A two-week difference of dates between the two versions of the Nanakshahi calendar has led to cancellation of the visit of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee’s (SGPC) ‘jatha’ (pilgrims’ group) to Pakistan for the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev. The SGPC said it opted for cancellation of the trip altogether after the Pakistan high commission in New Delhi refused to issue visas for the chosen dates.
While the original Nanakshahi calendar of 2003 followed in Pakistan says Guru Arjan Dev’s martyrdom day is on June 16, the revised calendar of 2009 adopted by the SGPC says it’s on June 1. Since visas were sought for June 1, which is not the religious date according to the Pak version, approval was refused, though it is learnt that the high commission would have issued visas as per a June 16 schedule.
The calendar is meant to give Sikhs a separate identity by keeping Guru Nanak Dev’s birth in 1469 AD as its epoch. It was amended in 2009 after the original, 2003 version differed significantly from the usual Bikrami calendar, which had traditionally been followed by Hindus and Sikhs of the region. Changes brought at least the primary festival dates in consonance with the Bikrami calendar.
The Pakistan Waqf Board and certain Sikh organisations across the border and even some former members of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) recognise the original, 2003 calendar. Hence, the Pak high commission abides by that. The visa controversy does not arise for jathas that go to Pakistan on the occasion of Baisakhi or to celebrate Guru Nanak Dev’s birthday, as dates of these events are the same in both calendars. Differences crop up on the date of Guru Arjan Dev’s martyrdom day, and for a couple of other events for which the SGPC does not send jathas. The SGPC did not cancel the visit for this event last year as the gap in the dates on was not much and visas were issued.
In a statement, SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar condemned the decision of the high commission and regretted that it was being “guided” by the Pak Waqf Board and some Sikhs who had “vested interests”. He claimed that during his recent visit to Pakistan, he had convinced representatives of the government of Pak Punjab of the need to abide by the amended calendar.
“We regret that some persons (Sikhs) in Pakistan have refused to abide by the directions of the Akal Takht (the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs), which only recognises the 2009 amended calendar,” he added.
However, despite the SGPC decision, Sikhs can undertake the pilg rimage on their own after securing individual visas.
SGPC CONDEMNS DESECRATION IN PAK
The SGPC condemned the alle ged desecration of ‘birs’ (copies) of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib in certain gurdwaras in Pakistan. In a statement, SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar claimed that he had got reports in this context from Dadu, Shankar and Shikarpur districts in Sindh province.