Sikh radicals raised pro-Khalistan slogans and clashed with SGPC task force volunteers outside the Golden Temple complex here in Punjab on Thursday during Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan’s visit.
The protestors, belonging to the hardliner Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and other radical organisations, stood outside the Sikh shrine complex with posters, banners and placards welcoming the Indian origin Sajjan and condemning the Punjab government.
They raised pro-Khalistan slogans as Sajjan arrived at the ‘Harmandir Sahib’. The protestors were stopped by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee task force members from coming close to the visiting Minister.
However, the Canadian Defence Minister avoided the radical elements and was received by top SGPC functionaries, including its President Kirpal Singh Badungar, to a red carpet welcome.
Sajjan offered prayers at the holiest of Sikh shrines and remained there for over one hour.
The SGPC ensured that the radical elements did not create any situation inside the shrine complex.
The Minister offered prayers inside the sanctum sanctorum and listened to hymns. He also took a ‘parikrama’ (went around the shrine) and sat there a while.
The first Sikh to become the Defence Minister of a western nation, Sajjan, 46, was later honoured by the SGPC at the shrine complex with a ‘siropa’ (traditional honour) and presented a replica of the Golden Temple and a sword.
Sajjan arrived in the Sikh holy city on Wednesday evening amid controversy over him being labelled as a “Khalistani sympathiser” by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
He was received at the airport by the district administration officers. Members of some radical groups were also present outside the Sri Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport with banners to welcome Sajjan.
The Minister’s family hails from Bambeli village, 15 km from Hoshiarpur. His family had migrated to Canada in mid-1970s, when Sajjan was around five years old.
Sajjan will visit his native village and then arrive in Chandigarh on Thursday.
Amarinder Singh had stirred a controversy last week when he said that he would not meet the visiting Canadian Minister due to his (Sajjan’s) links to radical elements who demand for a separate Sikh state, Khalistan.
In New Delhi, Sajjan sought to play down the controversy on Tuesday saying that he did not want the break-up of any country.
The Shiromani Akali Dal and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have welcomed Sajjan to Punjab and have condemned Amarinder Singh for his stand on the Canadian Minister.