By Aneri Upadhyay
The Indian government has been looking for Amritpal Singh on charges of spreading misinformation and attempting murder. What began as protests has evolved into a manhunt that is affecting the people of Punjab, India and causing mayhem.
Amritpal Singh is a Sikh activist focused on decreasing the prevalent drug trade in Punjab. He has been open about injustices that the government has committed against minorities in India, especially for Sikhs, according to TIME. Some of these injustices include unwarranted arrests and lack of respect for their beliefs.
In February, a peaceful protest to release Sikh prisoners turned into a violent gathering with blame being shifted between the protests and police. This caused the police to issue a hunt to find Singh, who has fled and is in hiding. It was reported that six police officers were injured as a result of the incident.
This issue has now expanded to affect the citizens of Punjab, who have suffered as a result of this hunt. As reported by Wired, 27 million people had no internet access for 3 days to a week depending on where they were. This was the government’s method for preventing information about wrongdoings committed by them from being spread. The chaos of the chase has also been detrimental to the mental health of people affected by it.
An expert in socio political movements at Guru Nanak Dev University, Professor Jagrup Sekhon, stated that he believed that shutting down the internet was an attempt to stop Singh from gaining more followers along with misinformation.
“We know the role social media has played in recent times in spreading misinformation. Sandhu [Singh] was becoming larger than life,” he said.
Since avoiding arrest, Singh has been reported as seen in the capital, Delhi, and three other cities in India, according to the BBC. He is also being looked for by Nepal’s government after India asked the country to keep a watch out for him.
Singh is also an advocate for the Khalistan movement, rooted in creating a separate land for Sikhs in the Punjab area. This is to strengthen the Sikh population and fill the demand for a politically, socially and economically safe sovereign.
Speaking to his followers, Singh continues to inspire his supporters. He talked to them while standing in the village of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a Sikh insurgent leader that was killed.
As reported by Reuters, he stated that, “We all are still slaves ... We have to fight for freedom.”
An unidentified Indian security officer commented on the matter, stating that most of Singh’s supporters come from not people in Punjab but people overseas.
As seen in Reuters, the officer said, “Surely what’s going on at missions abroad is a reaction to the operation against him. There is a direct link.”
Although it is unknown how many supporters he has gained in India, it is well known that Singh has gained many supporters overseas. As reported by TIME, protests supporting Singh have broken out in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.
This issue affects not only people living in India but also people in the United States that have immigrated from India and have no choice but to watch this happen.
Sophomore finance major Jeetkaran Sudan spoke on the issue and how frustrating it is that this is underreported in the media.
“There should be more awareness about this because just because you don’t see people being killed all at once doesn’t mean that there is not a genocide,” he said.
Sudan also discussed the importance of awareness on such issues. He spoke on how the media in the United States hasn’t really reported on this issue or issues in India in general. When asked about potential solutions, he was hopeful about the issue being mitigated.
“As long as we spread awareness about it and talk about it more, things will be fine in the end,” said Sudan.