Chandigarh: Punjab Police's apparent miscalculation allowed radical preacher Amritpal Singh to avoid imminent arrest resulting in a chase that is still on since he escaped on March 18 and there is a possibility that he may have crossed the border to neighbouring Haryana, officials said Thursday.
The police were ready with their arrangements at only one place and did not capture him in his village, they said.
This was a major miscalculation on the part of the state police, the officials said while piecing together the turn of events since February 23 when Singh, a Khalistan advocate, had stormed a police station in Ajnala of Amritsar district and secured the release of his aide Lovepreet Singh Toofan.
After the audacious raid in which Toofan was forcefully taken away by Singh, Punjab Police decided to carry out a crackdown on him but could not do so due to 'Holla Mohalla', a fair held at Anandpur Sahib where a martial form of religious procession takes place, from March 6 to 8, they said.
The final go-ahead to arrest 30-year Singh, a secessionist preacher who demands an independent country for Sikhs, was given on March 18, with police maintaining a close watch on his itinerary. The operation had to take place when he was en route to Bhatinda from Jallupur Khera in Amritsar.
A carcade of five vehicles, including a high-end Mercedes, carrying the radical preacher who had returned from Dubai last year to head 'Waris Panjab De' started from his village on the given day.
The convoy had to cross the Sutlej river, and the crack team of Punjab Police commandos were waiting at Harike barrage. A vehicle acting as a convoy pilot had spotted a large posse of armed policemen waiting on the barrage.
The driver of the vehicle returned to inform Singh about the police movement. Singh immediately changed course and instead crossed the Sutlej river at Govindwal Sahib, where only a few district policemen were there.
The officials said Punjab Police was confident that the preacher would cross only at Harike barrage. No alternative arrangements were made to catch the pro-Khalistan preacher on other routes.
They said Singh crossed the bridge at Govindwal Sahib and even spoke to the small picket of police officers who assured him that the deployment had nothing to do with him.
However, unconvinced by the police officers' answer, the convoy carrying Singh made a U-turn and started moving towards Shahkot. In the meantime, a crack team of Punjab police commandos also started chasing him.
The last two vehicles in the convoy came to a screeching halt. They stood perpendicular to each other to stop the approaching police party and to give time for Singh to flee the area.
Singh abandoned his Mercedes and switched cars which was also subsequently left at a village in Jalandhar before he took a motorcycle. Singh pillion riding on the bike was the last image available in the public domain.
Tracking his movement till March 20, it emerges now that after changing his appearance at Phillaur, he and his mentor Papalpreet Singh crossed over to Haryana and took shelter at the residence of a woman identified as Baljeet Kaur, who has since been arrested, the officials said.
Before reaching her residence, the duo hijacked a third motorcycle at gunpoint when their vehicles malfunctioned, they said.