Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Avtar Singh Makkar returned home on Thursday after a four-day tour of Pakistan, claiming to have convinced Sikhs across the border that the amended, 2009 Nanakshahi calendar is the “officially recognised” calendar approved by the Akal Takht.
However, when asked whether the SGPC will be able to send its jatha to the neighbouring country for observing the martyrdom day (Gurpurab) of Guru Arjan Dev on June 1 in accordance with the 2009 calendar, Makkar failed to give a convincing reply.
“You see, certain procedures a re involved and the timeframe is too short for completing the required for malities,” he said.
In the past, the high commission issues visas as per dates of functions fixed by the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) and approved by the Pakistan Waqf Board.
The PSGPC abides by the original, 2003 Nanakshahi calendar, and according to that, Guru Arjan Dev’s martyrdom day is on June 16.
At present, an adhoc committee runs the PSGPC after the religious body was dissolved following the expiry of the term of its members. Fresh appointments are yet to be made by the Pakistan government.
When pointed out that a section of Sikh leaders in Pakistan might observe the occasion on June 16, he quipped, “Let them do as they wish. But the Sikhs of Nankana Sahib, Panja Sahib, Sindh have all agreed to abide by the Akal Takht.”
Talking to the media at the Attari-Wagah border upon his return, he claimed the support of former PSGPC chiefs Mastaan Singh and Sham Singh and even of Ramesh Singh Arora, a member of the Pakistan Punjab assembly, on the Nanakshahi issue.
Asked whether the issue will be sorted, he replied, “Five ministers of Punjab whom we met have assured to take it up with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.”
Makkar, who led an eightmember delegation to Pakistan, said he had not gone over just to discuss the Nanakshahi calender.
“There were other matters, like security of Sikhs, better management of Sikh shrines and historical monuments, and repair of gurdwaras, that were taken up with the authorities there,” he added.
Radical Sikh group the Dal Khalsa had on Wednesday accused Makkar of playing politics in Pakistan and trying to divide the Sikh community there.
After the 2003 Nanakshahi calendar differed significantly from the usual Bikrami calendar, which had traditionally been followed by Hindus and Sikhs of the region, some changes were effected in 2009 to bring at least primary festival dates in consonance with the Bikrami calendar.
But radical groups have been opposing the change, seeing it as being against the idea of a different identity and tradition of the Sikhs.