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Indian police arrest Sikh separatist chief after lengthy hunt

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NEW DELHI — Indian police on Sunday arrested a separatist chief who has revived requires an unbiased Sikh homeland and the secession of India’s northern Punjab state, which has a historical past of violent insurgency.

Amritpal Singh had been on the run since final month after capturing nationwide consideration in February, when a whole lot of his supporters stormed a police station in Ajnala, a city in Punjab state, with wood batons, swords and weapons to demand the discharge of a jailed aide.

Punjab state police tweeted Sunday that Singh was arrested in Moga, a city within the state. It gave no particulars however appealed to folks to keep up peace and concord.

A Sikh non secular chief, Jasbir Singh Rodde, stated Singh surrendered to police after providing morning prayers at a Sikh shrine in Moga. Police then arrested him and took him away, he stated.

Punjab suffered a bloody insurgency within the Eighties that led to the killing of India’s then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards at her official residence in New Delhi. Her killing triggered bloody rioting by her Hindu supporters towards Sikhs in northern India.

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Police declared Singh, a 30-year-old preacher, a fugitive and accused him and his aides of making discord within the state. Police accused him and his associates of spreading disharmony amongst folks, tried homicide, attacking police personnel and obstructing public servants’ lawful discharge of responsibility.

Authorities have deployed hundreds of paramilitary troopers within the state and arrested practically 100 of his supporters. Singh’s spouse was prevented from leaving India final week.

Little or no was identified about Singh till he arrived in Punjab state in 2022 and commenced main marches calling for the safety of rights for Sikhs, who account for about 1.7% of India’s inhabitants.

Singh claims to attract inspiration from Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a Sikh militant chief accused by the Indian authorities of main an armed insurgency for Khalistan within the Eighties. Bhindranwale and his supporters have been killed in 1984 when the Indian military stormed the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine within the Sikh faith.

Singh has styled himself after Bhindranwale, with an extended, flowing beard. He additionally attire like Bhindranwale.

Singh additionally heads Waris Punjab De, or Punjab’s Heirs, a corporation that was a part of an enormous marketing campaign to mobilize farmers towards controversial agriculture reforms being pushed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s authorities. The laws triggered a 12 months of protests that started in 2020, as farmers — most of them Sikhs from Punjab state — camped on the outskirts of New Delhi by way of a harsh winter and devastating coronavirus surge. The protests ended after Modi’s authorities withdrew the laws in November 2021.

Waris Punjab De was based by Deep Sidhu, an Indian actor who died in 2022 in a visitors accident.

Singh’s speeches have develop into more and more in style amongst supporters of the Khalistan motion, which is banned in India. Officers see it and affiliated teams as a nationwide safety menace. Although the motion has waned through the years, it nonetheless has some assist in Punjab and past — together with in international locations like Canada, america and the UK, that are dwelling to a large Sikh diaspora.

Final month, supporters of the motion pulled down the Indian flag on the nation’s excessive fee in London and smashed the constructing’s home windows in a present of anger towards the transfer to arrest Singh. India’s International Ministry denounced the incident and summoned the U.Okay.’s deputy excessive commissioner in New Delhi to protest what it referred to as the breach of safety on the embassy in London. The supporters of the Khalistan motion additionally vandalized the Indian Consulate in San Francisco in america.


Videojournalist Prabhjot Gill contributed from Amritsar, India.

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