New Delhi: Punjab police Sunday arrested Radical preacher and Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh from Moga district of Punjab.
Amritpal not only remained elusive for over a month but escaped the police dragnet twice -- first on March 18 in Jalandhar district by switching vehicles and then again on March 28 in Hoshiarpur when he returned to Punjab along with his key associate Papalpreet Singh.
The crackdown against Amritpal began on March 18 after following the storming of the Ajnala police station by his supporters to secure the release of an arrested associate.
Papalpreet, who is considered to be Amritpal's mentor and who has allegedly been in contact with Pakistan's ISI, has been arrested.
Several cases have been lodged against the Khalistan sympathizer and his associates for allegedly spreading disharmony, attempt to murder, attack on police personnel and obstructing the lawful discharge of duty by public servants.
Despite being sighted in several CCTV footage and photos with changed appearances at many places, including Patiala, Kurukshetra and Delhi, the radical preacher continued to hoodwink the police.
While on the run, two videos and one audio clip of Amritpal surfaced on social media. In one of his two videos, which surfaced on March 30, Amritpal asserted that he was not a fugitive and would soon appear.
The pro-Khalistan preacher had claimed that he was not like those who would flee the country.
There were rumours that Amritpal might surrender on Baisakhi at Takht Damdama Sahib at Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda, but that did not happen.
Tight security arrangements during the Baisakhi festival at Talwandi Sabo, however, earned the wrath of Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh who accused the Punjab government of trying to create panic. Police claimed that security was deployed for the convenience and safety of devotees.
The Jathedar of Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikhs, had even asked the fugitive preacher to surrender before the police and cooperate with the investigation. The appeal, however, fell on deaf ears.
Police continued to search his probable hideouts, the latest being in Haryana's Sirsa a few days ago. Earlier, searches were also conducted in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
Recently, Punjab Police pasted posters of Amritpal at railway stations in Batala and Amritsar, announcing that an appropriate reward will be given to anyone who provides credible information about his whereabouts.
On April 15, police managed to nab Amritpal's close aide Joga Singh from Sirhind in Fatehgarh Sahib. According to them, Joga Singh was in direct contact with Amritpal and had even arranged a shelter and vehicles for him in Uttar Pradesh's Pilibhit.
It was Joga Singh who brought Amritpal and his aide Papalpreet back to Punjab on March 28.
Nine of Amritpal's aides -- Daljit Singh Kalsi, Papalpreet Singh, Kulwant Singh Dhaliwal, Varinder Singh Johal, Gurmeet Singh Bukkanwala, Harjit Singh, Bhagwant Singh, Basant Singh and Gurinderpal Singh Aujla -- have been lodged in Dibrugarh jail in Assam and charged under the stringent National Security Act.
Ahead of the Baisakhi festival, Punjab police chief Gaurav Yadav had said that those wanted by the law should submit to the process of law.
Amid reports that Amritpal might have taken shelter at a religious place, the top police officer had said that religious places should not be misused.
The 29-year-old Amritpal Singh was last year anointed the head of 'Waris Punjab De', the organisation founded by actor and activist Deep Sidhu in February last year.
His wife Kirandeep Kaur was stopped at the Amritsar airport by immigration officials on Thursday while she was trying to board a flight to London. Amritpal tied the knot with UK-based Kaur in February this year.