Government sources on Monday said the Centre was monitoring the situation in Punjab following the state administration’s crackdown on radical preacher Amritpal Singh, but Union home minister Amit Shah’s silence on the subject left the security establishment puzzled.
Punjab police said Amritpal, accused of pushing the idea of Khalistan, continued to be on the run after giving them the slip on Saturday. Nearly 100 of his supporters are in custody.
“Shah’s silence on the issue is puzzling. It’s no secret that Amrtipal has been receiving foreign funding while openly talking of declaring secession from India and forming an independent Khalistan,” a security official attached to the home ministry told The Telegraph.
Punjab’s Aam Aadmi Party chief minister, Bhagwant Mann, had on March 2 met Shah and reportedly discussed law and order in the border state.
But Shah has so far not spoken a word on Amritpal, who has been drawing parallels between the idea of Sikh sovereignty and a Hindu Rashtra. “Although law and order is a state subject, the Centre and the Punjab government should be coming together on the issue, which concerns national security,” a security official attached to Punjab police said. “The top political leadership in Delhi needs to come out with strong statements without thinking about short-term political gain.”
Mann has blamed Pakistan for Amritpal’s rise but AAP leaders privately blame the Centre, accusing it of banking on Amritpal to destabilise Punjab and “scare Hindus into voting for the BJP in 2024”.
Punjab remains on high alert. Security forces held flag marches in several places, including Ferozepur, Bathinda, Rupnagar, Faridkot, Batala, Fazilka, Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur, Moga and Jalandhar. Orders banning assemblies are in force across Punjab and the Union territory of Chandigarh.
Security has been tightened at Amritpal’s native village, Jallupur Khera, in Amritsar where his father Tarsem Singh said his son might already be in police custody. Punjab and Haryana High Court has asked the state government to respond to a habeas corpus petition that alleges Amritpal is in illegal police custody and seeks his release.