Team Anna members show him black flags for moving "weak" Lokpal Bill
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday faced an angry protest from social activist Anna Hazare's supporters, who waved black flags and raised slogans as he came out of Harmandar Sahib (the Golden Temple) in Amritsar.
The incident, which surprised the security agencies, occurred when Dr Singh, on a “private visit” to the temple with his wife Gursharan Kaur, came out after spending about 75 minutes there. He reached Harmandar Sahib at 6:20 a.m., performed circumambulation of the Sarovar, before entering the sanctum sanctorum, where he offered prayers and listened to the recitation of the Holy Gurbani. He later offered prayers at Akal Takhat. The priests bestowed the customary ‘siropa' (robes of religious honour) on Dr. Singh. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) also honoured him.
As he crossed the clock tower entry of the shrine, protesters, carrying pictures of Mr. Hazare, started raising slogans against Dr. Singh and demanding a better Lokpal Bill. Before being pushed back by the police, the protesters waved black flags. No protester could reach anywhere near the Prime Minister, who was surrounded by guards of the Special Protection Group.
The protesters, led by Harinder Singh, a local businessman, and Manmeet Kaur, a teacher, claimed to be active members of India Against Corruption. They expressed anger at the manner in which the United Progressive Alliance government handled the issue, moving a “weak” Lokpal Bill in Parliament. This was the second incident in recent times, wherein a dignitary was shown black flags at Harmandar Sahib. Some fringe organisations and hardliners showed black flags at BJP leader L.K. Advani, when he visited the shrine during his rath yatra against corruption.
While no arrest was made, the civil as well as police officials remained tight-lipped. SGPC secretary Dalmegh told journalists that the incident was unfortunate and should have been avoided as Harmandar Sahib was open to all for prayers and not meant for staging protest.
As the ruling Akali Dal-BJP combine distanced itself from the issue, Pradesh Congress Committee president Amarinder Singh accused the Akali Dal of having engineered the protest, pointing out that Team Anna had dissociated itself from it. Struggling for political survival, the Akalis had resorted to such gimmicks at the holiest place, he said.
“People hurt and upset”
Capt. Singh said the Punjabis felt hurt and upset as the incident brought bad name to the State. “Only the Akalis who have already lost the battle could be expected to stoop so low as to use a holy place and sacred occasion for scoring petty political points even if it meant violating the sacred maryada in the process.”
Before flying back to New Delhi, Dr. Singh offered prayers at the Durgiana Mandir and met the families of his two brothers and three sisters, who have been living in Amritsar ever since they migrated from Pakistan in 1947.
The Prime Minister, who last visited Harmandar Sahib in 2009, was received by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal at the Raja Sansi Airport on Saturday evening. He spent the night at the government circuit house.