Fugitive Khalistani leader posts video taunting Indian police after fruitless two-week manhunt

·3-min read

A fugitive Sikh separatist, who has been on the run for the past two weeks eluding a massive manhunt in India, released a video on YouTube taunting the police.

Amritpal Singh is a 30-year-old preacher and leader of the radical organisation “Waris Punjab De”, or Heirs of Punjab. He has demanded the creation of Khalistana separate homeland for the Sikh community carved out of India’s Punjab state.

Mr Singh claimed to follow the teachings and dress style of Indian militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who led a major separatist movement in India in the 1980s.

Police in Punjab launched a massive manhunt on 18 March and cut off mobile internet for millions of people in the state to find the absconding separatist leader.

"I am not a fugitive, but a rebel,” he said in the video released on Thursday.

“I was neither afraid of arrest earlier, nor am I now. I am in high spirits. Nobody could harm me. It is the grace of god,” he added.

"I am with my community and supporters. I am not going to run away from the country. I do not fear the government.

"Do whatever you want to do. I will soon appear before the world and will also be amongst the Sikh community."

In an earlier video, Mr Singh had asked the Akal Takht Jathedar (the highest temporal seat of Sikhs) to call for a Sarbat Khalsa or a gathering of the entire Sikh community.

In Thursday's video he reiterated: "If he doesn’t give the call, it is also a test of how serious he is about doing something for the community."

In an audio message released earlier on Thursday, Mr Singh said it was a time for "the community" to "unite".

"I ask all factions to unite as there is a need to give proof of their existence."

Protestors of the Khalistan movement demonstrate outside of the Indian High Commission in London (AP)
Protestors of the Khalistan movement demonstrate outside of the Indian High Commission in London (AP)

The Akal Takht chief called for the separatist leader to surrender before police.

There have been multiple reports of Mr Singh being spotted in the capital New Delhi, Haryana and other parts of Punjab, but the police have been unable to trace him down so far.

The manhunt has led to protests by the supporters of the Khalistan movement in Britain, Canada and the US.

The Indian flag at the country’s high commission in London was pulled down and the building’s window was smashed by protesters earlier this month. New Delhi summoned top US, British and Canadian diplomats to complain and press for improved security at Indian missions in their countries.

The Punjab police have reportedly stepped up security in and around Amritsar and Bathinda cities anticipating that Mr Singh will surrender at either of the two shrines – the Golden Temple or Takht Sri Damdama Sahib.

Indian authorities have also suspended the Twitter accounts of BBC News’s Punjabi language service and other local journalists amidst the manhunt. Overall, more than 120 accounts have been suspended amid the pursuit of Mr Singh, according to filings released by Twitter.

Around 200 of Mr Singh’s supporters and aides have been arrested so far and the separatist has been put on a surveillance list in Nepal on Monday following a request from India.