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India arrests Sikh separatist after month-long hunt

Amritpal Singh, a radical Sikh leader, leaves the holy Sikh shrine of the Golden Temple along with his supporters, in Amritsar, India, March 3, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

The Indian police have arrested Sikh separatist leader, Amritpal Singh, who resurrected the idea of an independent Sikh homeland.

After a massive manhunt launched by the police in the northern state of Punjab, and after the search operation lasting for more than a month to arrest the 30-year-old radical Sikh preacher and Khalistan sympathizer, the police have finally traced Amritpal in the Punjabi town of Moga.

"Amritpal Singh has been arrested from the Rode village in Moga district, Punjab on the basis of specific intelligence," Sukhchain Singh Gill, a top official of the Punjab police told reporters.

A Sikh religious leader, Jasbir Singh Rodde, said Singh surrendered to police after offering morning prayers at a village Gurudwara, a Sikh place of worship, in Moga. Police then arrested him and took him away, he said.

The manhunt had spanned throughout several parts of North India, including the country’s capital Delhi and the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh.

He was on the run since March 18, and his search operation had led authorities to blocking the internet for countless days in Punjab, affecting the daily lives of the 30 million people living in the state.

He was arrested under the infamous National Security Act (NSA), which allows for those considered a threat to national security to be detained without charge for up to a year, a police official said.

Amritpal, who leads a group called Waris Punjab De (the heirs of Punjab), drew national attention in February when he along with his supporters armed with swords, knives and guns had stormed a police station in Ajnala, Punjab, to demand the release of a jailed companion.

The attack on the police station is the reason Amritpal was arrested.

Last month the police had declared Amritpal as “fugitive”, and throughout the month made more than 100 arrests of his followers.

He will be taken to the high-security Dibrugarh jail in Assam state, where some of his supporters have been kept.

Amritpal claims to draw inspiration from Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a preacher accused by the Indian government of leading an armed insurgency and demanding the creation of an independent country for Sikhs, called Khalistan, in the 1980s.

Bhindranwale and his supporters were killed in 1984 when the Indian army stormed the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine in the Sikh religion.

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