Amritpal Singh: Sikh separatist arrested after weeks on the run

Self-styled preacher Amritpal Singh, whose calls for Sikh independence riled India’s authorities, has been arrested in Punjab state, police say, BBC reported.

The 30-year-old had been on the run for more than a month after evading arrest in Punjab on 18 March.

He and his supporters have been accused of attempted murder and attacking police officials.

Punjab Police officials confirmed news of the arrest on Twitter and also appealed for peace.

Mr Singh was arrested from Rode village in Punjab’s Moga district at around 6.45 on Sunday morning, the state’s inspector general Sukhchain Singh Gill said in a press conference.

He has been charged under the stringent National Security Act and will be taken to the high-security Dibrugarh jail in Assam state, where some of his supporters have been kept.

Mr Singh shot to prominence in February after hundreds of his supporters stormed a police station, demanding the release of an arrested aide.

His campaign brought back memories from the 1980s of a separatist insurgency and subsequent crackdown in Punjab in which thousands of people were killed.

The manhunt for Mr Singh spanned several parts of northern India, including the capital Delhi and the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Nepal had also put him on its surveillance list at India’s request.

Amritpal Singh, who says he supports the Khalistan movement for a separate Sikh homeland, claims to draw inspiration from Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a preacher accused by the Indian government of leading an armed insurgency in the 1980s. Bhindranwale was killed in the Indian army’s storming of the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine in the Sikh religion, in 1984.

Police first attempted to arrest Amritpal Singh on 18 March – thousands of personnel were deployed and traffic blockades were set up across the state to check vehicles.

But he escaped in a dramatic car chase which was live-streamed by some of his associates

Akal Takht, the supreme temporal seat of Sikhs, had asked Mr Singh to surrender to the police and co-operate with their investigation.

After the crackdown, however, it also questioned the government’s arrests and detentions of people for their alleged support of Mr Singh and for Khalistan.

Sikh groups in Canada held widespread protests against the government action in Punjab. Protests were also held outside the Indian High Commission in London, where demonstrators removed the Indian flag.

In San Francisco, pro-Khalistan supporters vandalised the Indian consulate, calling for Mr Singh to be freed.

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