PM begins New Year with prayers, showed black flags in Amritsar (Second Lead)

January 1st, 2012 - 2:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Amritsar, Jan 1 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh began the new year Sunday by offering prayers at the Golden Temple here but had to face black flags and slogans from some supporters of Anna Hazare outside the Sikh shrine.

The prime minister was shown black flags by some 30-35 of the anti-corruption crusader’s supporters as he came out of the Golden Temple complex.

The protest caught the security agencies completely off-guard. An outer security ring of the Punjab Police held the protesters at bay and none of them could reach anywhere near the prime minister.

Carrying posters of the social activist, the protesters shouted pro-Anna Hazare and pro-Jan Lokpal bill slogans.

Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur reached the shrine around 6.30 a.m. and performed a ‘parikarma’ or circumambulation of the sacred pond before entering the sanctum sanctorum.

Wearing a white kurta-pyjama and a dark grey jacket, the prime minister offered prayers along with his wife. He later sat down in an enclosure inside the sanctum sanctorum to listen to hymns.

In the nearly 75 minutes that he spent in the shrine complex, Manmohan Singh spent nearly 45 minutes inside the sanctum sanctorum listening to mellifluous prayers and hymns with his eyes shut.

He and his wife were presented a ’siropa’ (robe of honour) by the ‘granthi’ (priest) of the shrine.

Thousands of devotees were present at the shrine complex when the prime minister arrived amid tight security.

He and his wife later paid obeisance at the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikh religion, inside the complex. He was escorted by Special Protection Group (SPG) personnel and scores of ’sewadars’ (volunteers) of the shrine.

Manmohan Singh had arrived here Saturday evening from New Delhi. He stayed overnight at the government Circuit House. The visit was a “private one”, a police officer said.

Amritsar city was slightly warmer Sunday morning with a minimum temperature of 2.8 degrees. The city has been shivering at sub-zero temperatures for the past one week with the minimum temperature Friday morning recorded at minus 2.1 degrees - the lowest of this season.

A devout Sikh, the prime minister last visited the shrine in March 2009, just a few weeks after his coronary bypass surgery at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi.

Manmohan Singh, who lived and studied in Amritsar after his family migrated here from Rawalpindi after partition, also has some relatives in this city.

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