The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) honoured Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne at the Golden Temple on Sunday morning, but claimed not to have given her the ceremonial ‘siropa’ (robe of honour). However, Wynne’s office said in the evening that she was presented a ‘siropa’ at the shrine, while releasing a photo to buttress its claim.
SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar had said on Friday that the ‘siropa’ would not be offered to Wynne – a lesbian who has been in the crosshairs of Sikhs in the Canadian province over her pro-gay policies ‑ as such a move “would be against Sikh ethics”. However, he had hastened to add that everyone was welcome to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple.
The SGPC honoured Wynne behind closed doors, keeping the media out of bounds, even as Makkar was not present on the occasion. SGPC chief secretary Harcharan Singh later told the media that she was given books, a memento of the Golden Temple and other gifts, but not the ‘siropa’.
“If you consider these gifts as the ‘siropa’, then it’s up to you. She is a premier and it was our duty to welcome and honour her,” he said.
On being asked about Makkar’s decision not to honour Wynne with a ‘siropa’, the chief secretary said, “All arrangements were made with his (Makkar’s) permission.”
It is learnt that the Punjab government had intervened to ensure that the Canadian dignitary did not face embarrassment.
On the Akal Takht’s tough stand against same-sex marriages -- a controversial issue championed by Wynne -- Harcharan Singh said, “The Takht’s directions are for our (Sikh) community, but she is a Christian,” adding that the SGPC had taken up Canadian Sikhs’ issues with the premier, who had assured all help.
He said the matter of helmets being made mandatory for Sikhs was also raised with Wynne.
Meanwhile, evading the media ever since she landed in Amritsar, Wynne visited the Golden Temple in a traditional Punjabi suit and also performed ‘sewa’ inside the community kitchen. She wrote on her Twitter handle, “Pleased to have been honoured at the Golden Temple.” She also posted a picture that showed her wearing a ‘siropa’.
The SGPC, which is usually prompt in issuing pictures of ceremonies to honour dignitaries, did not release any photo in this case.
Wynne is on a 10-day business trip to India.