Release those held in Amritpal Singh crackdown in 24 hours or face stir: Akal Takht to Punjab govt | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Release those held in Amritpal Singh crackdown in 24 hours or face stir: Akal Takht to Punjab govt

By, Amritsar
Mar 28, 2023 12:39 AM IST

The acting chief of the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat in Sikhism, gave a 24-hour ultimatum to the Punjab government on Monday to release all Sikh men who were arrested during a crackdown initiated earlier this month to apprehend pro-Khalistan preacher Amritpal Singh.

The acting chief of the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat in Sikhism, gave a 24-hour ultimatum to the Punjab government on Monday to release all Sikh men who were arrested during a crackdown initiated earlier this month to apprehend pro-Khalistan preacher Amritpal Singh.

Supporters of Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh gather for a special meeting in Amritsar on Monday. (AFP)
Supporters of Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh gather for a special meeting in Amritsar on Monday. (AFP)

The statement by the acting jathedar of the Akal Takht, Giani Harpreet Singh, came two days after he asked Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh to surrender before the police and cooperate in the probe. Since the Punjab Police operation began on March 18, over 100 people have been arrested across the state.

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“If the government does not end the atmosphere of terror by releasing all the youngsters within 24 hours, then a campaign will be initiated diplomatically in the country and abroad against the atmosphere created by the Indian state of committing excesses on the Sikhs,” he said.

He also asked the government to revoke the National Security Act (NSA) against eight aides of Amritpal.

HT tried to reach out to a government official for a comment but did not get one immediately.

Amritpal and his followers are facing eight first information reports (FIRs) across Punjab. The most prominent among them is related to the February 23 siege by thousands of Amritpal Singh’s supporters of a police station in Ajnala town, which forced the state government to free a key aide, Lovepreet Singh Toofan. Singh, who fashions himself after 1980s separatist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, has been linked to a larger conspiracy involving the Khalistani secessionist movement, with intelligence agencies saying he was fast radicalising young men in the border state.

He remains on the run after allegedly giving the police the slip on March 18, but some have argued that he has already been detained under NSA.

Representatives of various Sikh organisations, sects, seminaries and nihang bodies, scholars, journalists and intellectuals attended a meeting on the crackdown to discuss the current situation in Punjab.

The Akal Takht chief said the NSA imposed on young men should be revoked, vehicles seized during a protest on March 22 at Harike headworks in Ferozepur district should be released, and any social media accounts and web channels that were banned or withheld reinstated.

“A very brainy and diplomatic siege is being carried out by the state against the Sikhs, which should be answered diplomatically without being violent and there is a need to create collective capacity among Sikhs,” Giani Harpreet Singh said.

The crackdown has sparked protests by diaspora groups and pro-Khalistan outfits in the UK, US, Canada and Australia, with even Indian embassies being vandalised. The Indian government has lodged strong protests against the violence.

The declaration of the Akal Takht was welcomed by the representatives.

Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Harjinder Singh Dhami announced a panel of lawyers to help the people booked under NSA and provide other legal assistance. “I also appeal to the families of the arrested Sikh youngsters that they should immediately contact the SGPC so that legal assistance can be provided to them,” he said.

Gurdeep Singh, a Sikh leader from Haryana, criticised the jathedar. He said: “The government knows that you do nothing but organise meetings. Big announcement should be made by calling a big gathering. If you want to save the community, you must introspect,” he said.

On Saturday, the Akal Takht Jathedar had asked Singh to surrender and cooperate with the police in the investigation into cases against him. “If Amritpal is out (of police net), then I will ask him to present himself (before police) and cooperate with the investigation,” he said.

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