Shiromani Akali Dal leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa said on Tuesday his photo with pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Singh Chawla, which has stirred controversy, was clicked forcefully when he was at the Gurdwara Nankana Sahib in Pakistan.
The 47-leader leader is among the 500 Sikh pilgrims who reached Kartarpur on Tuesday to take part in the celebrations of 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev at his birthplace on August 1.
Hours after his arrival, a controversy broke out over a photo where he is seen standing next to the pro-Khalistani leader.
Mr Sirsa later posted a video on Twitter where he can be heard explaining how the picture was clicked. "Chawla entered my room where I was drinking tea. He tried to talk to me, I refused and started walking out. His gunman took a picture from behind," he says.
"I strongly condemn actions of Gopal Singh Chawla to click his pic with me to circulate on social media. I will never meet persons like him who are puppets of ISI carrying anti-India agenda (sic)," he wrote on Twitter along with the video.
Upon arrival of SIKH Jatha from India at #GurdwaraNankanaSahib, @mssirsa refuses to meet Pakistan's controversial leader #GopalSinghChawla . @mssirsa claimed Pakistan has provided a Gunman to #Khalistan Suppoter Gopal Singh Chawla . @IndiainPakistanpic.twitter.com/xaRPDK5sb5— Ravinder Singh Robin ਰਵਿੰਦਰ ਸਿੰਘ راویندرسنگھ روبن (@rsrobin1) July 30, 2019
This is a forced picture ???? which gunman of Gopal Singh Chawla clicked!— Manjinder S Sirsa (@mssirsa) July 30, 2019
I refuse to meet people like him who are anti-India and act as hate peddlers!@ZeeNews@News18India@TimesNow@thetribunechd@htTweets@punjabkesari@JagbaniOnline@ABPNews@ANI@republicpic.twitter.com/f7hvcsW3wu
"This is a forced picture which gunman of Gopal Singh Chawla clicked! I refuse to meet people like him who are anti-India and act as hate peddlers!" the SAD spokesman said in another tweet.
Last year, Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu faced severe criticism when he was seen with Gopal Singh Chawla. The cricketer-turned-politician was in Pakistan to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. Gopal Singh Chawla was recently removed from the management committee of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee.
As a part of the Guru Nanak Dev birth anniversary celebrations, the Sikh pilgrims would be participating in a ''Nagar Kirtan'' (religious procession) starting from the Gurdwara Nankana Sahib in the city on Thursday and reaching India via Attari border the same day, SGPC officials said.