Twitter accounts of several Punjab-based journalists and prominent members of the Sikh community have been withheld in India as the manhunt to arrest Khalistani sympathiser Amritpal Singh entered the fourth day on Tuesday.

A message displayed on the withheld accounts says that the action has been taken “in response to a legal demand”. However, the details of the demand are not known.

The Twitter accounts of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar)‎ leader Simranjit Singh Mann and journalists Kamaldeep Singh Brar, Gagandeep Singh, Sandeep Singh are among those which have been taken down. Canadian politician Jagmeet Singh, Canada-based poet Rupi Kaur, voluntary organisation United Sikhs have also had their accounts withheld.

A screenshot of Kamaldeep Singh Brar's Twitter account.

Freelance journalist Sandeep Singh told Scroll that he has not received any e-mail from Twitter on why his account was taken down. Singh also said that he had not tweeted anything controversial and was only posting what was already being shown on news channels.

US-based telecommunications firm Lumen Technologies, which collates Twitter takedown requests governments, told Scroll that it does not have details on the withheld accounts.

In February 2021, the government had asked Twitter to remove hundreds of accounts that criticised the Centre over its handling of the large-scale farmer protests which started in November 2020. The social media platform initially refused, but eventually relented after its local employees were threatened with prison time.

In April 2021, the Centre had asked Twitter to pull down accounts that criticised the government’s handling of Covid-19 during the second wave when lakhs of people died.

Amritpal Singh case

On March 18, the Punjab Police had launched a manhunt to arrest Amritpal Singh, the leader of Waris Punjab De. However, he managed to escape and has been absconding for four days.

Amritpal and his supporters have been booked in several cases, including for storming a police station in Jalandhar on February 23. After the manhunt began, the police also filed a fresh case against Amritpal Singh and some of his supporters for allegedly possessing illegal weapons.

Singh, who garnered a significant following through his speeches that often focussed on Punjab’s youth and religion, has also given several interviews supporting demands for Khalistan, an independent state for Sikhs.

The Khalistan sympathiser had taken over Waris Punjab De last year after the death of its founder Deep Sidhu, an actor and activist who died in an accident in February 2022. He has stylised himself after former militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.