It was around midnight on Saturday when a senior official of the Punjab Intelligence Bureau woke up Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann. To Mann the news he had to break was as important as it was explosive. Fugitive pro-Khalistan preacher Amritpal Singh, who was on the run for 36 days after dodging the police on March 18 when a crackdown on him and his organization Waris Punjab Day – was seen in Moga’s Rode village.
The intelligence officer woke up Mann only after the agency got concrete information that Amritpal was hiding in the village gurdwara, where he had conducted his dastarbandi ceremony in September last year. Mann picked up the phone, dialed DGP Gaurav Yadav and asked the police chief to ensure that the sanctity of the gurdwara is maintained at all costs.
“He clearly said that there cannot be any issue like Bargari and Behbal Kalan which continues to haunt the state for years. He ordered that there would be no firing and the police would not enter the premises of the Gurdwara.
“When it was decided that the entire village would be cordoned off, the CM asked the DGP to ensure that there is heavy police presence but there is no panic. Therefore, it was decided that the police would be deployed in plain clothes in the village, as such a heavy force in uniform could have caused panic or protest.”
The source said the chief minister has also sought a quick report from the intelligence officers on the impact of Amritpal’s arrest in the state. “He was told that Amritpal’s network was completely paralyzed as his main handlers including uncle Harjit Singh, financier Daljit Singh Kalsi and patron Papalpreet Singh had been arrested and sent to Dibrugarh Jail in Assam.
This did not help Amritpal. The people who had given him shelter earlier were also arrested. Therefore, no one wanted to give him shelter. The situation in Punjab had come to such an extent that after the crackdown on the radical preacher and the arrest of those who sheltered him, people stopped giving lifts to strangers in their cars.
Unlike March 18, when a trap was laid to nab Amritpal after learning about the heavy police presence and their plan, this time the men in khaki were ready. He took time to spread the officers throughout the village before laying siege. It was only after this, the source said, that police officials inside the gurdwara sent a message to Amritpal that they had secured the village and any escape attempt would be futile.
“When Amritpal realized that there was no way to escape this time, he left the gurdwara around 7 am on Sunday.
He was immediately arrested. But before he walked out, Amritpal recorded a video sitting in front of the portrait of slain Khalistani terrorist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and announced that he was surrendering.
Rode is Bhindranwale’s ancestral village and the temple in which Amritpal took refuge – Gurdwara Janmasthan Sant Khalsa – has been built in his memory.
Sources said that while he was on the run, Amritpal was taking shelter in deras and gurdwaras in the village, following which intelligence officers were keeping an eye on all major Sikh shrines. Given Amritpal’s love for Bhindranwale, the Gurudwara of Rode village was always on his radar, whose style, mannerisms and manner of speech he copied to make himself popular among the masses, especially in rural Punjab
He said that when he was stopped in Jalandhar on March 18, the strategy of not firing at him worked. “He was surrounded. He had no option but to take shelter in Rode Gurdwara. With the police arresting all his handlers, he had exhausted all his options. It was a peaceful operation. For 36 days the police She was following him. The CM didn’t want a shootout and it worked out that way,” said an office-bearer.
Earlier, while addressing the people after Amritpal’s arrest, Mann had said that he was awake the whole night as he wanted to be on top of the situation. He had said that he is taking stock of the situation on phone every 15 minutes. Mann also stressed that he did not want any bloodshed during the operation, “If we had arrested him on March 18, shots would have been fired; We didn’t want to do that.”