AMRITSAR: Indian authorities extended a mobile internet blackout across the northern state of Punjab on Monday as police hunted a radical Sikh preacher.

The blackout extension came as supporters of Amritpal Singh were filmed vandalising India’s consulate in San Francisco, not long after similar disturbances in London. The internet outage, originally in place until noon on Monday, was extended for another 24 hours.

Authorities launched a major search on Saturday for Singh, who has risen to prominence in recent months demanding the creation of Khalistan, a separate Sikh homeland.

Police said on Monday they had arrested 114 people so far but Singh’s whereabouts were unknown. According to Press Trust of India (PTI), four of Singh’s top aides, who were arrested and flown to Dibrugarh in Assam, have been charged under the stringent National Security Act (NSA).

Five aides to ‘radical’ Sikh preacher charged under draconian NSA law

The NSA has also been invoked against Singh’s uncle Harjit Singh, who surrendered on Saturday night in Jalandhar, the news agency PTI reported.

The Act allows security agencies to detain without charges those deemed a threat to national security for up to a year.

Videos posted online, and independently verified by AFP, showed men smashing doors and windows of the Indian Consulate in San Francisco after they broke down barricades set up outside the building.

The phrase #FreeAmritpal had been sprayed on the property as several dozen protesters gathered outside. An official said the Indian foreign ministry was looking seriously at the clips.

In response to the protest in London, several people from the Sikh community gathered outside the British High Commission in Delhi on Monday for a demonstration against the pulling down of the Indian flag at the High Commission in London.

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2023

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