Fugitive Sikh separatist Amritpal Singh arrested: Indian police

In this file photo taken on March 3, 2023, 'Waris Punjab De' chief Amritpal Singh (C) pays his respect to the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy book) at the Golden Temple in Amritsar

Firebrand fugitive Sikh separatist Amritpal Singh has been arrested after a massive manhunt that lasted more than a month, Indian police said Sunday.

Police in the northern state of Punjab tweeted that Singh had been "arrested in Moga, Punjab... (We) Urge citizens to maintain peace and harmony, Don't share any fake news, always verify and share."

Media reports said Singh handed himself in early Sunday.

Singh rose to fame earlier this year by preaching for the creation of Khalistan, a separate Sikh homeland, the struggle for which sparked deadly violence in the 1980s and 1990s.

Singh and his supporters, armed with swords, knives and guns, raided a police station in February after one of the 30-year-old preacher's aides was arrested for assault and attempted kidnapping.

Authorities then tried to arrest Singh, but he has been on the run since March 18 after dramatically escaping from police, reportedly on a motorbike after changing clothes at a Sikh temple, or gurdwara.

Authorities cut off mobile internet in the Sikh-majority northern state of 30 million people for days as they searched for him.

They arrested more than 100 of his followers and banned gatherings of more than four people in some areas.

After reported sightings in Delhi and elsewhere, Singh released a video in late March in which he taunted the authorities and called the police operation an "attack on the Sikh community".

"I was neither afraid of arrest earlier, nor am I now. I am in high spirits. Nobody could harm me. It is the grace of God," he said.

Overseas protests

The manhunt sparked protests by Sikhs outside Indian consulates in Britain, Canada and the United States, with demonstrators smashing windows in San Francisco and reportedly vandalising a Gandhi statue in Ontario.

India summoned top US, British and Canadian diplomats in New Delhi to complain and press for improved security at Indian missions in their countries.

Singh's video was posted on Twitter accounts based in Britain and Canada, which the social media company took down in India following government requests, reports said.

Twitter also blocked for Indian users the accounts of several prominent Sikh Canadians who criticised the crackdown, including MP Jagmeet Singh, as well as several journalists, according to the reports.

Punjab -- which is about 58 percent Sikh and 39 per cent Hindu -- was rocked by a violent separatist movement for Khalistan in the 1980s and early 1990s in which thousands of people died.

India has often complained to foreign governments about the activities of Sikh hardliners among the Indian diaspora who, it says, are trying to revive the insurgency with a massive financial push.