Is Amritpal Singh a modern day magician and escape artist?

Why is the Punjab police now so incapable of dealing with or arresting neo-Khalistani advocate Amritpal Singh?

Is Amritpal Singh a modern day magician and escape artist?

Sujata Anandan

When Naxal activities in the forests of Gadchiroli in Maharashtra were at their peak, a director general of police in Mumbai had boasted, “Even if they sneeze in the forest, we immediately get to know about it in our Mumbai headquarters and they are eliminated within minutes.”

That might have been an exaggeration but the Punjab police have had enough experience dealing with potential terrorists, trained as they were by Julio Ribeiro, who had presided over some of the most glorious episodes of policing in Maharashtra.

Posted as Director General of Police in Punjab after his stints in Maharashtra and Gujarat, Ribeiro had been very upset to see the young three- and four-year old children of policemen crying their hearts out at the funerals of their fathers.

”They did not even understand what had happened to their fathers. But I soon realised – we had armed them with rusty, outdated weapons that were now only good for show. So when they were ambushed and attacked by Khalistan’s, they were simply ill-equipped to defend themselves against the AK-47s of those terrorists.

"I told the prime minister (then Rajiv Gandhi) that it was time to modernise the police forces, including arming them with the latest in weapons that would match the terrorists’ arms every which way. It had to be a bullet for a bullet, otherwise we would lose Punjab, forever.”

Later on, KPS Gill took over from Ribeiro and he was more culturally suited to dealing with not just the terrorists but also the people of Punjab harbouring them. Ribeiro himself admitted that he had the handicap of not just the language but also the mindset and that Gill could get deeper into their psyche. Not surprisingly, between the two of them, they had licked the problem dry.

So why are the Punjab police now so incapable of dealing with or arresting neo-Khalistani advocate Amritpal Singh? Like the Maharashtra police, the Punjab police had made sure that even a whisper of a conspiracy in Pakistan or anywhere else in the world, including the UK or Canada, would be heard instantly in Chandigarh and Amritsar.

But now while people seem to be spotting Amritpal everywhere from Nepal to Pakistan and Maharashtra, the Punjab police seem only to be letting him slip from between their fingers.

Look at how many times the Khalistan advocate has been spotted by other than the Punjab police.

For example, one media report on Saturday said he was “spotted in black goggles and trousers” exiting the house of a woman who had sheltered him from the police crackdown on his outfit Waris de Punjab in Amritsar.

A few days earlier a television channel claimed that they had “two clincher cctv tapes to show he was in Patiala".

Presumably, police had allowed him to escape to the woman’s house in Amritsar and from there to the national capital. For on the same day as the headline claimed he was spotted in the city of the Golden Temple, another said he was seen in Delhi with his aide Papalpreet and that his next stop was Uttarakhand.

Yet, despite this information, neither the Punjab police nor their counterparts in Uttarakhand have been able to lay their hands on the man, much like the Haryana police. For two days before he was spotted in Delhi, he seemed to have been in Haryana but now the latest media headline seems to suggest he has returned to that state and was spotted in Kurukshetra, having changed his attire from traditional Punjabi dress to the western attire of shirt and trousers.

Now if so many cctv’s have managed to entrap the Khalistan advocate, why have the Punjab police not caught up with him yet?

It is almost as though Amritpal is Harry Houdini reborn. Houdini was a Hungarian-American escape artist and magician of the late 19th century who challenged police forces across Europe and America to keep him locked up and escaped all chains, locks, ropes, straitjackets, underwater burials and real ones in the earth.

But Amritpal is no magician and this is no game. He is just another advocate of Khalistan going against the law of the land. And if the police are unable to nab him, could it be their failure rather than some magic powers vested in Amrit Pal Singh?

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