Seven months after actor and activist Sandeep Singh alias Deep Sidhu died in a road accident, the ‘Waris Panjab De’ — an organisation that he had formed “to protect rights of Punjab and raise social issues” — landed in a controversy Thursday with a 29-year-old Sikh man taking charge as its president, while calling on the youth from the community to “wake up” and “fight for the freedom” of panth and Punjab.
While launching ‘Waris Punjab de’ at Chandigarh in September last year ahead of Punjab polls, Deep Sidhu had said that it “was a pressure group to protect rights and culture of Punjab, raise social issues such as health, education and raise voice against dictatorship of Delhi.”
Sidhu was booked by Delhi Police for alleged role in violence and hoisting Sikh flag at Red Fort during farmers protest march on Republic Day last year.
The actor’s family, meanwhile, denied any links with Amritpal Singh (29), who claims to be follower of slain militant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, and said that he was “misusing Sidhu’s name” and “befooling youth in the name of Khalistan.”
Addressing a gathering at Moga’s Rode, the native village of Bhindranwale on Thursday, where he was declared as the head of ‘Waris Panjab De’ and ‘Dastaarbandi’ (turban tying) ceremony was organised amid slogans of “Raj Karega Khalsa”, Amritpal Singh said that he wanted to clarify that he was not trying to “copy” the slain militant.
“Bhindranwale is my inspiration. I will walk the path shown by him. I want to be like him because that’s what every Sikh wants, but I am not copying him. I am not even equal to dust of his feet,” said Amritpal, who was based in Dubai and had returned to Punjab months after Sidhu’s death. He now dresses like Bhindranwale and armed men escort him.
Amritpal said that Sidhu was a “quomi shaheed” (martyr of the Sikh community). “People like Sidhu, who are on Guru’s duty, can never die in accidents. We know how he died, who killed him,” said Amritpal, who addressed the gathering from a stage put up near Gurdwara Sant Khalsa, built in Bhindranwale’s memory.
Passing 15 resolutions including one which said that none can interfere in religious bodies and issues of Sikhs, Amritpal said: “Each drop of my blood is dedicated to panth di azadi. Our battle started from this village in the past, future battles will also start from here.”
“We all are still slaves…We have to fight for freedom.. our waters are being looted, our Guru is being disrespected… Entire youth of Punjab should be ready to give up their lives for panth.,” he said, adding he will be moving to each village of Punjab and “bring youth back to Sikhi”.
Asking youth to guard their villages against drug menace, he said that instead of running away abroad after clearing IELTS, they should stay in Punjab and fight the “battle for its freedom.”
Amritpal said that those who will do sacrilege will not be sent to court or handed to police. “Ohda sodha laguga (we will punish them). Sikhs who have fallen for drugs will be made followers of Guru again and will be given shastra vidya,” he said.
“We never met him before. Deep too never met him. He was in touch with Deep over phone for sometime but later Deep had blocked him. We do not know how he has declared himself as head of my brother’s organization. He is misusing our name to propagate anti-social activities. He somehow got access to my brother’s social media accounts and started posting on them,” said Mandeep, who along with Deep had actively participated in farmer protests against Centre.
Stating that Sidhu was also a practising lawyer at Mumbai High Court, Mandeep said: “My brother had made this organization for a social cause, to raise issues of Punjab and to provide legal aid to the needy, not to propagate Khalistan. Amritpal is talking of creating unrest in Punjab. He is befooling people using my brother’s and Khalistan’s name. My brother was not a separatist”.
Earlier, Bhindranwale’s family members, including nephew Jasvir Singh Rode, attended the Thursday’s programme while his elder brother Harcharan Singh Rode watched it live from the US.
Jasvir Singh said: “Amritpal clarified today that he was not trying to copy Bhindranwale but is his disciple. We do not know much about him, but he said that he left his transport business in Dubai and returned to Punjab to take responsibility for Sidhu’s organization. His uncle who was in the UK has also returned. Their family is an old follower of Damdami Taksal.”
SAD (Amritsar)’s Sangrur MP Simranjit Singh Mann, who too attended the programme, said, “The Punjab government has declared that those who will talk about Khalistan will have to face enquiry but I would like to inform AAP leaders that raising demand for Khalistan is no crime. We can write about Khalistan, hold meetings and talk about it without any fear. The foundation of Khalistan will be laid soon”.
Amritpal hails from Jallupur Khera village of Baba Bakala division in Amritsar district. His uncle Harjit Singh, who returned to Punjab from UK, said that Sidhu’s supporters have made Amritpal the head of the organization. “We do not know why Sidhu’s brother and family are not supporting it. Amritpal’s mission is to encourage youths to become Amritdhari Sikhs (baptised) and shun drugs”.
Punjab former deputy CM and Congress leader Sukhjinder Randhawa said that central and state governments should immediately probe Amritpal Singh and his background. “An attempt is being made to create unrest in Punjab again. Pakistan does not leave a chance to create violence in Punjab in name of Khalistan and exploring sentiments of people. How can a person or an organization hold such pro-Khalistan rallies openly and give such speeches. Amritpal Singh was not even there in India when Deep Sidhu was active here. Suddenly he has become an Amritdhari Sikh and landed in Punjab from Dubai. This is alarming.”