Waris Punjab De chief Amritpal Singh’s separatist call was seen as the pronouncement of a small businessman with no links to the Sikh clergy or widespread support like earlier Khalistan proponents. Not many in the Indian security establishment took him seriously and treated him as a prophet in the wilderness whose voice not many would hear and heed. If anything, Amritpal’s rise was seen as a sign of Punjab’s Aam Aadmi Party government’s indifference to separatist elements. AAP’s election campaign received considerable support from Sikhs living abroad. Therefore, not many were surprised when Amritpal arrived from abroad to launch his campaign for Khalistan. But the support he started receiving, mostly outside India, shocked the Indian security establishment. The tension between the AAP government in Punjab and the BJP-led Central government also played a role in Amritpal not getting the attention it deserved.
While the central agencies kept a hawk’s eye on the new troublemaker, action against him was not taken with the urgency it deserved. What followed was a blame game between the two governments, with the Central government blaming the state government for not acting against Amritpal. AAP cannot be absolved of letting Amritpal grow into the force he has now become. Nobody knew of Amritpal until September last when he visited Bhindranwale’s Rode village where, through his turban-tying ceremony, a Bhindranwale lookalike was created. In some sections, he is now being termed as Bhindranwale 2.0, though he has no religious following.
The state government was aware of his activities since arriving from Dubai but did not take them seriously. That Amritpal was in touch with Jaswant Singh Rode, whose brother Lakhbir Singh Rode is the head of the International Sikh Youth Federation and is involved in smuggling drugs into India, was well established. Same with the fact that the Khalistan movement is funded largely by NRIs from the US, the UK, Canada and Australia. Despite these known facts, Amritpal continued to propagate his divisive ideology. As a result, there are protests worldwide against the crackdown on his supporters and the manhunt launched against him. The government of India had to summon foreign envoys to control the activities of Sikh separatists in their countries. India’s political parties must set aside their differences and act swiftly and decisively against the separatist elements. Activities of people like Amritpal are causing trouble for the community, which does not subscribe to his views.