Thursday, October 5, 2023

From Dubai to Ajnala: Amritpal Singh’s transformation into a radical leader

Khalistani leader Amritpal Singh, whose followers recently stormed a police station in Punjab’s Ajnala carrying weapons, was reported to have been detained by police in Jalandhar. Here’s a timeline of how a young man living in Dubai returned to project himself as the face of the Khalistani movement in India.

By Rishabh Sharma: Waris Punjab De chief and Khalistani leader Amritpal Singh was reported to have been detained by Punjab Police on Saturday. The radical preacher was on the radar of the police after he and his armed followers stormed a police station in Ajnala last month to release one of his aides.

Once living in Dubai and leading a non-orthodox lifestyle, Amritpal Singh, 30, became a Khalistani ideologue after assuming the role of Waris Punjab De chief and promoting separatist sentiments.

The 30-year-old separatist leader hails from Jallupur village in Punjab’s Amritsar. Until February 2022, Amritpal Singh was living in Dubai helping out with his relative’s transport business.

Interestingly, unlike the Khalistani leaders of the past, Amritpal did not follow the orthodox Sikh lifestyle. He did not wear a turban, considered one of the fundamental symbols of practising Sikhs, and sported a fancy haircut. He also spent a lot of time on social media.

However, everything changed after February 15, 2022 — the day when Punjabi actor and then Waris Punjab De chief Deep Sidhu was killed in a road accident.

Deep Sidhu, just like Amritpal Singh, was another non-practising Sikh who shot into the national limelight after he filmed himself hailing the unfurling of the Nishan Sahib at the Red Fort on January 26, 2021, during the farmers’ stir. He started Waris Punjab De in September 2021 as a social organisation to “fight for the rights of Punjab and protect its culture”.

Out of nowhere, Amritpal Singh landed in Punjab and was declared the next chief of Waris Punjab De. In a ceremony held on September 29, 2022, in Rode village of Moga district — the village of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale — Amritpal Singh was appointed the next chief of Waris Punjab De by his supporters.

However, Deep Sidhu’s relatives distanced themselves from Amritpal Singh, and according to some reports, even accused him of misusing the organisation for spreading separatist propaganda.

After assuming the role of Waris Punjab De chief, Amritpal Singh took part in Amrit ceremony (initiation into Khalsa tradition) in Anandpur Sahib. Amritpal dressed like Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the Khalistani ideologue and his inspiration, and got his pictures clicked in the same piercing manner.

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