Trudeau wins heart of the Sikhs with visit to Golden Temple like a Punjabi

Chandigarh, February 21: It was a grand welcome that was diametrically opposite to the cold shouldered one by the Narendra Modi government to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It was a visit just like by some Punjabi NRI family to the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The entire family that included his wife Sophie  Gregoire and son and daughter came dressed like Punjabis. His daughter looked cute in salwar-kameez with her head covered by a chunni in typical Punjabi style and so was her mother. The family paid obeisance at the Golden Temple like a humble and devoted Punjabi family and there was no slip, not even by the kids.  Here is a lesson for the Indian politicians to learn.

It is the body language that matters and it signalled informality, total humility and adoration.

Canada is virtually the third Punjab having the highest Sikh population after the Indian Punjab and hence, this is a relationship that is different from the one between India and Canada. This is the country that continues to be among the first choice of the young Punjabis who wish to settle abroad. However, Trudeau’s visit was overshadowed by his alleged appeasement of the radical Sikhs in his country who otherwise are small in number but vocal. The Indian establishment had raised certain concerns through a section of the media on the eve of this visit. He is the only visiting dignitary in recent times from the developed world who has not been extended the kind of hospitality witnessed in other cases. The fact has also been overlooked that Canada has strong bonds with Indian Punjab.

It was the first massive  reception to Trudeau ever since he has landed in India at the Golden Temple organised by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. Significantly, the arrangements were made in such a way that there was not much inconvenience to the devotees. He was received by SGPC chief Gobind Singh Longowal and Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal at the plaza in front of the shrine. Accompanying him inside the Golden Temple were SGPC chief secretary Dr Roop Singh and one other official. Both Sukhbir and Longowal stayed back in the information office as per the arrangements.

They were first taken to the Langar where all four members of the Trudeau family performed Sewa (service) by rolling chapatis. Golden Temple head granthi Giani Jagtar Singh honoured them with sirpoas (robe of honour) at the sanctum sanctorum. He was not taken to Akal Takht or martyrs’ memorial dedicated to Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and others who confronted the Indian army during Operation Bluestar in June 1984.

The family greeted people all along with folded hands and observed Sikh practices throughout (Maryada).

It was a visit that characterised total devotion. Trudeau won the heart of the Sikhs with this visit. He need not appease the Sikh radicals in his country for their support. He has done that at purely the religious level. Overwhelmed by the warm Punjabi reception, he wrote down in visitors book: “What an honour to be so well received”.

His visit to the Golden Temple has further cemented the relationship between this Punjab and Canadian ‘Punjab’. Forget the motivated and mischievous bogey of Khalistan raised by  a section of the media. Of course, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh too had his compulsion of toeing this line. It is pertinent to mention that Capt Amarinder Singh used to be perceived as ‘Panthic’ by the Sikh sections at one time. His problem is appeasement of Hindus in Punjab but then this is termed as strategy.

Receiving him at the airport were Union minister of state Hardip Singh Puri and Punjab local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. Capt Amarinder Singh had a 40-minute meeting with Trudeau where Canadian defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan was also present. He raised the issue of Sikh radicals operating from Canadian soil.

In case the support to Khalistan still continues, then the Indian establishment  should go into its roots to deal with the situation at the political level.

The focus here is Trudeau’s visit to the Golden Temple and the overwhelming and red carpet response that he was accorded  was like the one to a son of the soil. But then Trudeau family moved around like Punjabis.

The organic relationship between Indian Punjab and Canada cannot be over-shadowed by the Khalistan bogey.


Jagtar Singh


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