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Manmohan Singh visits Golden Temple

Saturday 25 March 2006, by BARUAH*Amit

Gone are the memories of Operation Blue Star when a Congress PM ordered Army into the temple

AMRITSAR: It’s six in the morning as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh steps into the Golden Temple complex. The lights are on as the clouds prevent the sun from coming out.

India’s first Sikh Prime Minister and his wife, Gursharan Kaur, have come to pay obeisance at the Durbar Sahib. Hundreds of pilgrims look on as the Prime Minister and Mrs. Kaur, accompanied by Avtar Singh, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) chief, go around.

Gone are the memories of Operation Blue Star in 1984 when a Congress Prime Minister ordered the Army to enter this holy shrine. The Sikh community, it appears, is finally at peace.

Happy that the first Congress Premier since Indira Gandhi to visit the Golden Temple is none other than the mild-mannered, turban-clad Sikh who migrated to India from the other side of the present Wagah border.

All doors kept open

The Durbar Sahib has kept its doors open to pilgrims during the one hour that Dr. Singh and his wife are in the complex. Proximate security is tight, but, otherwise, pilgrims mill around as usual.

Clad in black suits, white bandanas on their heads, Special Protection Group (SPG) men have locked their arms to ensure that no one can get too close to Dr. Singh.

A similar, outer security ring is made up of Punjab police personnel. The whole operation works like clockwork. Exactly at 7 a.m., Dr. Singh visits the Durgiana Mandir before meeting individuals and delegations at the Circuit House.

Outside the Durgiana Mandir, this reporter met a gentleman wearing a brown suit. He is Suresh Kumar, Principal Secretary to Punjab Chief Minister Amrinder Singh.

Captain (retd) Amrinder Singh has taken the lead in establishing links with Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Chief Minister of the Pakistani Punjab. While the Captain has crossed into Pakistan three times, Mr. Elahi has visited India once.

But that, clearly, is not the end of the story. According to Mr. Kumar, he speaks at least four-five times a day with his Pakistani counterpart, G.M. Sikandar, in Lahore.

"Why?" I ask him. "Because somebody or the other has to be received or sent off," he replies.

Hope for India-Pakistan friendship may well be linked to what the two Punjabs are able to achieve.

Dr. Singh comes across as sincere and humble to those who meet him.

The same holds good for his Principal Secretary T.K.A. Nair. A former Punjab cadre Indian Administrative Service officer, he accompanied the Prime Minister for Friday’s launch of the Amritsar-Nankana Sahib bus service.

The visit went like clockwork. However, for some reason, Mr. Nair could not join the motorcade that took Dr. Singh and his delegation to the Raja Sansi airport on Friday afternoon. Dr. Singh and his delegation had to wait for a few minutes on the plane till a separate car and pilot could bring Mr. Nair to the Raja Sansi airport.

See online : The Hindu

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