Canadian defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan began his two-day visit to his native state Punjab on Wednesday evening with no representative of the state government receiving him at the Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport at Rajasansi in Amritsar, where he landed around 6.30 pm.
Only a sub-divisional magistrate led officials who were present to receive him, while some radical Sikh organisation members — standing at the airport gates in solidarity with Sajjan who has been dubbed a “Khalistani sympathiser” by Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh — also raised slogans for him upon his arrival.
On his first visit to native Punjab after becoming a minister in Canada, Sajjan is to be in the state for April 21 and 22, during which he is to visit the Golden Temple and also his native village Bombeli, 15 km from Hoshiarpur.
Even the deputy commissioner of Amritsar, Kamaldeep Singh Sangha, and police commissioner Nageshar Rao were not present. As for Ajnala SDM Anupreet Kaur who was deputed to receive him, sources said Sajjan did not even notice her, nor did he shake hands with any of the officials. He got off the plane and rushed straight to the exit. He was late by around an hour and a half.
There was heavy security deployment with 150 cops led by deputy commissioner of police Amarjit Singh Bajwa at the airport; besides troops of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and security officials of the Canadian embassy from New Delhi.
As soon as he came out, members of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), Sikh Youth Federation (Bhindranwale) and some factions of Damdami Taksal started shouting slogans of ‘Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal’ to welcome him. He responded by raising his hand before he sat in his car to leave for his hotel. The activists also wanted to honour him with siropas (robes of honour) and garlands but the police did not let them.
Curiously, opposition party Shiromani Akali Dal, which had flayed the CM’s “Khalistani” barbs and welcomed Sajjan in media statements, did not send its any representative to welcome him.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) will honour him at the Golden Temple, and had put up welcome hoardings along the road from the airport to the hotel where he is staying.
Sajjan is scheduled to reach Golden Temple at 8 am on Thursday. He will also visit Pingalwara, a noted shelter home for the destitute.