Himachal Pradesh was put on high alert on Sunday, amid threat of referendum for Khalistan on June 6 and flags with Khalistani symbols found tied outside the state Assembly in Tapowan Area of Dharamsala in the morning.
The Himachal Police have named US-based NRI, Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, head of the controversial organisation Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), as the main accused in the case.
A first information report (FIR) has been filed under sections 153-A, 153-B (promoting enmity) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 3 of HP Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act, 1985.
Police officials said in view of the Khalistani elements in neighbouring states and a Khalistani banner surfacing in Una last month, the threat from separatists was being taken seriously.
The director general of police has ordered superintendents of police of districts adjoining other states to monitor and check hotels, inns and crowded areas as possible hideouts. Bomb Disposal Squad, special security units and quick response teams, too, have been kept on alert.
All inter-state borders have been sealed, while the state border will be monitored closely.
The security at dams, railway stations, sensitive cities and important government buildings, too, will be beefed up. From banks to public sector undertakings (PSUs), security staff at all spots have been asked to stay alert.
Authorities on Sunday morning removed flags with Khalistani symbols found tied on the main gate and boundary wall of the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly in Dharamshala.
Kangra SP Khushal Sharma said the incident might have taken place late night or early morning. “We have removed the Khalistan flags from the Vidhan Sabha gate. It could be an act of some tourists from Punjab,” the official said.
As the issue gathered steam and invited political reactions, a special investigation team (SIT) was directed to probe the incident.
“I condemn the cowardly incident of putting up Khalistan flags at the gate of Dharamshala Assembly Complex in the dark of night. There is only winter session in this assembly, so there is a need for increased security arrangements here mostly during that time,” CM Jairam Thakur said in a tweet.
Thakur further said an inquiry had been ordered and an FIR registered in the incident. “CCTV footage is being analysed. We will take strict action against the culprits. I urge the people of the state to maintain peace. We will soon review security at our borders with other states,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party after the incident. “Entire BJP is trying to save one goon (Tajinder Singh Bagga) and Khalistani left there (HP assembly with flags. Khalistani flags were put on the Legislative Assembly. How will a government that cannot save the Legislative Assembly save the people? This is a matter of respect for Himachal Pradesh. It is a matter of security of the country. The BJP government has completely failed,” said AAP minister Manish Sisodia in a tweet.
Meanwhile, the Himachal Pradesh BJP accused an AAP leader of openly supporting Khalistan, alleging that he had put out a series of tweets in its support some years ago.
AAP’s social media head in the hill state Harpreet Singh Bedi had in 2012 and 2020 posted a series of anti-India and pro-Khalistan tweets, demanded new currency for the separatist group, and posted a dollar that depicted the Republic of Khalistan with a photo of the group’s leader, BJP state general secretary Trilok Jamwal told the media.