CHANDIGARH: Punjab Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu landed himself in controversy again after he got photographed with Khalistan separatist Gopal Chand Chawla during his visit to Pakistan to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for Kartarpur Corridor. The picture has now gone viral after Chawala posted it on Facebook. Not only Sidhu, but Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee (SGPC) president Gobind Singh Longowal also got himself clicked with Chawla.
In his (Chawla's) Facebook post captioned "with my brother", Sidhu can be seen standing beside Chawla on the sidelines of the Kartarpur function. Several other pro-Khalistan leaders were also present at Wednesday's function in Pakistan.
Gopal Singh Chawla is the General Secretary of Pakistan Sikh Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (PSGPC) and known as a pro-Khalistan voice. A few days ago he was instrumental in denying access to Indian High Commission officials to two gurdwaras in Pakistan as the latter had gone to the gurdwaras to meet Indian pilgrims. The Union government had then slammed Pakistan for refusing access. Chawla's name has also come up in the investigations into the grenade attack on Nirankari Bhawan near Amritsar in which three people were killed.
Chawala had shared dais with Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Saeed in the past and a picture of the duo is in the public domain. He was also seen shaking hands with Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at Kartarpur.
Shiromani Akali Dal immediately demanded Sidhu should be sacked from the Cabinet without any delay. SAD national spokesman and the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee (DSGMC) General Secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa said that after showing his closeness with the Pakistan army chief, now pictures of Sidhu with Gopal Singh Chawla have gone viral. He said that Chawla is not only a staunch supporter of terrorists like Hafeez Syeed but also responsible for issuing video statements on behalf of Sikhs threatening India. Sirsa urged Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh to immediately take action against Sidhu and sack him from the Cabinet without any delay.
Upon his return from Pakistan, Sidhu said that many people had taken photos with him and that he did not know all of them, "I got lot of love in Pakistan and everyday tens of thousands photos were clicked with people. How would I know who is Chawla."
Former Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee president Paramjit Singh Sarna who was also in Pakistan for the function has come out in Sidhu's defence. "Sidhu is being unnecessarily targeted because of the narrow-minded approach of SAD and BJP. I am witness to the scene where there were a number of people wanting to be photographed with Sidhu and Chawla was also there. I saw that Sidhu was trying to avoid Chawla, but finally Chawala managed to get himself clocked with Sidhu," said Sarna.
Also, SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal got himself clicked with Chawala. Sarna said the pictures of SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal and Chawla were also there on social media. "Why is the SAD-BJP quiet on those photographs? The issue is being unnecessarily politicised," he said.
Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar said, "nobody is questioning Longowal for getting himself clicked with Chawala.''
Despite repeated attempts Longowal was available for comments.
Meanwhile, another Khalistani militant Gajinder Singh wrote on his Facebook page, "Pak army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa's masterstroke paved the way for India's yes to the corridor."