The Centre has adopted a “wait-and-watch” policy on the law-and-order situation in Punjab and asked security agencies to trace the source of funding behind selfstyled preacher and radical leader Amritpal Singh who has been accused of pushing the separatist idea of Khalistan.
Some officials in the security establishment, however, also expressed surprise at the Centre’s perceived silence on the serious issue in the border state and wondered whether the government’s priority at present was more on fighting Rahul Gandhi than anything else.
A couple of days ago, hundreds of followers of the pro-Khalistani controversial leader stormed Ajnala police station located very close to the border with Pakistan, on the outskirts of Amritsar, and compelled officers to release one of their activists arrested for kidnapping.
“The sudden rise of Amritpal Singh in the border state of Punjab is a matter of great concern. The Union home ministry is closely watching and has asked security officials to find out the actual people behind him and his source of funding,” said a ministry official on Saturday.
Brandishing rifles and swords, Singh’s followers on Thursday had forcibly entered Ajnala police station and made the officers withdraw the kidnapping case filed against Lovepreet Singh “Toofan”.
Amritpal Singh has been openly campaigning for Khalistan in his speeches and has challenged the theory of nationalism, drawing parallels between the idea of Sikh sovereignty and Hindu Rashtra.
So far, the Union home ministry has not said whether it has asked for any report from the AAP-ruled Punjab government.
“We have seen how in the past the home ministry swiftly asked for reports from nonBJP-ruled states in case of law-and-order problems. But the complete silence on this serious issue is very shocking. What is the government waiting for?” a former Intelligence Bureau director told The Telegraph.
He said the Centre could have sent the paramilitary Border Security Force (BSF), deployed in the frontier areas of Punjab, at Ajnala when hundreds of followers of Amritpal Singh, some of them armed with revolvers and rifles, had barged into the police station.
“The home ministry can send paramilitary personnel to Delhi airport along with the police to arrest a spokesperson of the Opposition party but in a sensitive state like Punjab, they are playing a wait-andwatch game. This speaks volumes about the priority of this government,” the former IB chief said.
On Thursday, the police had deplaned senior Congress leader Pawan Khera at Delhi airport and arrested him over his remarks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A large number of paramilitary force personnel had also been deployed on the airport tarmac before the cops arrived to arrest Khera.
A former Punjab police chief said the police should have been better prepared to deal with the incident in Ajnala, especially as Punjab has seen the dark days of terrorism, and the administration should take it seriously and go for course correction.
“Mob mentality and such a blatant show do not augur well for democracy and the law-and-order situation of any state,” said former DGP S.S. Virk, who had been at the forefront of the fight against militancy.
Virk said the state police should have been more prepared to deal with such a situation. “Incidents relating to law and order do happen. But you have to learn from every lesson and correct your course,” said Virk, a Maharashtra-cadre IPS officer who had been brought to Punjab on deputation in 1984 during militancy.