• Wednesday, February 28, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Indian mission in UK gets security boost as Sikh separatist continues to elude Punjab cops

Amritpal Singh, who supports Khalistan, claims to be a self-styled preacher and many of his supporters have been arrested during the manhunt since last Saturday

Amritpal Singh (Photo: Twitter)

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

On Wednesday (22) James Cleverly, the UK foreign minister, announced that the security at the Indian High Commission in London will be reviewed in response to the “unacceptable acts of violence” that were committed against the mission’s staff.

Reports have emerged that protesters, holding “Khalistan” banners, removed the Indian flag from the first-floor balcony of the diplomatic mission’s building to protest against recent police action in India’s Punjab state.

This action was condemned by India, which summoned the most senior British diplomat in New Delhi to protest against the actions taken by “separatist and extremist elements” against their mission in London.

On Sunday (19), a crowd had gathered outside the high commission’s building, causing damage to the windows, leading to India demanding an explanation for the “complete absence of British security” around the premises.

The Hindu reported that at least a hundred police officers were standing guard on both sides of the road outside the High Commission in London on Wednesday (22).

Cleverly assured that a police investigation was ongoing and that necessary changes will be made to ensure the safety of the Indian mission’s staff, as was done during demonstrations on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in India, Internet services continue to remain restricted in certain parts of northern Punjab state for the fourth day as thousands of police officers search for Sikh separatist leader Amritpal Singh.

The crackdown against Singh began a few weeks after his supporters stormed a police station and demanded the release of an aide who was arrested.

Over 100 of his supporters have been arrested during the manhunt since last Saturday.

Punjab’s chief minister Bhagwant Mann has promised to take strict action against those spreading “anti-national sentiments” in the state.

Singh, who supports Khalistan, a separate homeland for Sikhs, claims to be a self-styled preacher. His sudden rise to prominence has reignited memories of the 1980s insurgency in Punjab, which led to the deaths of thousands. Singh’s current whereabouts are unknown.

The government has stated that all other suspects had been arrested, except for Singh, who was declared a fugitive by the Punjab police after he escaped in a dramatic car chase live-streamed by some of his associates on Saturday (18).

Since then, authorities have blocked internet services, restricted messages and deployed thousands of paramilitary soldiers to Punjab to search for him.

Six of his associates and an uncle have been charged under India’s stringent National Security Act (NSA), and four of them were sent to a prison in the north-eastern state of Assam on Monday (20).

On Tuesday, the Punjab government partially lifted the internet ban, retaining it only in a few places until March 23.

(With inputs from the BBC & Reuters)

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