Canada's Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan pays obeisance at Golden Temple; radicals raise Khalistan slogans
Harjit Singh Sajjan is a Sikh whose native village, Bambeli, falls in Hoshiarpur district of Punjab.
Amritsar: Canada's Indian-origin Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan on Thursday paid obeisance at the Golden Temple here.
He was presented with a robe of honour.
Meanwhile, Sikh radicals raised pro-Khalistan slogans and clashed with Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) task force volunteers outside the Golden Temple complex during Sajjan's visit.
The protestors, belonging to the hardline 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 shortly after 6 am.
The Minister offered prayers inside the sanctum sanctorum for around 15 minutes and listened to hymns. He also took a 'parikrama' (went around the shrine) and sat there awhile.
Wearing a grey turban and a white shirt, Sajjan took a round of the Harmandir Sahib's complex and spent over an hour in its premises.
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.
The minister will travel to Chandigarh later today to inaugurate the new office of the Consulate-General of Canada.
The Canadian defence minister reached the holy city of Amritsar from New Delhi 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.
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.
(With Agency inputs)