Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had been criticised for his generous praise for Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Kartarpur groundbreaking ceremony, has landed in the middle of a controversy all over again. This time, over a photograph that features him standing with Gopal Singh Chawla, a pro-Khalistani leader based in Pakistan.
Chawla had put out the picture on Facebook with a caption, “with sedu pa g” (With my brother) on Wednesday evening. Just hours earlier, Chawla’s presence at the Kartarpur event and a warm handshake with Pakistan’s army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa had forced Pakistan Army to clarify that the handshake was basic courtesy extended to Chawla.
The pro-Khalistan leader’s latest addition to his Facebook album provoked a sharp response on this side of the border. Sidhu’s photograph went viral on social media with people calling him out. Soon, her bitter rival in the Akali Dal and union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal also joined them.
“Sidhu was hugging the General who is killing our men. He even spent three days with him there. Even his photo is out with the terrorist. He has become a Pakistan agent after going there. Rahul Gandhi should clearly state his stand on this,” Harsimrat told ANI.
Harsimrat Kaur Badal has been fiercely competing with Sidhu for credit to get the Kartarpur corridor opened.
Badal, one of the two ministers to represent India at the Kartarpur event, was in the audience when Prime Minister Imran Khan heaped praise on Navjot Sidhu.
“He (Imran Khan) offered him (Navjot Singh Sidhu) to fight elections from Pakistan. He (Sidhu) seems to have more love and respect in Pakistan than what I noticed over here. He has some good relationships over there,” Harsimrat Badal told ANI.
“There were probably 5,000-10,000 pictures taken of and with me there (in Pakistan), I don’t know who is Gopal Chawla,” Navjot Singh Sidhu after returning to India said when asked about the controversial photograph.
Sidhu’s previous visit, in August this year to attend Imran Khan’s swearing in, had also created a furore over a video in which he could be seen hugging Pakistan’s Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
“When two Punjabis meet they hug each other, it is normal practice in Punjab,” Sidhu recently said, defending himself over the hug. Khalistani leader Gopal Singh Chawla is known as one of the main propagators of the Sikh movement seeking a separate homeland for the community.
Chawla is reported to be the general secretary of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. His name had cropped up in the investigations into the grenade attack on the Nirankari Bhawan in Amritsar in which three were killed. Chawla is also known to have prevented Indian diplomats from visiting a gurdwara in Lahore.
Addressing the gathering at the Kartarpur event, Imran Khan had said that he had failed to understand why Sidhu had been criticised for his previous visit to Pakistan. Sidhu had gone to Pakistan in August to attend Imran Khan’s swearing in as prime minister of the country.
“I heard there was a lot of criticism of Sidhu when he went back after my oath-taking ceremony. I don’t know what he was criticised for. He was just talking about peace and brotherhood,” Khan had said.