Chandigarh, November 27: Since the news of the escape of six inmates from the Nabha jail came up, Punjab has been under the shadow of high alert. The inmates ranged from gangsters to the leader of the infamous Khalistan Liberation Force, were helped by a group of six to eight armed men who reportedly broke into the jail. Let us look at the incident and figure out all we need to know about the Nabha jailbreak and the person of interest, Harminder Singh Mintoo. Also Read - Prashant Kishor Appointed as Political Analyst of Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh

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A group of assailants reportedly broke into the Nabha Jail on Sunday and helped as many as six inmates to escape. Amongst the prisoners were Khalistan Liberation Force leader Harminder Singh Mintoo who was arrested back in 2014 from Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi. According to the Patiala Range Deputy Inspector General, the assailants arrived disguised as police officials and led the attack. Also Read - COVID-19: Centre, States Discuss Fresh Spurt in Cases; Nationwide Lockdown on Cards Again?

As per the DIG A.S. Chahal, the armed men, numbered at around six to eight, broke into the jail at around 8:30 am on Sunday in four vehicles. While one of the men was wearing the uniform of a sub-inspector, while the others were dressed as constables. They entered on the pretext of taking away some inmate for court -hearing.

The attackers reportedly open fired and helped the six inmates to escape. The police believed they fled towards Haryana. The inmates who escaped include Khalistan Liberation Force leader Harminder Singh Mintoo, which has been the focus of most, and gangsters Gurpreet Singh, Vicky Gondra, Nitin Deol, Vikramjeet Singh, and according to The Indian Express, Kashmir Singh, who was arrested for an attack on Secretary of the Punjab wing of Shiv Sena.

An alert was sounded in the adjoining states of Haryana, Rajasthan and police have set up special check posts in an attempt to nab the inmates.

That was all about the Nabha jailbreak, now let us see who is Khalistan Liberation Force leader Harminder Singh Mintoo.

Who is Harminder Singh Mintoo?

Harminder Singh Mintoo is the leader of the Khalistan Liberation Force, which was created with the motive of establishing a separate sovereign autonomous Sikh state of Khalistan. The movement which dates back back to the pre-independence era of india, when Muslim league was demanding a separate Islamic state, gained momentum in the years to come. In that scenario, arose many militant groups supporting the cause of Khalistan, KLF is one such group.

Founded in 1986 by Aroor Singh and Sukhwinder Singh Babbar, the group in 1995 was listed as one of the four major militant group in Khalistan movement. This group is reportedly involved in a number of terrorist activities and assassinations, primarily in Punjab.

In November 2014, Harminder Singh Mintoo was arrested from the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, on charges of 10 terror-related cases. Reportedly, Mintoo was returning from Thailand, which was his base of operation for several years.

According to Punjab police, in order to develop contacts, Mintoo tarvelled extensively to European and South East Asian countries using a fake Malaysian passport and identity card. He also reportedly had contacts in Pakistan and received financial assistance.

The cases against Mintoo include attacks on Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and three Shiv Sena leaders. Allegedly he was part of a plan to launch an attack on Independence day in Punjab but that did not happen. He also reportedly planted IED at Halwara Air Force Station near Ludhiana in 2010.

To get a better understanding of the Khalistan issue let us go back to understanding what is the Khalistan Movement.

What is the Khalistan Movement?

In pre-independence India, when demand for a separate state based on religion, namely Islamic, was raised by the Muslim League, the Sikhs raised the demand for a separate nation state as well. This potential nation-state was named Khalistan, a term coined by Dr. Vir Singh Bhatti, as early as 1940. While eventually the demand of the Muslim League was accepted and Pakistan was formed, the demand for Khalistan was rejected by Jawaharlal Nehru. But he assured a semi-autonomous state to the Sikhs. After the partition of India and Pakistan, most of the Sikh population settled in the Indian side of Punjab, but even after that they were a minority in the country.

Soon, the Akali Dal started seeking autonomy citing issues related to sharing of water with its neighbouring states. Some of the Akali members went a step further and demanded sovereign autonomy for Punjab, hence refuelling the Khalistan issue. Initially, the Khalistan movbement was mostly restricted outside India, with proponents like Jagjit Singh Chauhan raising the issue and garnering support in foreign lands amongst the Sikh diaspora in the United Kingdom and the United States. But in the home frontier, the movement gained momentum during the arrest and release of Sikh religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.

Apart from all these, the situation worsened after a series of events like Operation Blue Star, the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 which led to the rise of strong militant forces with stronger demands of a separate state of Khalistan. In this light came up the Khalistan Commando Force, All India Sikh Students Federation, Babbar Khalsa and the Khalistan Liberation Force.

The escape of the inmates will be surely looked into by authorities and no casualty has been reported, but this escape in broad daylight shows the security lapse in a jail which held so many important prisoners. A month back, alleged SIMI inmates escaped from prison at Madhya Pradesh. Later all of them were neutralised in an alleged encounter with the police force.

But this strategic escape of the Khalistan Liberation Force leader seems to be the beginning of the re-emergence of the Khalistan Movement in Punjab. A challenge Punjab might not be ready to face owing to the coming elections and already deteriorating issue of  Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal.

(Picture Courtesy: Sikh Siyasat News)