Indian police arrest Sikh separatist leader after long hunt

NEW DELHI — Indian police on Sunday, April 23, 2023, arrested a separatist leader who has revived calls for an independent Sikh homeland and the secession of India’s northern Punjab state, which has a history of violent insurgency.

Amritpal Singh had been on the run since last month after capturing national attention in February, when hundreds of his supporters stormed a police station in Ajnala, a town in Punjab state, with wooden batons, swords and guns to demand the release of a jailed aide.

Punjab state police tweeted Sunday that Singh was arrested in Moga, a town in the state.

A Sikh religious leader, Jasbir Singh Rodde, said Singh surrendered to police after offering morning prayers at a Sikh shrine in Moga. Police then arrested him and took him away, he said.

Police officer Sukhchain Singh Gill said police had surrounded the local village on intelligence that Singh was in the shrine. “Relentless pressure built by the police over the past 35 days left Singh with no choice,’’ Gill told reporters.

He said the police didn’t enter the shrine, implying that Singh was taken into custody after he left. The officer declined to confirm that Singh surrendered to police as claimed by his supporters. The officer said Singh was flown to Dibrugarh in India’s northeast where he will be detained until he is brought to court to face charges.

Punjab suffered a bloody insurgency in the 1980s that led to the killing of India’s then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards at her official residence in New Delhi. Her killing triggered bloody rioting by her Hindu supporters against Sikhs in northern India. / AP