Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan offered prayers at the holiest of Sikh shrines 'Harmandir Sahib' here in Punjab on Thursday morning. Sajjan arrived at the Golden Temple complex and was received by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) President Kirpal Singh Badungar and other members.
The Minister offered prayers inside the sanctum sanctorum and listened to hymns. He also took a 'parikrama' (went around the shrine) and sat there awhile. 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. He is likely to visit his native village and then arrive in Chandigarh. 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.