Amritpal’s arrest puts spotlight back on Bhindranwale’s village
Rode village holds a strong significance for Sikh radicals as it is the birthplace of slain pro-Khalistan ideologue Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale
Pro-Khalistan preacher Amritpal Singh, who started his controversial journey 206 days ago from the Rode village of Moga district with a Dastar Bandi ceremony to take over as chief of Waris Punjab De, was back at the same village for the climax of his dramatic 37-day chase by Punjab police.
Rode village, which remained a hotbed of radical activities during militancy, holds a strong significance for Sikh radicals as it is the birthplace of slain pro-Khalistan ideologue Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.
Nearly 39 years after Operation Blue Star, in which Bhindranwale was killed, Rode has shot into the limelight for the second time within seven months after Punjab Police arrested Singh from Gurdwara Janam Asthan Sant Khalsa on Sunday.
On September 29, Rode made headlines when Dubai-returned Singh, dressed up like Bhindwanwale, took over as the chief of Waris Punjab De at the same gurdwara. The ceremony was attended by Bhindranwale’s family, including his nephew Jasbir Singh Rode, and other supporters. Jasbir Singh Rode was present in the village on Sunday, claiming that Singh surrendered and was not arrested.
After Singh evaded Punjab police, it was anticipated by intelligence agencies that he might surrender at a gurdwara, which has importance to Sikhs, in an attempt to garner support. Punjab Police had remained on high alert during the occasion of Khalsa Sajna Diwas, the birth anniversary of Khalsa, and Baisakhi, a festival celebrated across Punjab.
There was heavy police deployment during this period around the three takhts at Amritsar (Akal Takht, Golden temple complex), Talwandi Sabo (Damdama Sahib) and Anandpur Sahib (Keshgarh Sahib). Singh managed to reach a gurdwara with significance to Sikhs before his arrest amid counterclaims of his surrender.
“I have no fear of arrest earlier nor now. A number of innocent youngsters have been put in jails, I am not a person who will run away when my supporters are in trouble. Despite having options to go to other countries, I have decided to surrender at the place from where it all started,” Singh said in a video message recorded before his arrest.
“My Dastar Bandi was done at this gurdwara, which is built at the birthplace of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale,” he said. “After taking the blessings of the Guru, I will court arrest. I appeal to the people to do ardas (prayers) and continue the fight.”
Although with the passage of time, the political sentiment for Khalistan hardly resonates with the Sikhs in present day Punjab, the people of Rode and surrounding villages in Moga district still idolise Bhindranwale.
Since the rise of Amritpal Singh, a number of people from the Moga district joined him. The district became the venue of crucial meetings and congregations of Waris Punjab De. Out of the 10 supporters of Singh detained under the National Security Act and lodged in Dibrugarh jail of Assam, four belong to Moga district.
Pakistan-based International Sikh Youth Federation chief Lakhbir Singh Rode, who is another nephew of Bhindranwale, also belongs to Rode village. The Indian government has declared him a terrorist.
Militant Gurjant Singh Budhsinghwala, former chief of the Khalistan Liberation Force who allegedly murdered several policemen after his grandfather was slain during extrajudicial killings in 1984, also belonged to Moga’s Buddh Singh Wala village. Wanted in several cases of murder, Budhsinghwala was killed in a shootout with police in 1992.
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