The search for radical preacher Amritpal Singh has now been directed to a village in Punjab's Hoshiarpur district. The Punjab Police has launched a massive door-to-door search operation there following inputs that Singh and his aide could be in the area, news agency PTI reported on Wednesday.
There was heavy police deployment in and around the Marnaian village here as police began the operation late Tuesday night after some suspects abandoned their vehicle following a chase.
Sources in the police said that a team of the counterintelligence wing of the Punjab Police Tuesday evening had chased a car from Phagwara after it suspected that fugitive Amritpal and his aide could be in that vehicle.
"Suspects, who are believed to be three to four, abandoned their vehicle near Gurdwara Bhai Chanchal Singh in Marnaian village here and fled," they said.
A cordon and search operation was launched Tuesday night in and around the village while checkposts and barricades were raised on the roads to nab the suspects.
Police, late on Tuesday night, had also conducted a door-to-door search operation to nab the suspects. The Punjab Police has been on high alert after the pro-Khalistan radical preacher escaped its dragnet.
Amritpal Singh and Waris Punjab De: Everything you need to know about them
Khalistani leader Amritpal Singh still on the run from Punjab cops: Report
Top headlines: UBS eyes Credit Suisse takeover, Amritpal declared fugitive
Top headlines: UBS to buy Credit Suisse for nearly $3.25 bn amid turmoil
LIVE: Delhi Police to deploy 20,000 personnel for 'Kisan Mahapanchayat'
Irrigation projects worth Rs 5,500 crore sanctioned in Karnataka: CM Bommai
Election Commission to announce Karnataka Assembly elections schedule today
Bengal CM Banerjee launches flagship road 'Pathashree-Rastashree' project
Wait time for US visitor's visa interview in India cut by 60%: Official
Russia in talks with India to develop Northern Sea shipping route: Interfax
Amritpal Singh remains untraceable since a police crackdown against him and members of his pro-Khalistan "Waris Punjab De" outfit on March 18, about three weeks after he and his supporters stormed into the Ajnala police station near Amritsar to secure the release of an arrested man.
He escaped the police in Jalandhar district on March 18, switching vehicles and changing appearances.
He and his associates have been booked under several criminal cases related to spreading disharmony among classes, attempts to murder, attacks on police personnel and creating obstructions in the lawful discharge of duty by public servants.
A new video of Amritpal Singh with his key aide Papalpreet Singh surfaced on social media on Tuesday, showing the pro-Khalistan preacher without a turban and wearing a mask.
The updated CCTV footage, said to be from a market in Delhi, showed the fugitive walking down a street wearing dark glasses. Behind him, Papalpreet Singh could be seen walking with a bag.
There is no official word from Punjab Police on the fresh footage.
A senior Delhi Police official said they are probing whether the persons seen in the video are Amritpal Singh and his aide.
What is Waris Punjab De?
Waris Punjab De, which roughly translates as "Heirs of Punjab", is an organisation floated by actor-turned-activist Sandeep Singh alias Deep Sidhu on September 30, 2021. The organisation's primary aim was "to protect and fight for the rights of Punjab and raise social issues".
Before Amritpal Singh, Sidhu headed Waris Punjab De. In an event in 2021, Sidhu said that the organisation would "fight for the rights of Punjab against the Centre and raise voice whenever there will be any attack on the culture, language, social fabric and rights of Punjab."
"It is a platform for those who are not satisfied with the social reality of Punjab in the current scenario. It is a social platform. We take everything to elections but I want to clarify that it is a social platform. It is not a poll gimmick. We are not supporting any political party. Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian, it is for all those who will fight with us for the rights of Punjab. Before 1947, we lived together in harmony, but the British snatched that brotherhood from us. Our Gurus fought against casteism," he had said.
The organisation took a pro-Khalistan turn after Sidhu extended his support for the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) of Simranjit Singh Mann.
On February 15, 2022, Sidhu died in a car accident while travelling to Punjab to campaign for Mann. Mann later won the Lok Sabha seat from Sangrur. He demanded a judicial probe into Sidhu's death. Sidhu was cremated amid pro-Khalistan slogans in Ludhiana.
On September 29, 2022, Amritpal, a Dubai returnee dressed like Jarnail Singh Bindranwale, took over as the head of Waris Punjab De. The ceremony took place at Rode in Moga district, the ancestral village of Bhindranwale.
Sidhu's family has, however, distanced themselves from Singh.
Who is Amritpal Singh?
Born in Amritsar's Jalluur Khera village in 1993, Singh passed his class 12th in India and then moved to Dubai in 2012. There, he worked in his uncle's transport company.
In 2022, he was anointed as the head of "Waris Punjab De". Singh and his supporters claim that Sidhu was murdered by the "state". Singh never met Sidhu but was "strongly influenced" by him. Singh said he stopped shaving his beard and cutting his hair in 202 at Sidhu's advice.
In 2022, after his "dastaar bandi" (turban-tying) ceremony, he started dressing like Bhindranwale. Some followers even started calling him Bhindranwale 2.0. He has been espousing the cause of Khalistan on Facebook for a while now.
In an interview with a news channel, Singh said he was drawn to activism after the Bargari sacrilege and Behbal Kalan firing in 2015.
There are several cases registered against Singh. In February, a man filed a complaint at Ajnala police station that he was kidnapped and beaten by associates of Singh.
An associate, Lovepreet Singh Toofan, was arrested. Later, his supporters clashed with Punjab Police. They were reportedly armed with automatic guns and sharp weapons.
(With agency inputs)