Amritpal: Amritpal rise another Pakistan bid to foment trouble, says intel | India News

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NEW DELHI:

Pro-Khalistan leader Amritpal Singh is part of another attempt by Pakistan’s ISI to muddy the waters in Punjab. Senior officers TOI spoke to over the past two days said the central intelligence agencies had flagged Amritpal as a potential threat to the calm and peace in Punjab “from Day 1”, when he had landed in India from Dubai in August 2022.
Barely months after, he was named by Waris Punjab De as successor to its deceased leader Deep Sidhu. Agencies have thereafter shared regular updates with Punjab Police about Amrit Pal‘s growing following among the radically-inclined Sikhs and his private army of gun-toting supporters that have grown from 4-5 to almost 20-25 now.

Radical preacher Amritpal Singh on release of aide Lovepreet Toofan

Radical preacher Amritpal Singh on release of aide Lovepreet Toofan

This “private army” is ostensibly to protect him, though it is alleged by many to be a bunch of radical extremists who bully and beat up people and vandalise gurdwaras in the name of upholding Sikh puritanism. A source said while his armed supporters had initially claimed to carry only licenced arms, nobody from Punjab Police has checked these weapons as yet.
Punjab Police, by not acting against Amritpal Singh despite repeated alerts from central intelligence agencies and more recently by bowing to pressure from his supporters to release his aide, have only made his popularity grow, rendering it increasingly difficult to rein him in.
Political reasons also have reportedly got the better of security considerations. Some indicated that the Bhagwant Singh Mann government may be avoiding action against Amritpal and would rather have the central agencies crack down on him first. The home ministry, however, is watching the situation, aware that law and order is the constitutional domain of the state government.
As per information gathered, Amritpal showed the first signs of radicalisation during Covid, while reportedly out of business. Even earlier, his social media activity showed him to be a fierce critic of the Modi government; a source said he had even criticised the decision to nullify Article 370 in J&K in 2019.
During Covid, he followed stories on Bhindranwale and also social media posts by Sikh radical leaders, including on the Sikh Referendum. Soon he started engaging with radical elements like Deep Sidhu, particularly during the farmers’ protests. This is the time that Pakistan-based ISI elements “spotted” him, said a source. He was subsequently “groomed” to make utterances that would touch a chord with the radically-inclined Sikhs, both in India and abroad. An officer said he has the backing of Avtar Singh Khanda, a UK-based radical leader associated with Khalistan TV, and that the latter used his alleged connections with radical Sikh outfits, who were in turn in touch with the ISI, to prop him as a “pro-Khalistan icon”.
While Sikh referendum was propagated with ISI’s blessings on social media, targeted killings funded facilitated by Pakistan-based elements and later farmers’ protests helped ISI bring out latent radicalism in Punjab, the idea of having a Burhan Wani-type leader in flesh and blood, styled after Bhindranwale, is an obvious progression in the series of attempts by forces across the border to keep the Khalistan pot boiling, said a senior officer of the security establishment.



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