In a highly unusual development amid the massive co-ordinated action between the Centre, Punjab, and Assam governments, against Khalistani separatist leader Amritpal Singh, who is still on the run, four of his top arrested aides have been flown to Dibrugarh in upper Assam by a special air force aircraft, top police sources said. They will likely to be kept in the high-security Dibrugarh Central Jail.
The radical leader's associates were accompanied by a 30-member team from Punjab Police, including its Inspector General, Prisons. They flew from Amritsar in an AN32 aircraft of the Indian Air Force, and reached Dibrugarh through Jorhat, which is also in Assam. Both Dibrugarh and Jorhat are major bases of the air force.
The Dibrugarh District Collector, and the local Superintendent of Police, received the team with high security at the Mohanbari Airport.
Dibrugarh central jail is one of the oldest prisons in northeast India. It is heavily fortified, and was used to hold top militants during the peak of ULFA militancy in Assam.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said it was just a "police-to-police" cooperation. "There were arrests in Assam as well when we sent people to Bihar's Bhagalpur jail for security reasons. Maybe the Punjab Police feels the prisoners should be held in Assam for a few days," he said.
Punjab Police have so far arrested 78 members of Amritpal Singh's outfit 'Waris Punjab De', while several others have been detained for questioning, officials said. His father has also been detained for questioning, and there's a massive deployment of police and paramilitary forces outside his village, Jallupur Khaira, in Amritsar.
"Six to seven gunmen of Amritpal Singh are among those arrested by police," said Kuldeep Singh Chahal, Jalandhar Police Commissioner.
The self-styled preacher's close aide, Daljeet Singh Kalsi, who handles his finances, was also this morning arrested from Haryana's Gurgaon.
Sources say Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had discussed the plan to arrest Amritpal Singh with Home Minister Amit Shah in a meeting on March 2.
Internet and SMS were snapped across Punjab on Saturday after Amritpal Singh's associates started circulating frantic videos appealing to his supporters to gather at the village where the police had trapped him. The internet and SMS ban has been further extended by a day, till 12 pm on Monday.