The Indian state of Punjab has launched a massive manhunt for prominent Khalistani leader Amritpal Singh who was last seen in the northern city of Jalandhar.
The search for the Khalistan activist entered its second day in Punjab with widespread crackdown on internet services through shutdowns enforced by the state home department on Sunday.
Mr Singh is the leader of a radical organisation “Waris Punjab De” (Heirs of Punjab) which backs the demand for a separate statehood for Khalistan.
He is leading the group following the death of late actor Deep Sidhu in a road rage incident in February last year and vows to protect the “rights of Punjab and raise social issues” in contradiction of the Indian federal administration.
The Punjab state and police officials have launched a massive search operation to hunt him down after he was last seen speeding away on a motorcycle in Jalandhar, reported Indian news channel NDTV.
Internet services have been suspended till Monday afternoon in the popular northern state to stop the spread of misinformation and rumours on social media, the state officials said.
At least 78 members of his outfit have been arrested and others have been detained for questioning. The police have also arrested four of his top aides in a crackdown and flown to northeastern state Assam by a special aircraft.
Another six to seven gunmen deployed by Mr Singh are also among those arrested by the police, Jalandhar police commissioner Kuldeep Singh Chahal said.
Shortly after he was spotted, a dramatic chase by a special team of the Punjab police ensued as they followed the activist’s convoy as he was headed to Shahkot in the state, reported NDTV.
Mr Singh managed to escape the Punjab police, the report added.
He is known to follow the teachings and dressing style of Indian militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who led a major separatist movement in India in the 1980s.
Security arrangements across Punjab and neighbouring states have been ramped up after Mr Singh’s aides shared some visuals on social media, stating that the police have been chasing them.
Several of these leaders seek to establish a consensus among Sikh communities to carve out a separate homeland within India, which will be known as Khalistan. It is generally proposed that this be achieved through carving out the territory from Punjab, the only Sikh-majority state in the country.