Canadian defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan paid obeisance at the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, amid tight security at 7.30am on Thursday.
Unlike Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s cold shoulder, apex Sikh religious body the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) rolled out the red carpet for the visiting dignitary but kept radical Sikhs at bay. The radical Sikhs raised slogans of ‘Khalistan Zindabad’ and clashed with the SGPC task force when they were prevented from meeting Sajjan in the plaza near the temple entrance.
A calm Sajjan, attired in a grey turban, white shirt and a pair of grey trousers, arrived at 7am, walked the ‘parikrama’ (path around the sanctum sanctorum) before sitting and listening to the kirtan (prayers) in the Darbar Sahib for half an hour. He offered ‘parsad’ at the shrine before he was honoured with the ‘siropa’ (robe of honour).
The SGPC put up a small tent in the plaza for his reception. Its task force cordoned off the area and did not allow members of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) from entering the venue to meet the Canadian minister. A scuffle ensued between SAD(A) activists and the task force. Upset, the radicals raised slogans of ‘Khalistan Zindabad’. Unperturbed, Sajjan received another ‘siropa’ from SGPC chief Kirpal Singh Badungar there. He was also presented a sword and a memento.
Badungar and senior SGPC members remained with the minister throughout the visit. Though Sajjan did not interact with the media, Badungar said, “It’s an honour to host a person who has made such a great name for himself. He has done the Sikh community proud.”
Sajjan landed at Amritsar on Wednesday evening but was not given a state reception after Amarinder declared he will not meet him as the Canadian minister was “a Khalistani sympathiser”.