'This incident is likely to embolden the radicals as also the sleeper cells of terrorists and their masters hiding abroad, including Pakistan.'
"Radicals sitting abroad will get emboldened and start pumping more and more money into the hands of these radicals. We are heading for tough times in Punjab," retired Punjab director general of police Shashi Kant tells Rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore.
A 1977-batch Indian Police Service officer, Kant served in numerous intelligence agencies, in the prime minister's office, external affairs ministry and the CBI during his 35-year tenure as a police officer.
The first part of a must-read interview:
How do you look at the attack on a police station at Ajnala by followers of Amritpal Singh?
It was a deliberate attempt to disturb peace in Punjab. There appear to be several other angles to this development. Worse, this entire episode is being highly politicised. I would not like to talk about this aspect because of obvious reasons.
But one thing is certain that such incidents need to be handled firmly and in accordance with the law of the land. But per se, it is, obviously, an attempt to disrupt peace in Punjab by this guy (Amritpal Singh) who was, till sometime back, working in some transport business in Dubai.
Nothing much is known about Amritpal Singh. He, almost, seems to have come out of nowhere in Punjab.
His sudden rise is shrouded in mystery. Those who have met him, talked to him, interviewed him, say apparently he was given a massive 'brush up/build up/indoctrination' there (in Dubai) first.
His language, dress sense, manners, gestures, etc, reflect as if he is some sort of ardent follower of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who was killed during Operation Bluestar in June 1984 inside the Golden Temple. He throws a sense of deja vu and gives the impression of being a highly religious devout Sikh.
Apparently he landed up in Punjab with that image. Interestingly after landing up in Punjab, he claimed an organisation called Waris Punjab De (heirs to the land of Punjab), an organisation founded by actor-activist Deep Sidhu, who supported the farmers' massive sit-in protest at the Delhi-Haryana borders.
This farmers sit-in created some controversy as well because during the sit-in someone posted some pro-Khalistan posters at some places. During this sit-in, on January 26th, a group of protestors climbed the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi and hoisted the Sikh religious flag, the Nishan Sahib.
Deep Sidhu was one of them and it gave a total twist to his persona.
In some social circles of Punjab and even among a section of the Diaspora, he was hailed as a hero. By this time Deep Sidhu had floated the organisation called Waris Punjab De and this organisation also, consequently, obtained recognition.
Deep Sidhu died in a road crash in February 2022.
Coming back to Amrit Pal, if you look at some of his video interviews, the places where Sikhs stay, looks like what we say in Punjabi a Chhawni (a camp for soldiers) where Nihang Sikhs (an order of warriors) live.
These places have his armed disciples milling around, creating an intimidating atmosphere. He is apparently trying to forecast himself as another Bhindranwale. Now that he is in Punjab meeting and talking to people in that kind of language (of secessionism and separatism), he is likely becoming a sort of Frankenstein's monster.
It is surprising that, till now, neither the state nor central governments have taken any action against him.
Punjab DGP Gaurav Yadav has stated that they are studying the video footage of the said attack on the Ajnala police station and will soon take action against those responsible. Will this be not too little, too late?
I hope he does. Gaurav Yadav, the Punjab DGP, is a well-meaning officer and I hope he does take appropriate action against these radicals. But again the police are always under political pressure.
To what extent his holistic statement really gets implemented, we will have to wait and see.
Coming to this particular incident (the attack on Ajnala police station), what happened here was that one Varinder Singh, who lives at Chamkaur Sahib in nearby Ropar district and who was with Amritpal Singh earlier, fell out with him and tried to expose him on social media.
It was unpalatable to supporters of Amritpal who, then, allegedly manhandled him. That's what Varinder alleged in his complaint to the police.
The normal exercise in a police station, when such cases come up, is to make a daily diary entry. After making this entry, the case is 'looked into' and then if found substantive an FIR is lodged which is what the Ajnala police supposedly did.
The consequent FIR contained all sorts of sections. One Lovepreet Singh was said to have been arrested.
Amritpal Singh sought his release and threatened the Punjab police that if he is not released within a certain time frame, he would take out a march to the said police station to get him released.
That's what his supporters actually did on February 23.
The police now say Amritpal had given them an assurance that his supporters would peacefully protest against the arrest of Lovepreet, which never happened.
The video footage shows Amritpal's supporters brandishing swords, spears and guns during their attack on the police personnel and the police station.
At a press conference, the DGP stated the protestors had come to the police station along with a palanquin carrying the Shri Guru Granth Sahibji.
The question is why didn't the police have any information about the endeavour of the protestors to carry the Shri Guru Granth Sahibji? What were the intelligence agencies (state and central) doing?
The DGP further stated that the attackers had attacked hiding behind the holy palanquin.
One must acknowledge that police showed immense restraint despite the odds. God forbid if anything had happened to the palanquin or the Shri Guru Granth Sahibji, then there would have been massive (protests) all over the world.
It is being said that these attackers later spoke with the IG and the SSP and consequently it was declared by the police that they couldn'tfind any evidence against the said supporter and he was released.
I don't know how within 24 hours the police took a U-turn and found that all the allegations against the arrested individual and his associate were false.
The police claim that Amritpal's supporters showed them evidence based on which he was released...
How is this possible?
Once an FIR is registered, there is a procedure. It has to go to the court, etc, etc. Releasing someone for want of evidence is the job of the judiciary, not the cops.
The entire episode was all badly managed and is indeed a political fiasco as well. It may also lead to a sense of demoralisation in the force which has been facing the brunt and has been mishandled by the protestors off and on.
What long term consequences on the law and order situation will Punjab experience, given how brazenly a bunch of armed radicals not only indulged in violence against the cops, but also got their supporters released without even going to the court?
As far as the police force is concerned there already are indications of demoralisation. It will only increase if the state government doesn't act well in time.
This particular incident is likely to embolden the radicals as also the sleeper cells of terrorists and their masters hiding abroad, including Pakistan.
They all have been hiding and lurking, waiting for the right time to show their ugly heads. Radicals sitting abroad will also get emboldened and start pumping more and more money into the hands of these radicals and their fringe elements.
We are heading for tough times in Punjab.