Sikh activists take to the streets in protest October 7, 2006

Strictures for Harbhajan over commercial

Cricinfo staff

A different kind of heat has been turned up on Harbhajan Singh © Getty Images

Harbhajan Singh, India's offspinner, has found himself involved in a different sort of controversy after leaving his hair uncovered in an advertisement. Members of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), the premier religious body of the Sikh community, took offence to Harbhajan's action and sought an apology amid protests in Punjab.

Activists of the Youth Akali Dal burnt an effigy of Harbhajan in Amritsar during a protest march led by the SGPC's district president, Gurpartap Singh Tikka. Harbhajan was quick to issue an apology, but resented the SGPC going to the media. "If my action has hurt the Sikh community, then I feel sorry for it. I will take note of it [in future]," he told Press Trust of India. "It's bad that the SGPC took up the issue in the media. If they had any problem, they should have called me like a son and told me. Their action was wrong. I respect the emotions of Sikhs and I never knew it will snowball into such a big issue."

Avtar Singh Makkar, the SGPC President who had sought an apology from Harbhajan yesterday, said he should have realised the importance of hair in the Sikh religion. "Our religion prohibits keeping one's hair open," he said. "We also strongly object to his appearing in the advertisement in this fashion." Avtar Singh even suggested that Harbhajan take a leaf from Monty Panesar's book, who despite being raised in England was a strict advocate of Sikhism.

Harbhajan was quick to respond: "They compare me with Panesar, which is wrong. Comparisons should not be made in the first place, but if they have to, why doesn't SGPC compare me with Yuvraj Singh and Gurdas Mann [both Sikhs who have trimmed their hair]."