Khalistani leader Amritpal Singh is still on the run from the Punjab police and a search is on to trace him, officials have said.
A massive operation was launched to catch Amritpal Singh who, sources say, was last seen speeding away on a motorcycle last evening in Jalandhar.
Police have arrested 78 members of his outfit ‘Waris Punjab De,’, while several others have been detained for questioning, officials said.
“Six to seven gunmen of Amritpal Singh are among those arrested by police,” said Kuldeep Singh Chahal, Jalandhar Police Commissioner.
Amritpal Singh’s close aide Daljeet Singh Kalsi, who handles the Khalistani leader’s finance, has also been arrested from Haryana’s Gurgaon.
A special team of the state police, comprising personnel from seven districts, had followed the Khalistani leader’s convoy while he was on his way to Jalandhar’s Shahkot tehsil yesterday.
The radical Sikh preacher, who claims to be a follower of terrorist Bhindranwale, managed to escape police’s dragnet on a motorcycle.
Authorities stepped up security at several places and suspended internet and SMS services in the state after his aides shared some videos on social media claiming that policemen were chasing them, and urged his supporters to gather at Shahkot.
Heavy security arrangement has been made outside Amritpal Singh’s village, Jallupur Khaira, in Amritsar as well.
Police have urged citizens to maintain peace and not share any doctored videos. Sources say the internet suspension is likely to continue to prevent the spread of misinformation and rumours through social media.
Sources say Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had discussed the plan to arrest Amritpal Singh with Home Minister Amit in a meeting on March 2.
The centre sent extra forces to Punjab before the police went out to look for him on Saturday, sources said.
The crackdown comes a month after Amritpal Singh and his supporters broke into a police station with swords and guns for the release of one of his aides. Six police officials were injured in the clash.
The Punjab government had faced a massive flak for the law and order situation in the state after the incident.
Amritpal Singh leads “Waris Punjab De”, a radical organisation started by actor and activist Deep Sidhu, who died in a road accident in February last year.
The radical Sikh preacher, who is often seen escorted by armed supporters, had been openly making statements about declaring secession from India and forming Khalistan.
Officials said Amritpal Singh has been maintaining close links with Pakistani intelligence agency ISI and terrorist groups based in foreign countries.