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The Dramatic Rise of Amritpal Singh in Sikh Politics

The Dramatic Rise of Amritpal Singh in Sikh Politics

The Dramatic Rise of Amritpal Singh in Sikh Politics

Amritpal Singh's dubious but surprising entry into the Sikh religious and political ranks has been the subject of much discussion and controversy. His provocative statements and activities have raised concerns among the government and security agencies. He recently took charge of an organization named 'Waris Punjab De' (WPD), formed by the late actor and activist Deep Sidhu. He chose village Rode, the birthplace of Sant Jarnail Singh Khalsa Bhindranwala, who was the 14th head of Damdami Taksal, for his turban tying ceremony. He has adopted many things from Bhindrawale, his classic dress, his initiation into piety (Amrit Shakna) at Sri Anandpur Sahib and meeting with the great saints shows that he has a perfect ear for the Sikh panthic pulse. He has become a center of attraction and an ideal for many a Sikh youth.

By using the sense of alienation felt by a large number of Sikhs due to successive governments in Punjab, he is keenly interested and prepared to fill the political vacuum created by the popularly rejected political parties in the state. He has also been cashing in on the popularity of Sant Bhindranwala and Deep Sidhu. He is not only consistently raising issues of Punjab but also voicing his support for Khalistan, a more aggressive stance from his predecessor Deep Sidhu. He considers Sant Bhindranwala as his ideal but the fact is Sant Bhindranwala never explicitly demanded for Khalistan, although he did say that if the Indian government offers to give Khalistan to the Sikhs, the Sikhs will not refuse. Bhindrawala called for more autonomy for the states and the rights of the Sikhs.

While it is true that Amritpal Singh is raising issues related to Sikhism today, but little is known about his background and motives. The appointment of Amritpal Singh as the head of WPD has courted some controversy. 37-year-old Deep Sidhu died on February 15, 2022 in a tragic road accident on the highway in Kharkhoda area of Haryana near Delhi. Deep Sidhu was arrested by the police on charges of inciting violence and hoisting the flag at the Red Fort during the Kisan Republic Day protest in 2021. Meanwhile, Deep Sidhu formed the organization called 'Waris Punjab de' in September 2021 to work for social and political concerns. After the death of Deep Sidhu, Amritpal Singh was appointed the head without a meeting or organozational resolution. This led to a dispute in the organization. Bir Davinder Singh, one of Deep Sidhu's close associates, claims that Deep Sidhu himself was not the president of 'Waris Punjab De'. He formed a 16-member committee and patronized the organization himself by making Harnek Singh Uppal Fauji the president. He also claimed that Deep Sidhu had blocked Amritpal Singh while he was alive. No official meeting was held nor was a resolution passed to change the president. He therefore claimed that Amritpal Singh was nothing but a self-proclaimed president who has illegally occupied the organization.

Amritpal Singh has prepared the ground for an active opposition against Christians and the government by inciting Sikh sentiments on blasphemy in his speeches, raising the demand for Khalistan, discrimination against the Sikh community and targeting the conversions being done by Christian pastors. He is attempting to recreate dark times of the past by inciting violence and advocating bloodshed while openly playing with emotions on every issue. He is being supported in this work by some irresponsible social media channels and inflammatory articles in newspapers by the same few people who had contributed to inflame the situation earlier. This has been verified by senior journalist Gurupdesh Singh Bhullar as follows: "There are many conspiracies to spoil the atmosphere of Punjab due to the current situation. Some channels and media people are also being used.'' The worrying thing for serious and sincere thinkers is the fear of discord between Hindus and Sikhs in Punjab.

Amritpal Singh does not hesitate to misinterpret Sikh principles. He went as far as declaring Deep Sidhu a 'National Martyr' of Punjab from the stage of village Rode in the presence of preachers who are familiar with Sikh principles and the concept of martyrdom in Sikhism. No one corrected him, which makes it clear that a group of opportunists has gathered around him, who has little to do with Sikh principles. Perhaps sensing the intentions of Amritpal, Bhindranwala's nephew, former Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode clarified that Amritpal Singh's turban tying ceremony is limited to his heading WPD and not the Sikh Community. Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) President, Simranjit Singh Mann has has been demanding Khalistan for a long time, has gone to the extent of asking gangsters to join Amritpal Singh in his mission.

Amritpal has been criticized by many Sikh preachers and thinkers on his ways and ideology. Baba Banta Singh, an eminent storyteller of the Baba Biddhichand sect and Sikh preacher Sarbjot Singh Swadi have criticized the rise of Amritpal, saying that he has no deep knowledge or education on Sikh affairs and is purely a product of social media. Joginder Singh Ugrahan, President of Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta Ugrahan called Amritpal Singh a young immature boy. Eminent scholar and Sikh thinker, Dr. Harbhajan Singh Dehradun stated that someone who suddenly appears out of nowhere should not be trusted and needs to be investigated. According to him, Amritpal has been brought from Dubai in response to the growing popularity of Deep Sidhu and Moosewala among the youth of Punjab.

Amritpal Singh is being supported by Sikh separatist parties from abroad, such as 'World Sikh Parliament' run from the USA, Sikhs for Justice etc. They are also encouraging the Sikh Diaspora to support Amritpal. It cannot be overlooked that since the Akali Dal has weakened, efforts are being made to take its place in the Sikh community. The rise of Deep Sidhu and Moosewala has proven that a hot-headed youth can easily gather a considerable amount of following among the Sikh youth. In such a situation, it is important for the Sikh panth to be cautious and demand a serious investigation in the origin and motives of Amritpal.

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