After gurdwara raid row, Belgian king visits Sikh shrine

November 6th, 2008 - 2:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Nov 6 (IANS) With a raid on two gurdwaras in Brussels triggering outrage among the Sikh community, Belgium’s King Albert II and Queen Paola took time off to visit Gurdwara Bangla Sahib during their three-day stay in New Delhi. The Belgian sovereigns also visited the Laxminarayan Temple Wednesday - a gesture that sought to mollify hurt feelings among the 5,000-6,000-strong Sikh community in Belgium and underscore the country’s multi-religious, multicultural character.

A fortnight before the Belgian monarch arrived in India on a 10-day visit Monday, the Belgian police carried out raids on 19 properties, including two gurdwaras, in the Brussels suburbs of Vilvorde and Tubize in connection with an investigation into an illegal immigration racket.

The Sikh community in Belgium was outraged and alleged that the police went in with their shoes on and forced a priest to stop the continual recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib held to mark 300 years of the Sikh holy book.

The Indian external affairs ministry is looking into the incident, official sources said.

Sikh organisations have written to the Belgian prime minister seeking a full investigation of the incident and demanded an apology from Belgian police. They have also sought changes to the police procedures when handling places of worship of all communities.

“The same result could have been reached in a different way by respecting the feelings and dignity of the Sikh community,” said Ines Wouters, a Brussels-based lawyer who is investigating the matter on behalf of United Sikhs, a coalition of Sikh organisations.

Brussels assistant prosecutor Tim de Wolf said two of those arrested were “the brains behind the trafficking operations… They controlled a whole series of little groups. We hope we have broken up the core of the network”.

King Albert II met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday and discussed a wide range of bilateral and global issues, including the intensification of economic ties and the India-EU relationship.

The two countries called for evolving a new global financial architecture and agreed to add more muscle to their economic ties.

The Belgian royals left for Mumbai Thursday morning after concluding the New Delhi leg of their visit.

They will also go to Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad.

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