Edited By: Oindrila Mukherjee
Last Updated: March 18, 2023, 21:25 IST
Some families had come to Jallupur Khera from other districts of Punjab for a ‘darshan’ of ‘Babaji’ Amritpal Singh. (Image: News18)
Before being on the run, Khalistani leader Amritpal Singh was moving around in Jallupur Khera village in a battery of SUVs while his aides roamed its lanes carrying weapons, all along largely ignored by the police
When a man bent to touch his feet, Khalistani leader Amritpal Singh scolded him: “Why did you touch my feet? Is there a photograph? Delete that picture…”
This was last Monday (March 13) only five days before Punjab Police was hot on his heels on Saturday. He had specifically instructed the News18 team, present at his home for an interview, not to shoot videos or take pictures of his armed guards.
While a heavy posse of Rapid Action Force, paramilitary forces and Punjab Police descended on the village as police continued to chase Amritpal near Jalandhar, there was not a single cop in sight in Jallupur Khera on Monday, from where the radical leader ran his personal fiefdom.
Located 40 km from Amritsar, the village has the Rayya police station nearby but police personnel there had no answer when asked how Amritpal and his guards were roaming around carrying weapons.
Jallupur Khera village in Punjab is located 40 km from Amritsar. (Image: News18)
The narrow lane to his house was straddled with CCTV cameras, which also covered his house from all sides with his aides monitoring the footage inside. An armed person let us inside the iron door of the house, duly checking that we had sought time with the leader.
There were a few families present inside – women and children, who had come from other districts for darshan of ‘Babaji’ Amritpal Singh. He emerged after some time to pose for photographs with the visitors but specified that no videos should be made.
After a 15-minute interview, Amritpal left for the village gurdwara, only 200 m from his residence, in a cavalcade of SUVs. He spent a couple of hours there giving sermons and visiting a de-addiction centre inside the gurdwara premises. After he left, we spoke to Sikh man from the de-addiction centre, who had come all the way from Australia and spoke fluent English, and said he had dwelt on Amritpal’s demand for Khalistan. But soon enough, Amritpal’s supporters descended and demanded that the video should be deleted as their leader’s permission was needed for this.
News18 found that in the adjoining villages like Nijjar and Rayya, people were mostly wary of Amritpal and his ways. A group of youngsters near Nijjar, in fact, gave wrong directions to the team for Jallupur Khera. They were just coming out of a congregation in the village by a Christian preacher. An elder said Amritpal spoke against Christian preachers, accusing them of conversion and, hence, there was tension in the area.
The residents of Jallupur Khera village, however, preferred not to speak about Amritpal but a couple of farmers working in the fields said in hushed tones that the open display of weapons by the leader’s men had created a sense of fear in the village.
Amritpal had returned to the village only six months ago from Dubai but police, till Saturday, had not taken any action against him. Now, with the police closing in on him, he is likely to be in jail for a long time if he is arrested and this interview to News18 could be his last.
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Aman Sharma, Senior Editor (Politics), at CNN-News18, and Bureau Chief at News18 in Delhi, has nearly two decades of experience in covering the wide s