A day after a group of Sikh devotees in Dachar village here protested the cancellation of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar's scheduled visit to a local gurdwara, he said the decision was taken after the shrine authorities refused to remove a picture of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a separatist militant.
Khattar undertook a day-long visit to 13 'tirths' (pilgrimage sites) in Karnal, his constituency, on Friday. In addition to these sites, he was scheduled to visit the gurdwara in Dachar village.
"I had allotted time to visit the gurdwara. However, later when I got the information about Bhindranwale's picture there, I asked them (Gurdwara committee members) to remove it. I told them I will certainly visit if this picture is removed, but they did not agree to it. The visit was cancelled at 9 am yesterday," Khattar said on Saturday.
Replying to a question about protesters damaging a fire brigade, he said, "Those who took law into their hands will be dealt with as per law".
BJP MLA from Assandh, Bakshish Singh, who was accompanying Khattar, appealed to the Sikhs in Dachar village to maintain peace and "not raise any controversy which disturbs peace".
The protesters said "last minute cancellation" of Khattar's visit surprised them.
A gurdwara committee official told reporters on Friday that they were asked "to remove the picture of Khalistan ideologue Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in the morning. However, we said this could lead to tension in the village".
"Later, the authorities failed to inform us that the chief minister will not visit the gurdwara..his visit was cancelled at the last moment and he left after paying obeisance at a temple near the gurdwara," he said.
The official added that the preparations for Khattar's visit had been underway for past several days and a large number of devotees were waiting for Khattar at the shrine. They got agitated when Khattar left after visiting the temple.
During his visit, Khattar announced development projects worth Rs 18.39 crore.