As hundreds of armed followers of a self-styled religious preacher overran a police station in Punjab’s Amritsar in dramatic scenes of lawlessness on Thursday, the police exercised restraint because they did not want to let the situation get out of hand, a senior official has told NDTV.
The police stood down because the attackers, armed with guns and swords and demanding the release of one of their arrested associates, were also carrying a Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs, Senior Superintendent of Punjab Police Harpal Singh Randhawa said.
“What happened yesterday should not have happened. Punjab Police did not retaliate because Amritpal [Singh] had brought Guru Granth Sahib with him. If we had retaliated, things would have gone awry. We respected Guru Granth Sahib,” he said.
“Amritpal had earlier said that he would hold only peaceful dharna. But he cheated us. His men attacked the Punjab Police. But we did not retaliate at all because Guru Granth Sahib was in front. I would like to salute the Punjab Police personnel who did not retaliate,” Mr Randhawa said.
“There is a rule of law in Punjab. Amritpal is not above the law. If we had taken even a little action, the situation could have worsened across Punjab. We did what we saw fit. Whatever happened yesterday, action will be taken according to the law,” the police officer added.
#WATCH | Punjab: Supporters of ‘Waris Punjab De’ Chief Amritpal Singh break through police barricades with swords and guns outside Ajnala PS in Amritsar
They’ve gathered outside the PS in order to protest against the arrest of his (Amritpal Singh) close aide Lovepreet Toofan. pic.twitter.com/yhE8XkwYOO
— ANI (@ANI) February 23, 2023
Mr Randhawa rejected criticism that Thursday’s police response would embolden those like Amritpal Singh who have called for a separate nation of Sikhs called Khalistan and that it was a sign of weakening law and order under the state’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government.
“No Khalistani movement is going to happen in Punjab. People of Punjab, Punjab Police have finished terrorism from Punjab. These are some bad guys. Amritpal is being called wrong everywhere today. We want to assure the whole country that there is rule of law in Punjab,” he said.
He also said the police case against Lovepreet Toofan Singh, the aide of Amritpal Singh whose arrest triggered the mob fury, has not been dropped. “An SIT (Special Investigation Team) has been formed, everyone’s role will be investigated,” Mr Randhawa said.
Commenting on the incident, Punjab Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal, told news agency ANI, “People of Punjab should have faith in Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to maintain law and order in the state.”
His assurance came as the Punjab Police announced Toofan Singh will be released based on “enough proof” of his innocence provided by the members of the mob a day ago. “The court has given release orders for Lovepreet Toofan who will be released from Amritsar Jail today,” senior police officer Satinder Singh said.
Police had arrested Toofan Singh for allegedly kidnapping and beating up a man. He is a member of the Amritpal Singh-led ‘Waris Punjab De’ organisation that was founded by actor and activist Deep Sidhu who died in a road accident in February last year.
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