India arrests Sikh separatist leader after month-long manhunt

New Delhi, Apr 23 (EFE).- The police in India’s northern state of Punjab on Sunday arrested a Sikh separatist leader who had been eluding the authorities for over a month, following a manhunt in which thousands of personnel were deployed and hundreds arrested.

“Amritpal Singh has been arrested by Punjab Police at around 6.45 am today morning in village Rode,” Punjab Police Inspector General Sukhchain Singh Gill said in a press conference.

Sikh had taken refuge in a gurudwara (Sikh place of worship) and according to local sympathizers quoted by media reports, he decided to surrender to the police, after being on the run constantly and proving a major headache for Indian authorities.

Singh is accused of possessing a large cache of illegal arms and running a center to indoctrinate youth from the minority Sikh community, which dominates the Punjab province, into carrying out attacks and violent protests.

On Mar. 18, Indian security forces launched a massive operation to arrest Singh – head of the group Waris Punjab De (the heirs of Punjab) – which calls for a separate Sikh nation of Khalistan, in and around Punjab.

After a spectacular escape, in which he changed at least five vehicles and adopted different looks, Indian authorities lost trace of Singh in the neighboring state of Haryana, around 250 kms away from the spot where the operation began.

The manhunt has resulted in the arrest of over 350 people, including many supporters of the separatist cause.

The revived calls for an independent Sikh homeland have stoked fears of a return to violence that killed tens of thousands of people in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Rode, where Singh was arrested on Sunday, holds symbolic value as it is the native town of radical Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who became the central figure in the pro-Khalistan Sikh movement in the 1984 with hundreds of armed followers.

The prime minister at the time, Indira Gandhi, ordered the military to surround and raid the holiest Sikh site – Amritsar’s Golden Temple – as part of “Operation Blue Star” in which around 400 people including Bhindranwale was killed.

Months later, Gandhi was assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards in revenge, triggering widespread mob violence against the Sikhs – especially in the Indian capital – with more than 3,000 people being killed. EFE


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