To woo Punjabis, Cameron to visit Amritsar

Amritsar, Feb 19 (IANS) British Prime Minister David Cameron will visit the Sikh holy city of Amritsar Wednesday in a clear message to woo Sikhs and Punjabis settled back home.

The British leader is scheduled to visit the holiest of Sikh shrines, Harmandar Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple, n Amritsar. He will arrive here Wednesday morning and leave in the afternoon, police officials said here.

Cameron is the highest democratically elected leader from Britain to visit the Sikh shrine. British monarch Queen Elizabeth visited Amritsar in October 1997.

Britain is home to nearly 1.5 million Indians, most of them being of Punjab origin.

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the mini-parliament of Sikh religion, plans to honour Cameron with a 'Shiropa' (a traditional religious honour) during his visit.

"His visit will send a positive message to the Sikh community," SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar said.

Cameron will also visit the Jallianwala Bagh, the site of the massacre of hundreds of men, women and children by British troops April 13, 1919.

Queen Elizabeth too had visited the Jallianwala Bagh memorial and paid homage to those killed in the massacre of unarmed Indians by British forces led by Brigadier Reginald Dyer.

While she acknowledged that the episode was a "distressing episode in history", she stopped short of offering an apology for it.

Security across this Sikh holy city has been tightened for Wednesday's visit of Cameron.

The entire walled city, where the Sikh shrine and the Jallianwala Bagh are located, is under a tight security cover for the past two days. Both places are within 150 metres of each other. Over 3,000 police personnel will be deployed for the visit.

British and Indian security officials have been camping here for the last few days to supervise security and other arrangements.

The congested roads and lanes of the walled city were being spruced up Tuesday, ahead of the VVIP visit. Encroachments along the road were removed to give the place a neater look.

After visiting the Sikh shrine and Jallianwala Bagh, Cameron is scheduled to visit the factory of basmati rice brand Lal Qila, which is exported to Britain and other countries and is quite famous there.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Punjab in November last year. He went to the Takht Keshgarh Sahib, the second most important Sikh shrine, and offered prayers. He earlier visited Harmandar Sahib in 2009.

Canada also has a sizeable population of Sikhs and Punjabis settled in that country.

Indo Asian News Service

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