ReutersArchieffoto Amritpal Singh
NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 08:05
Indian police have arrested Sikh separatist Amritpal Singh after a manhunt that lasted more than a month.
The Punjab police reported the arrest on Twitter and asked for “peace and harmony” to be preserved. It is also urged not to spread fake news.
Singh is a pastor from the northwestern state of Punjab, where Sikhs are in the majority. Singh is a champion of a state for the Sikhs. He was arrested in Moga district.
The hunt for Singh began when hundreds of his supporters stormed a police station with swords and firearms because one of his associates was being held there.
Police have charged Singh and his supporters with attempted murder, obstruction of law enforcement and creating division.
Threat to national security
A police source reports to Reuters news agency that Singh was arrested in a Sikh temple under the so-called National Security Act. It allows people considered to be a threat to national security to be held without charge for up to a year.
The police source says Singh is being transferred to Dibrugarh, Assam state, where some of his supporters are already in jail.
The Indian authorities went to great lengths to fight the separatist leader. Last month, police shut down the internet for 30 million people. That was probably done to prevent him from mobilizing his supporters through social media.
Moor Indira Gandhi
The reason the authorities were so keen on Singh’s arrest is historical: in the 1970s and 1980s there was already a strong separatist movement in Punjab fighting for the independent state of Khalistan led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.
Bhindranwale was killed in June 1984 at the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar, the main Sikh shrine. He had taken refuge there in the hope that he would be left undisturbed.
The bloody operation sparked anger among Sikhs worldwide and a few months later, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated in revenge by one of her bodyguards, who was himself a Sikh.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the Sikhs’ struggle for independence in Punjab was crushed, at the cost of some 30,000 deaths. The Indian government still looks at the state with suspicion and is therefore taking firm action against activists such as Singh.
The hunt for Singh also had repercussions abroad: diplomatic posts of India were attacked and defaced by Sikh activists in various places in the world, such as in London and San Francisco.