Chandigarh, Mar 18 (PTI) A major police crackdown is underway in Punjab against radical preacher Amritpal Singh and his supporters over charges of spreading communal tension in the state.
As the operation went underway, the Punjab government suspended internet services in the state till Sunday noon to prevent circulation of rumours and possible tension.
Officials privy to the development said that six close supporters of Singh had been detained so far while a manhunt to locate the radical preacher was still on.
They said the preacher had almost been caught but he managed to give a slip to the approaching police team, which intercepted his cavalcade in Mehatpur village in Jalandhar district on Saturday.
Some supporters of 'Waris Punjab De' chief shared some videos on social media claiming that policemen were chasing them. A video also showed Amritpal sitting in a vehicle and one of his aides could be heard saying policemen were after 'Bhai saab' (Amritpal).
The Punjab Police had registered cases against Singh and his supporters earlier last week in Ajnala for alleged hate speech. Singh gained more prominence in February this year when a man complained at Ajnala Police Station alleging he had been kidnapped and beaten by the associates of the radical preacher.
An FIR was registered against Amritpal Singh and six of his associates. Police later arrested one Lovepreet Singh Toofan, a close associate of Amritpal, in the matter.
The arrest of Toofan prompted Amritpal to issue a warning to police to revoke the case against him, and the matter turned ugly when hundreds of his supporters broke through police barricades and stormed the police complex, armed with automatic guns and sharp weapons.
Toofan was released under pressure but only after the police informed the court that they would be investigating the matter further.
During the incident, six policemen including a Superintendent of Police rank officer, had suffered injuries.
As the crackdown continued on Saturday, some videos of radical preachers were circulated on social media, including one shared by a supporter, who claimed policemen were after him.
A heavy deployment of security forces has been made near village Jallupur Khera in Amritsar, the native place of Amritpal.
Meanwhile, Punjab Police asked people to maintain peace and harmony.
"Request all citizens to maintain peace & harmony Punjab Police is working to maintain Law & Order. Request citizens not to panic or spread fake news or hate speech," it said in a tweet.
Earlier this month, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had called on Union Home Minister Amit Shah and discussed with him the prevailing law and order situation in the border state.
The Centre had sent about 1,900 personnel of the CRPF and its specialised anti-riot unit RAF for strengthening the security grid.
The Union home ministry last week also ordered the deployment of 18 companies in Punjab for "aid of the state government during law and order duties." Out of the 18 contingents, eight are drawn from the anti-riot Rapid Action Force (RAF) while the rest are regular ones. The overall strength of these companies is around 19,000 personnel.
Officials said the Union Home Ministry is "closely monitoring" the situation in Punjab in the wake of renewed activities of some Khalistani supporters.
Dubai-returned Amritpal Singh was last year anointed the head of 'Waris Punjab De', which was founded by actor and activist Deep Sidhu who died in a road accident in February last year.
The event was held at Moga's Rode, the native village of slain militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. PTI CHS VSD VN SKL VN VN