NEW DELHI: With a fresh FIR being registered against Khalistan supporter Amritpal Singh, who is being chased by the Punjab police, citing the Arms Act, the Center seems to be taking steps to treat the case as a terror probe. Top counter-terrorist agency National Investigation Agency (NIA) may probe Amritpal Singh and seven of his aides on charges of possession of illegal arms — Arms Act cases included in the NIA Act. The Khalistani leader has been named as “accused number one” in the new case.
Meanwhile, four of Amritpal Singh’s top aides, arrested and flown to Dibrugarh in upper Assam, have been charged under the tough National Security Act (NSA), which allows police to detain suspects in any jail across the country.
Officials say the ‘top secret’ operation is a joint effort between Aam Aadmi Party-ruled Punjab, the central government and BJP-ruled Assam. An Indian Air Force plane was used to ferry the accused, further signaling the Centre’s increased commitment to quell the issue that could disturb peace, evoking painful memories of the state’s troubled past.
However, the BJP has remained tight-lipped about the integration between states ruled by rival parties. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma yesterday said it was only a “police to police” collaboration. “They were also arrested in Assam when we sent people to Bihar’s Bhagalpur Jail for security reasons. Perhaps the Punjab Police thought they should keep the prisoners in Assam for a few days,” he said.
Sources said Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann discussed the plan to arrest Amritpal Singh with Home Minister Amit Shah in a meeting on March 2.
So far, police have arrested 112 associates of Amritpal Singh – 34 of them on Sunday. Several members of his ‘Waris Punjab D’ group have been detained for questioning. Amritpal Singh’s financial handler Taljeet Singh Kalsi was among those arrested.