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‘Cold-shouldered’ in Delhi, Trudeau lauds reception at Golden Temple

The Canadian Prime Minister wrote on the visitor’s book at the Golden Temple: ‘What an honour to be so well received at such a beautiful, meaningful place. We are filled with grace and humility.’

punjab Updated: Feb 21, 2018 22:22 IST
Surjit Singh
Surjit Singh
Hindustan Times,Amritsar

Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh meeting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s children Hadrien Trudeau, Xavier James Trudeau and Ella-Grace Margret Trudeau during their visit to Amritsar on Wednesday. (HT Photo)

Even as reports of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau being cold-shouldered by India upon his arrival made headlines in the last couple of days, the visiting PM on Wednesday was impressed by what he called a warm reception at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

“What an honour to be so well received at such a beautiful, meaningful place. We are filled with grace and humility,” he wrote on the visitor’s book of the Sikh shrine.

As soon as the Canadian PM, his family along with his Sikh ministers and MPs arrived, devotees also joined members of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to welcome him.

While Union minister of state of housing and urban affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri and Punjab local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu received him on behalf of the central and state governments, SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal welcomed him at the entrance plaza of the shrine.

Devotees raise Sikh slogans

A red carpet was rolled out for the guests at the plaza. As soon as Trudeau washed his feet in “Charan Ganga” before stepping inside the shrine, some devotees raised slogan ‘Jo bole so nihal, sat sri Akal” which he acknowledged and greeted everyone with folded hands.

His wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, their elder son Xavier, daughter Ella-Grace, Sikh ministers Harjit Singh Sajjan, (defence), Navdeep Singh Bains (innovation, science and economic development), Amarjit Singh Sohi (infrastructure and communities). Trudeau’s youngest son Hadrien Trudeau was not accompanying them.

The Trudeaus were dressed up in Punjabi wear. He himself arrived at the Golden Temple in a kurta pyjama dress of cream colour with kesri patka wrapped on his head. His wife and kids were also dressed in Punjabi suits of different colours.

Amid restrictions imposed by the administration and the SGPC keeping in mind security concerns, the devotees present inside eagerly awaited to have a glimpse of the PM, click his pictures and make videos.

“This is a matter of pride for Punjab as well as Sikhs that the PM of a powerful country loved to visit here. A warm welcome was on expected lines as Canada has close connection with Punjabis,” said Mahabir Singh, a devotee.

Before paying obeisance at the sanctum sanctorum during his hour-long stay at the shrine, he along with his wife and kids performed ‘sewa’ (voluntary service) at the community kitchen (langar), which is considered the largest in the world.

Justin Trudeau with his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, son Xavier and daughter Ella-Grace prepare chapatis in the kitchen at Golden Temple in Amritsar on Wednesday. (HT Photo)

There he helped preparing ‘parshadas’ (chapattis) for around 10 minutes. He had his hands folded while revolving around the holy tank (parikarma), perhaps taking a cue from the devotees present there.

“Before paying obeisance at the sanctum sanctorum, the Trudeau couple offered parshad to the devotees while uterring ‘Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa-Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh’,” said SGPC chief secretary Roop Singh.

At one place, he broke the human chain to approach the devotees and say ‘Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki fateh’. The SGPC chief secretary and the Golden Temple chief information officer were seen guiding the family around the complex.

Then the visiting dignitaries were honoured with ‘siropas’ (robes of honour) and garlanded by Sri Harmandar Sahib head priest (granthi) Giani Jagtar Singh. Trudeau shook hand with many while standing in the queue with the devotees. He also paid obeisance at the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs, from outside.

Upon finding that his Sikh ministers — Sajjan, Sohi and Bains — were left behind while entering the community kitchen, Trudeau stopped for a while before going ahead. He even asked the officials to bring them.

SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal (L), SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal (R), and SGPC chief secretary Roop Singh (2R) present a replica of the Golden Temple to the Trudeau family. (HT Photo)

‘Give a replica for my youngest son also’

Felicitating the family at the information office, SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal presented Golden Temple replicas to the Trudeau family — a bigger one to the PM and smaller ones to others. As his youngest son Hadrien was accompanying them, Trudeau asked for one replica for him.

Besides, a gold-plated kirpan (dagger), siropa and a set of books on Sikhism were presented to the PM. The literature given to the kids contained history of Sahibzadas (sons) of the tenth Sikh master Guru Gobind Singh.

Historical visit: Ruby Bhalla

Canadian parliamentarian of Punjabi origin Ruby Dhalla termed their PM’s visit as historical. “The visit has further increased the prestige of the Sikh community with the Canadian PM paying obeisance at the shrine. The visit will also be beneficial for trade and Punjabi students aspiring to go to Canada,” she said.

“This visit has encouraged our Canada-born children who love the country of their origin and contribute for its development,” said Ranjit Singh Pawar, who was among the PM’s delegation.

Paramjit Singh Randhawa, a member of the Liberal Party and who had association with the World Sikh Organisation, reached his birthplace Thru village in Tarn Taran district after decades.

He was included in blacklist on his views on the 1984 riots and was denied visas by India.

“Thanks to the visit, I got visa for my country,” he said while getting emotional.

First Published: Feb 21, 2018 22:15 IST