They include Gurmeet Singh Bukkanwala, Basant Singh, Bhagwant Singh alias Pardhan Mantri Bajeke (all of Moga), Daljit Singh Kalsi of Haryana, and Amritpal’s uncle Harjit Singh of Amritsar.
Who is Bhagwant Singh, alias Pardhan Mantri?
A social media influencer and a farmer, Bhagwant Singh was arrested from his farm in Bajeke village of Moga on Sunday. He carries ‘Pardhan Mantri Bajeke’ as the profile name on his social media handles. In an interview to a local web channel in 2020, after his videos started getting popular on social media, Bhagwant said that he called himself “Pardhan Mantri (Prime Minister)” after coming across a social media page titled “Mukh Mantri (chief minister)”. While his Facebook page has 6.11 lakh followers, while his Instagram and YouTube channels have been taken down.
According to police dossier, Bhagwant Singh (38), is class 8 graduate and owns 4 acres land at his village. He owns a house and is an active worker of Waris Punjab De. The dossier says that he is known for hurling abuses in his videos on social media and picks regular fights with fellow villagers. It adds that earlier Bhagwant Singh had chopped hair but after coming in contact with Amritpal, he practised Amrit Sanchar and started wearing turban. He also regularly visited the ongoing protest by Qaumi Insaaf Morcha at Mohali for release of Sikh prisoners. He does not own any licensed weapon and has no political background.
Moga police said Bhagwant Singh has previously been booked in eight FIRs including that for attempted murder, recovery of opium under the NDPS Act, flouting Covid-19 restrictions and land dispute, among others. Most of these FIRs were registered at Dharamkot police station in Moga and he was bailed out. In May 2015, he was booked for attempt to murder in a land dispute case and in April 2017, he was booked for the alleged recovery of 400 grams of opium.
Commenting on the FIRs registered against him, Bhagwant Singh had said in the interview that the cases against him were due to “jattan di ladaai (clashes involving the Jat community)”. He had claimed that he was booked for attempt to murder after some rival groups tried to encroach his land. He had refuted allegations that he was into drugs.
The police said Bhagwant started supporting and following Amritpal Singh last year after Waris Punjab De shot to fame among rural youths in Punjab. “Earlier he used to dress mostly in T-shirts, shirts and trousers without a turban but after getting associated with WPD, he had started wearing the Sikh traditional attire (chola) and a turban. He would carry swords and other weapons such as rifles. He would be present at almost every gathering organised by the WPD and would promote Amritpal on social media by sharing his videos,” said a police official.
Recently, Bhagwant was booked in another FIR in November last year for flaunting weapons on social media. In the FIR, it was stated that he does not own any licensed weapon and was misleading youths by putting up his photos with weapons and flaunting them on social media. An FIR was registered against him under sections 29, 30 of the Arms Act and section 188 of the IPC at Dharamkot police station on November 22, 2022.
Moga police sources said Bhagwant was under the scanner for his alleged role in the Ajnala violence when Amritpal and his supporters attacked a police station using the Sri Guru Granth Sahib as a shield to get their aide freed in a kidnapping case. Amritpal’s uncle Harjit Singh, who also surrendered before the police on Monday, in an interview to a web channel, had said that “people like Pardhan Mantri Bajeke held by police were just common supporters” of WPD and “had no other role to play in the functioning of the organisation”.
Gurmeet Singh Bukkanwala (35)
A native of Bukkanwala village of Moga, he owns a furniture store at nearby Duneke village. His father is a retired patwari (revenue department official). Sources in Moga police said that earlier Gurmeet was attached with actor Deep Sidhu, the founder of Waris Punjab De which was later taken over by Amritpal Singh. After Ajnala violence on February 23, an inquiry was also initiated against him regarding his weapon license which is still pending. Police said that after his detention, Gurmeet said that he had joined Amritpal’s group to motivate Sikh youths to get baptised. Police said that Gurmeet used to attend all crucial meetings of WPD and was very close to Amritpal.
According to police sources, Gurmeet was part of mob that stormed Ajnala police station on February 23. He had no previous criminal record.
Basant Singh (28)
A native of Daulatpura village of Moga, Basant Singh is a radical, baptized Sikh who had returned from Dubai after working there for almost two years as a labourer. After returning, he had started supporting Deep Sidhu in farmers’ agitation and later became a part of Waris Punjab De. A class 12 graduate, he also worked as a clerk with a private bank before going to Dubai. Police sources said that Basant Singh was the right hand of Amritpal Singh and used to be with him for most of the day. Currently he was handling the work of a drug de-addiction centre run by Amritpal Singh. His father is a lambardaar of the village. Sources said that nowadays he hardly used to come home to the village and used to live with Amritpal. Basant too was part of the group that attacked Ajnala police station on February 23. He too had no previous criminal record.
Daljeet Singh Kalsi
A close aide of Amritpal Singh, Daljeet Singh Kalsi was arrested from Gurugram. He is said to be the main financier of Amritpal and Waris Punjab De and had started a company named Sterling India, a multi-level marketing company located in Delhi, in early 2000s. He is learnt to have used the unregulated direct selling route to run ponzi schemes. He was also on the Board of Directors of Tirumalla Tirupati Multi State Cooperative Credit Society under a pseudonym Sarabjeet Singh, as on April 21, 2018. A credit of at least Rs 35 crore from foreign countries over the last two years was found in the bank account of Kalsi, according to investigating agencies. Under scrutiny are also about two dozen mobile phone numbers from Pakistan from which calls were made or received on Kalsi’s phone.