By: Pramod Thomas
A fugitive Sikh separatist known for his radical views has posted a video mocking Indian authorities after a futile two-week-long manhunt involving thousands of police and internet shutdowns.
Amritpal Singh, who has gained popularity in recent months for his demand for a separate Sikh homeland called Khalistan, has been evading Punjab police since March 18. This struggle for Khalistan resulted in violent clashes in the 1980s and 1990s.
To apprehend Singh, authorities arrested over 100 of his followers, imposed a ban on gatherings of more than four people in certain areas, and suspended mobile internet services in the Sikh-dominated northern state with a population of 30 million.
After reported sightings in Delhi, in the video posted on social media on Wednesday (29), Singh called the police operation an “attack on the Sikh community”.
“I was neither afraid of arrest earlier, nor am I now. I am in high spirits. Nobody could harm me. It is the grace of God,” he said.
There has been no independent verification of the video but there were few doubts that it is genuine.
The manhunt has sparked protests by Sikhs outside Indian consulates in Britain, Canada and the United States, with demonstrators smashing windows in San Francisco and reportedly vandalising a Gandhi statue in Ontario.
India has summoned top US, British and Canadian diplomats in New Delhi to complain and press for improved security at Indian missions in their countries.
Singh’s video was posted on Twitter accounts based in Britain and Canada, which the social media company took down in India following government requests, reports said.
Twitter has also blocked for Indian users the accounts of several prominent Sikh Canadians who criticised the crackdown, including MP Jagmeet Singh, as well as several journalists, according to the reports.
Punjab — which is about 58 percent Sikh and 39 percent Hindu — was rocked by a violent separatist movement for Khalistan in the 1980s and early 1990s in which thousands of people died.
India has often complained to foreign governments about the activities of Sikh hardliners among the Indian diaspora who, it says, are trying to revive the insurgency with a massive financial push.