an armed insurgency for a separate Sikh homeland - Khalistan. Bhindranwale was killed in the Indian army's storming of the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine in the Sikh religion, in 1984.
On Sunday, people carrying "Khalistan" banners protested outside the Indian High Commission in London. Videos showed a man detaching the Indian flag from the balcony of the building.
Angry Indian officials summoned the UK's deputy high commissioner in Delhi to protest.
Indian authorities extended the mobile internet blackout in Punjab on Monday, as the hunt for Amritpal Singh continued.
Addressing a news conference, Punjab's Inspector General of Police Sukhchain Singh Gill said five of the 30-year-old preacher's associates had been arrested and charged under India's stringent National Security Act.
He said a number of weapons and vehicles used by the separatists had been recovered, including a Mercedes that Amritpal Singh had used to get away from police on Saturday.
Police say Mr Singh remains at large but his legal adviser has accused them of "illegally and forcibly" detaining him - and demanded he be produced in court. The Punjab and Haryana High Court will hear the petition on Tuesday.
The police crackdown comes weeks after Mr Singh's supporters stormed a police station, demanding the release of an aide who had been arrested.
On Saturday, police declared Mr Singh "a fugitive" and launched a state-wide search for him. Traffic blockades were set up across the state to check vehicles.
Local media reported that Mr Singh travelled in a cavalcade and dodged the police near the Shahkot-Mehatpur area in Jalandhar district after a dramatic chase.
The chase through villages was live-streamed by some of his associates, the Times of India newspaper reported, adding that they also uploaded videos on social media urging supporters to gather near Jalandhar.
One of the videos showed the preacher's convoy being stopped at a check post near Jalandhar and then being followed by several police vehicles.
Mr Singh's uncle Harjit Singh, who was part of the convoy and surrendered to police on Sunday night, told the Indian Express newspaper that his nephew had been in the car with him as they were heading to Moga district in Punjab.
He said that they were alerted about a "heavy deployment of armed forces" and so they changed route and Mr Singh switched to another car.
On Sunday, a top police official told ANI news agency that the preacher had managed to escape after "he had been chased for 20-25km (12-15 miles)".
The police have marched through the streets in several areas of Punjab to "instil confidence in the public" and to urge them to maintain law and order in the state.   (BBC)

Source: News Express

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