Punjab is scaling up security after an Intelligence Bureau alert about Pakistani spy agency ISI activating terror sleeper cells in the state to launch attacks in retaliation against the government’s crackdown on Sikh radicals ahead of a Sarbat Khalsa in Bhatinda district on November 10.
“According to an input received from reliable channels, Pak ISI has directed Pak-based Sikh terrorists to activate their associates in India to carry out terrorist strikes in Punjab to take advantage of prevailing resentment over detention/arrest of radical entities involved in organising Sarbat Khalsa,” says the IB alert dated November 7 of which Hindustan Times has a copy.
The IB has asked the state agencies to take “appropriate preventive and precautionary measures”.
“We have fully mobilised and deployed the police force wherever required keeping in view the Sarbat Khalsa call and other inputs,” HS Dhillon, director general of police (law and order) told Hindustan Times.
Meanwhile, Punjab has asked Centre to deploy 10 companies of paramilitary in the state to tackle the law and order situation in the poll-bound state.
The government has also pulled out all policemen under training and deployed them for law and order duty.
Another top cop said that gunmen on duty with private citizens as personal security officers have also been withdrawn.
“Maximum mobilisation of the police force is underway,” a top police officer said.
Apprehensive about pro-Khalistan forces attempting to take advantage of the Sarbat Khalsa, the ruling Akali Dal had refused permission for this gathering of Sikhs at Talwandi Sabo being spearheaded by radical leaders.
The Parkash Singh Badal government had ordered the crackdown to prevent radical elements from creating law and order problem and the anti-Akali forces becoming active again in the state.
About 2,000 Sikh hardliners, who were expected to attend the Sarbat Khalsa have been arrested across the state in the past three days. There is simmering anger against the government crackdown which the ISI is trying to capitalise on.
While a key radical leader Dhyan Singh Mand is under arrest, others such as Baljit Singh Daduwal and Amrik Singh Ajnala have gone into hiding. All three were appointed as head priests of three Sikh shrines in the last year’s Sarbat Khalsa.
Another hardliner, Mokham Singh, head of the United Akali Dal is also in hiding.
Last year, after two months of unrest in Punjab due to protests led mainly by Sikh radical organisations against incidents of desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib, hardliners had held Sarbat Khalsa on November 10 in Amritsar.
The overwhelming response of the crowd had rattled the ruling Akali Dal.
The Punjab government had then claimed that it had “evidence” about “foreign agencies” funding and sponsoring Sarbat Khalsa in Amritsar.