What is Waris Punjab De group, Khalistan sympathiser Amritpal Singh's outfit?

Waris Punjab De was formed by Punjabi actor-activist Deep Sidhu
Last Updated : 20 March 2023, 13:43 IST
Last Updated : 20 March 2023, 13:43 IST
Last Updated : 20 March 2023, 13:43 IST
Last Updated : 20 March 2023, 13:43 IST

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A manhunt has been going on for quite sometime for Amritpal Singh, the controversial leader of the pro-Khalistani separatist group Waris Punjab De, who has been declared a fugitive.

More than a 100 of his followers have been nabbed by the Punjab Police so far.

Singh, 30, had taken charge of the Waris Punjab De after the death of its founder, actor Deep Sidhu.

Sidhu, also known as Sandeep Singh, had first floated the organisaton as “a pressure group to protect and fight for rights of Punjab and raise social issues”.

The actor-turned-activist first came to the limelight during the 2020 farmers' protest against the three farm laws, which were later repealed. Delhi Police charged him for inciting violence in the national capital on Republic Day 2021. He was allegedly involved in hoisting the Nihan Sahib flag on the Red Fort.

On September 30, 2021, Sidhu floated his now-infamous group just before the Assembly elections in Punjab.

According to an Indian Express report, Sidhu had said during the outfit's launch, “It is a platform for those who are not satisfied with the social reality of Punjab in the current scenario. It is a social platform. We take everything to elections but I want to clarify that it is a social platform. It is not a poll gimmick. We are not supporting any political party. Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian, it is for all those who will fight with us for the rights of Punjab. Before 1947, we lived together in harmony, but the British snatched that brotherhood from us. Our Gurus fought against casteism".

However, Sidhu and his faction did end up supporting the Punjab Assembly polls campaign of far-right party Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar)'s Simranjit Singh Mann.

Sidhu, however, could not lead his faction for a considerable period of time. He passed away in February 2022 in a car accident at the young age of 37.

It was at this point of time that Amritpal, who had by then returned from Dubai where he was looking after his family's transportation business, and took control of the organisation.

However, Sidhu's family was not happy with Amritpal taking charge of the group. The late actor-activist's brother later told IE that neither Sidhu nor his family had ever met Amritpal. He went on to claim that the family was not aware of how Amritpal had managed to procure the passwords of Sidhu's (who he claims was not a separatist) social media accounts.

Amritpal, on the other hand, grew his hair back, wore a turban, and modelled himself on another (in)famous Khalistani leader, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who led the Khalistani movement in the 1980s and was eventually killed during the Indian Army's Operation Blue Star that took place at the Golden Temple.

After he was anointed the new head of Waris Punjab De, Amritpal's 'dastar bandi' (turban-tying ceremony) took place in Bhrindanwale's native village, Rode.

Just like Bhrindanwale, Amritpal is usually seen wearing a white outfit with a blue turban. He carries a sword-sized kirpan while armed guards walk one step behind him at all times.

In an interview with The Hindu, Amritpal had asserted in clear terms that without violence, "nothing can be established", and believed that this is a fact that has been true throughout the world.

The publication also quotes him as saying at one of his 'Khalsa Vaheer(s)': "“Successive governments in Delhi [the Centre] — be it the BJP or the Congress — have worked towards the humiliation or elimination of Sikhs."

Amritpal had even threatened Union Home Minister Amit Shah, saying that the veteran politician would meet a fate similar to late prime minister Indira Gandhi.

True to his words, Amritpal's supporters have often resorted to violence to get their points across. While some of them burnt chairs of Jalandhar's Model Town gurudwara.

Later, they also stormed an Ajnala police station with brandished weapons and firearms to demand the release of one of their associates, Lovepreet Singh, also known as Toofan. Amritpal, along with some of his supporters, was also booked for kidnapping and beating up a Rupnagar man.

Waris Punjab De has shifted gears since its top leadership changed. While Sidhu had said that he wanted to use the organisation to bring social justice, Amritpal, since the day he became leader, has called for his followers to be up in arms. He has also been organising 'Khalsa Vaheer' processions to bring Sikhism back to the youth of Punjab and to advise them to stop using narcotics.

Although his sartorial choices and mannerisms have earned him the moniker 'Bhindranwale 2.0', Amritpal's actions have made him a polarising figure in his native state itself. It remains to be seen for how long he manages to remain free from the clutches of the law.

Published 20 March 2023, 10:46 IST

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