Punjab government extends suspension of internet, SMS services till March 20 at Amritpal Singh remains elusive

The Punjab government has extended the suspension of mobile internet and SMS services till Monday noon even as the hunt for radical Sikh preacher and Khalistan sympathizer Amritpal Singh continued.

The state authorities had on Saturday suspended internet and SMS services till Sunday noon.

The police have previously said that they will soon arrest the fleeing preacher.

“In exercise of power conferred on me under the India Telegraph Act, 1885, it is directed that all mobile internet services (2G/3G/45/5G/CDMA/GPRS), all SMS services (except bank and mobile recharge) and all dongle services provided on mobile networks, except voice calls, in the territorial jurisdiction of Punjab shall be further suspended from March 19 (12:00 noon) to March 20 (12:00 noon) to prevent any incitement to violence and any disturbance of peace and public order,” said an official order issued on Sunday.

The broadband services will not be suspended so that banking facilities, hospital services and other essential services are not disrupted, said the order issued by the Additional Chief Secretary.

Speaking to reporters near Nakodar in Jalandhar late on Saturday evening, Jalandhar Police Commissioner Kuldeep Sinh Chahal had said, “Amritpal Singh is now a fugitive and we are looking for him and we will arrest him soon.”

He also said that two vehicles belonging to the pastor had also been seized.

The Punjab government launched a major crackdown on Amritpal on Saturday, with police arresting 78 members of an outfit led by him, officials said.

However, the elusive preacher let the police down and escaped their dragnet when his cavalcade was intercepted in Jalandhar district, even as authorities stepped up security in several places in the northern state.

The police had said it had launched a “massive state-wide cordon and search operations (CASO)” against elements of the ‘Waris Punjab De’ (WPD), led by Amritpal, against whom several criminal cases had been registered.

The police action also comes ahead of the start of Amritpal’s ‘Khalsa Wahir’ – a religious procession – from Muktsar district.

During the statewide operation, nine weapons, including a .315 bore rifle, seven 12-bore rifles, a revolver and 373 live cartridges of various calibers have been recovered so far, police said.

Also read | Amritpal Singh keeps close links with ISI, terror groups: Report

Security has been tightened at many places in Punjab, with security forces conducting checks on vehicles.

The police spokesman had stated that the WPD elements were involved in four criminal cases relating to spreading disharmony among classes, attempted murder, assault on police personnel and creating obstacles to the lawful discharge of duties of public servants.

An FIR dated February 24 is registered against WPD elements for the attack on Ajnala police station.

Last month, Amritpal and his supporters, some of them brandishing swords and weapons, broke through barricades and burst into the Ajnala police station on the outskirts of Amritsar city, clashing with police to secure the release of one of Amritpal’s aides.

After the incident in which six policemen, including a constable, had sustained injuries, the AAP government in the state had faced serious flak and was accused of pandering to extremists.

Dubai returnee Amritpal was last year anointed the leader of ‘Waris Punjab De’, which was founded by actor and activist Deep Sidhu, who died in a road accident in February last year.

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