Punjab Police cancels leave of all its personnel ahead of Baisakhi

| | Chandigarh
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Punjab Police cancels leave of all its personnel ahead of Baisakhi

Saturday, 08 April 2023 | Monika Malik | Chandigarh

Amidst unsubstantiated reports that pro-Khalistan Sikh preacher “fugitive” Amritpal Singh may finally surface after “returning” to the State ahead of Baisakhi, the Punjab Police on Friday cancelled the leave of all its personnel till April 14 and beefed up security at Takht Damdama Sahib in Bathinda district.
 
Expressing serious concern over the deployment of heavy security following high alert in the State, head priest (jathedar) of the Sikhs’ highest temporal seat, Akal Takht, Giani Harpreet Singh asked the State Government not to create panic on Baisakhi — that marks the Sikh New Year and commemorates the formation of Khalsa panth (Sikh order). It also marks the onset of harvest season.
 
The developments stem from the fact that Khalistan sympathizer and Waris Punjab De head has appealed to the Akal Takht jathedar to convene Sarbat Khalsa — a congregation of the entire Sikh community — on Baisakhi. On the run, Amritpal had made the appeal for the congregation in two video messages the previous month. He had, in fact, asked to take out a religious procession from the Akal Takht in Amritsar to Takht Damdama Sahib in Bathinda before the Baisakhi gathering.
 
On the other hand, Akal Takht jathedar made it clear that the highest temporal seat had not agreed to Amritpal’s demand for Sarbat Khalsa, while announcing a three-day annual congregation at Takht Damdama Sahib to celebrate Baisakhi.
 
During a meeting on Friday, Akal Takht jathedar asked the Sikhs “to assemble for the Baisakhi event” from April 12 to 14 at Takht Damdama Sahib, clarifying that “it was not a call for Sarbat Khalsa”. The annual congregation to mark Baisakhi is different from ‘Sarbat Khalsa’. Prior to this, Sarbat Khalsa was called only twice in 2015 and 1986.
 
In the wake of “possibilities” that Amritpal may make attempts to return to the border state ahead of Baisakhi, all previously sanctioned leaves of Punjab police personnel stand cancelled by the order of the state Director-General of Police (DGP). Besides, the heads of the police force have been asked not to sanction fresh leave till April 14.
 
“Until then, the leaves of all gazetted and non-gazetted officers have been cancelled,” said the DGP Gaurav Yadav in a message to the officers.
 
Amritpal has been evading arrest ever since the police crackdown against the Waris Punjab De outfit led by him on March 18. His last location was traced in Uttar Pradesh, about a week back, where, as per the Punjab police sources, Amritpal has been hiding with the help of his supporters among the Sikhs of Pilibhit and Lakhimpur Kheri areas.
 
The Punjab police’s move to cancel the leaves of all its personnel gave rise to speculations that Amritpal may soon surrender, with some media channels making claims that it could be today. However, the Punjab Police categorically denied the same as “factually incorrect” and “fake news”.
 
The Punjab Police, taking to Twitter, urged the people not to believe rumours and fake news of the surrender of radical preacher. “This is a fake news and factually incorrect. Please fact-check news before sharing. Don't spread rumours and fake news,” it tweeted.
 
Meanwhile, the Akal Takht jathedar, during the special gathering convened by him to discuss the role of Sikh and Punjabi journalism and their challenges ahead in context of the prevailing situation in Punjab, lashed out at the Punjab Government for creating an unnecessary hype over their event.
 
“The national media covering this event is running the news that Amritpal will be arrested today,” he said, adding, “Yesterday, a flag march was taken out here, where Baisakhi is celebrated every year. Heavy police presence is creating a fearful atmosphere. I made an appeal to Sikhs to come for Baisakhi and I request the media to not twist my words and run a news that I gave a call for ‘Sarbat Khalsa’”.
 
He further said: “No government can suppress our voice. We don’t want a war with government, we want samwad (discussion). At least 75 commitments have been made to us, but till date not one has been fulfilled. If you suppress us, we will speak from Haryana, Bengal or the United States.”
 
The jathedar also asked the Government to “stop creating panic” among the people of Punjab. “To track anti-Sikh or anti-Punjabi phobia, we will constitute a strong group to keep a tab on the news running against us to defame our community. We want to tell the Punjab Government to stop creating this panic…This is not only defaming Punjab or Punjabis, but even the party ruling the state. Now, the Government is creating panic that on Baisakhi day, Amritpal will come here.”
 
He also expressed his disappointment with the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) for not getting an FIR registered against the police officials who termed Sikh flag as “extremist flags” in a bid to “defame Punjabis”.

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