The Akal Takht has issued a strong statement against the Bhagwant Mann government and the centre over the Punjab Police crackdown against separatist preacher Amritpal Singh, questioning why similar action is not taken against "those who demand Hindu Rashtra".
Akal Takht jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh gave a 24-hour ultimatum to the state government to release Sikh youths picked up during the crackdown against the separatist preacher. He was addressing a gathering of Sikh organisations comprising intellectuals, lawyers, journalists, religious and social leaders to discuss the situation in Punjab.
The Akal Takht is the highest seat of authority for the Sikhs and its Jathedar their top spokesperson.
Questioning why the stringent National Security Act was invoked against those arrested for allegedly supporting Singh and his demand for Khalistan, he said, "There are lakhs who demand Hindu rashtra. Those who are calling for Hindu Rashtra should also be booked .They should also be booked under NSA."
Chief Minister Mann has said he has asked the state police to release those taken into preventive custody if they were not found involved in any anti-national activity. However, he said, strict action will be taken against anyone who tries to disturb peace.
Punjab Police has said it has released 197 persons out of the 353 taken into preventive custody.
The Akal Takht jathedar has cautioned against any violent protest and said that if the arrested youth were not released, "we must not get aggressive but must answer them diplomatically". He said they will approach the high court for the release of those in police custody.
He has said the Akal Takht will take up this matter across the country and the world after Baisakhi. "We will tell them what is being done to us," he said.
He has also targeted news channels that allegedly defamed Sikhs. Alleging that a "narrative" is being set through probe agencies and news channels, the Akal Takht jathedar said, "The hate propaganda done by news channels. we must book the news channels. Are we terrorists?" .
Responding to the Akal Takht jathedar's remarks, Chief Minister Mann today said, "Law is taking its course, there is peace and brotherhood in Punjab. I have asked the police chief and intelligence to immediately release those arrested as a precaution. We released several youngsters yesterday as well."
In an earlier statement, the Akal Takht had asked Amritpal Singh to surrender before police and cooperate with the investigation. He had also questioned police's competence, wondering why they have not been able to catch him so far.