Punjab has been on a cross-roads once again. The Khalistan movement that seeks to create an independent Sikh state is seeing a resurgence in Punjab in India. This time a separatist leader is openly talking about the creation of Khalistan and his blind supporters have brought Punjab Police and the administration to their knees.
The demand for Khalistan, the separatist movement, and the violence it caused has left Punjab with deep scars in the last few decades and the state has lost an entire generation to this menace.
The movement which emerged in the 1970s and gained momentum under the leadership of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in the early 1980s, is seeing a revival in the state, this time being led by Khalistani pressure group ‘Waris Punjab De”s chief Amritpal Singh, who many are calling Bhindranwale 2.0.
On February 23, thousands of followers of Amritpal Singh clashed with police outside Ajnala police station near Amritsar. They were demanding the release of one of their colleagues who had been taken into custody in an alleged kidnapping case. Lovepreet Singh Toofan, was released from Amritsar Central Jail on February 24 after a court issued orders to discharge him based on an application by the police.
This was the second such attack on the police in Punjab in recent times. On February 8, over 30 policemen were injured and dozens of police vehicles damaged after a pro-Khalistani mob, seeking the release of Sikh prisoners, went on the rampage.
Who is Amritpal Singh?
The 29-year-old pro-Khalistan controversial leader has been dubbed as ‘Bhindranwale 2.0’ by his supporters. Amritpal has invoked the teachings of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was killed on June 6, 1984, during Operation Bluestar, with renewed calls for the freedom of Punjab.
Amritpal has invoked the teachings of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, with renewed calls for the freedom of Punjab and the creation of Khalistan. He styles his turban, wears traditional robes and other Sikh articles just like the slain militant preacher. Like Bhidranwale, his new avatar moves with an army of heavily armed Nihang Sikhs who shower flower petals on him wherever he goes.
Till the last year, Amritpal Singh was working in a transport company in Dubai. He came back to India and became a baptized Sikh. Soon, he took over as chief of ‘Waris Punjab De’, a Punjab-based social organization, formed by the actor-activist Deep Sidhu who was killed in an accident in February last year.
Amritpal hails from Jallu-Pur Khaira village falling under Baba Bakala town in Amritsar district. A vocal espouser of Khalistan ideology, he is a favorite speaker in the congregations of Sikh hardliners. On September 29, he addressed a large gathering at Rode, the native village of Bhindranwale in Moga district.
He is trying to destabilize Punjab, while some of his critics say he is increasing the divide between Sikhs and other communities, especially Hindus. His detractors also say that his speeches could take the youth in the direction of extremism, or may be terrorism at later stage.
He issues threat to Union Home Minister
Two days ago, Amritpal had issued a threat to Union home minister Amit Shah that he could also meet the same fate as of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi if atrocities on Sikhs continue in India. “Indira tried to suppress, what happened? Now Amit Shah can fulfil his wish and see,” Amritpal said when asked about Shah’s recent statement that the MHA is keeping a close eye on Khalistani supporters in Punjab.
Defending his statement, Amritpal said, “When Amit Shah said that he will suppress things, I said there will be consequences. It’s not just about Indira Gandhi’s murder as consequence. It’s not a threat to Home Minister. I would say is a threat to us. What options do we have when there are legal binaries in India? I don’t consider myself a citizen of India. I just have a passport, which does not make me Indian. It’s a travel document.”
He has been banned on social media due to his controversial remarks
Singh has been known for making controversial remarks and Christians has demanded his arrest last year after he allegedly made some objectionable comments on Jesus Christ. In December 2022, Singh’s social media account on Instagram was erased worldwide and he has previously been banned from Twitter. Neither Instagram or Twitter gave their reasons for the banning but it was most likely due to is controversial remarks and statements on the Khalistan movement.
His movements are creating unrest in Punjab
His increasing activities, especially when Bhagwant Mann-led government is trying to make a congenial atmosphere to woo Industrial houses to set up their business in Punjab, have created unease among the urban segment dominated by the Hindu community in the state as well, admitted a senior Punjab Police official, who did not wish to be named.
Amritpal’s nefarious intentions
What Amritpal Singh is doing will make the movement relevant again. If most people in the state are talking about it, it can no longer be seen as something illegal, and that’s what makes the current Khalistan sentiment so dangerous. Singh said that Khalistan is an ideology and ideology never dies. “We are not asking for it from Delhi,” he said.
It is quite clear that Amritpal Singh has been strategically taking all steps to pave the way of re-emergence of Khalistan 2.0 movement. If he is not contained, then this can prove fatal for the India as a whole. Amritpal Singh is playing as a poodle of ISI, who will try his best to destabilize Punjab and create unrest in India.