Asia

Indian state extends internet ban in hunt for Sikh separatist

AMRITSAR: Indian authorities extended a mobile internet blackout across a state of about 30 million people on Monday (Mar 20) as police hunted a radical Sikh preacher.

The blackout extension came after supporters of Amritpal Singh were filmed vandalising India’s consulate in San Francisco. A similar disturbance also took place in London.

Authorities in the northern state of Punjab 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.

The internet outage, originally in place until noon on Monday, was extended for another 24 hours.

Videos posted online, and independently verified by AFP, showed men smashing doors and windows at 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. Indian media reported that the vandalism had taken place late on Sunday.

India registered a “strong protest” with the State Department as well as the US embassy in New Delhi.

The US government “was reminded of its basic obligation to protect and secure diplomatic representation”, the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement late on Monday.

Washington “was asked to take appropriate measures to prevent recurrence of such incidents”, the ministry added.

The State Department responded by condemning “this weekend’s vandalism” and saying it was “committed to the safety and security of these facilities as well as the diplomats who work within them”.

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